Sun Avoidance

Too much sun can damage your skin by causing the skin to age and increasing the risk of skin cancer.  How much sun is too much?  This depends on your skin type and your skin’s ability to develop a tan.  Skin types are divided into six groups with regard to sun exposure:

TYPE 1           Fair skin which burns very easily in the sun and never tans

TYPE 2           Fair sin that usually burns but sometimes tans

TYPE 3           Skin that tans easily and rarely burns

TYPE 4           Skin that tans very easily and rarely burns

TYPE 5           Brown skin that darkens and never burns

TYPE 6           Black skin that never burns

It is important to recognise your skin type.  Advice about sun exposure, skin ageing and skin cancer is most needed by people with skin types 1 and 2.  If the skin becomes red after a day in the sun, the result will not be a suntan, but a painful peeling and even blistering.  If you have skin types 5 and 6 you have been born with a very effective in-built sunscreen.

How do I minimise sun damage?

These simple guidelines should help.

  1. The sun is strong enough to damage your skin, in this country, between April and October.  Even if it is cloudy or you sit in the shade, if you are on sand or water then your are getting direct light and reflected light.  Water does not protect so cover up when swimming.  Exposure to sunlight when gardening or walking can damage skin even if you are not sunbathing.
  1. Ration exposure to strong sunlight, especially at the beginning of a holiday when your skin is still very pale.
  1. Keep out of mid-day sun between 11:00 am-15:00 pm (10:00 am–16:00 pm abroad).
  1. Long trousers, a tight weave loose long sleeved cotton T-shirt and a wide brimmed hat are excellent sunscreens, particularly for children and those with Type 1 and ‘at risk’ skin.
  1. Use a high SPF sunscreen.  Protection against UVA is important for those wanting to protect against sun ageing and for those needing protection from sun-sensitive rashes.  The most effective have a SPF number of 25-50.  Sunscreens below this are generally ineffective.  Apply generously and renew every two hours and after being in the water.
  1. Always protect children’s skin.  There is evidence that children under 12 who have had bad sunburn are at greater risk of skin cancer when they are adults.