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A Doctor’s Guide to Suntanning Safely

You may have thought the day would never come, but it finally feels like summer is here. The temperatures are rising, the sun is shining and you are itching to enjoy the outdoors. Revelling in the sun can be good for you, helping to create vitamin D and boost your mood. However, enjoying too much time in the sun can lead to a range of skin problems, including sunburn. Whether you plan on spending your summer by the pool or on the beach, you can enjoy the heat and get a healthy glow without putting your skin at risk.

Choose an appropriate sunscreen

The vast array of sunscreens available for purchase makes choosing an appropriate one confusing. When looking for a sunscreen, look for one labelled with an ‘SPF’. This stands for ‘sun protection factor’ and it refers to the level of protection the sunscreen offers against the sun’s UVB rays – the rays that are most responsible for sunburn. The SPF of a sunscreen is rated on a scale of 2 – 50+ based on the level of protection it offers. A sunscreen may also be categorised as providing low, medium, high or very high protection.

Sunscreens for sale in the UK also feature a UVA star rating. The star rating system ranges from 0 to 5 and indicates the percentage of the UVA rays absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB rays. UVA rays are the associated with skin ageing and skin cancer.

It is recommended that you wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above – that is, a sunscreen that falls into the high or very high protection category – and a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars.

Apply your sunscreen correctly

Regardless of the type of sunscreen you choose, you must apply it generously or it will not provide you with the level of protection indicated on the packaging. When using lotions, apply the equivalent of six full teaspoons of sunscreen to the exposed areas of your face and body. Of this, use a dollop the size of half a teaspoon on your face alone. When using sprays, apply enough to create an even sheen on your skin. Reapply your sunscreen to your whole body at least once every two hours, or more frequently after swimming, heavy sweating, or towelling off.

Take additional precautions

In addition to using sunscreen, avoid the midday sun between 11am and 3pm, and wear sun-protective clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses.