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Keep safe in the spring sun

As we finally seem to have seen the back of winter and we get ready to welcome the spring sun, it's important to remind ourselves of some tops tips for a sunsafe regime.

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Sunsafe behaviour

As we finally seem to have seen the back of winter and we get ready to welcome the spring sun, it's important to remind ourselves of some tops tips for a sunsafe regime:

  • Seek out shade, particularly between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is usually at its most intense

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat when in the sun and wear a good pair of sunglasses

  • Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-apply every couple of hours throughout the day - you will need about a golf-ball-sized amount of cream for each application

  • Never use sunscreen to extend the time you would normally spend in the sun

  • Drink plenty of water, particularly in hot weather. Keeping your water intake up prevents dehydration and maintains a healthy bladder and kidneys; a healthy body helps to support healthy skin


Choosing a sun protection product

While sunlight has a strong effect on mood and we tend to feel better when the sun shines, and we know sunlight acts on the skin to produce vitamin D, our knowledge of the sun and its harmful effects on the skin has also improved over many years. Organisations such Cancer Research UK, the British Association of Dermatologists and the British Skin Foundation (SunAwareness) all highlight the dangers of excessive sun exposure.

Today's sunscreen products have been developed to help protect the skin against the damaging rays of the sun as part of a sunsafe regime.

When looking to buy a sunscreen we should always choose a product that provides protection from the sun's different rays: UVA and UVB light.

We should choose a sun cream that:

  • has an SPF number to best suit our skin type;

  • contains UVA protection;

  • is water-resistant; and

  • has an application method that suits our needs.


What to look for on the label

The SPF number is an indication of the protection from the sun's UVB rays. Alongside the number there will also be an indication of the type of protection the sunscreen offers i.e. low, medium, high or very high. We should choose an SPF that best suits our skin, but at least one of SPF 15.

Protection against UVA rays will be labelled on-pack by the letters 'UVA' in a circle.

How the sunscreen should be applied, and re-applied, will be clearly labelled and it is really important to always follow the product instructions for best protection, but remember never use sunscreens to stay longer in the sun.

Our Sun Safety & Sunscreens factsheet has a section called "Understanding your label" which provides more information.

Confused about how long to keep sunscreen?

Sunscreens are formulated to ensure that they are safe to use, do what they say they do and remain fit for purpose for their intended shelf-life. It is important to store them in a suitable condition and not subject them to extreme temperatures.

In the UK and EU cosmetic products, including sunscreens, do not have expiry dates or 'sell by' dates. Instead, if a cosmetic product has a limited shelf life of less than 30 months it will be labelled with a 'best before' date.

The vast majority of cosmetic products last much longer than 30 months and these may be labelled with an 'open jar' symbol - known as the 'period after opening' (PAO). The PAO is not an expiry date, but an indication to the consumer that once opened the product will not deteriorate.

If a product has not been stored properly, for example it has been left with the lid off for long periods of time, the product may 'go off' before either the best before date or the PAO has passed. It is easy to spot this as these products may be discoloured, smell different or have an unpleasant smell or look unusual (lumpy rather than smooth for example). If this is the case, the product should not be used and should be discarded as it may not give the full protection expected.

Steer clear of so called 'black henna' temporary tattoos

While on holiday or at funfairs and festivals, many people opt to have a fun temporary henna tattoo. Many may not realise the dangers of 'black henna' temporary tattoos. Real henna is orange/brown in colour. There is no such thing as 'black henna' and so-called 'black henna' temporary tattoos can cause painful short and long-term damage to skin and may cause you to develop an allergy which means you can never colour your hair again. Read more on the dangers of 'black henna' temporary tattoos.

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