This week is Sun Awareness Week. We’re all aware that getting too much sun is one of the biggest risk factors for skin cancer yet it doesn’t seem to stop us soaking up the rays for a golden tan. But did you know that sun damage is also the biggest contributor to premature skin ageing as well? If you’re determined to sunbathe because you like the way your tan looks, over time, deep wrinkles and uneven skin pigment comes with it! Even if you don’t burn, every time you expose your skin to the sun you’ll be causing damage. We don’t think that having a tan is worth the risks to our health (or looks) so here are the facts you need to know. Protect yourself from the sun’s rays and spread the word.

UVA/UVB?

The sun emits different types of rays that have different impacts on the skin. UVB rays cause burning, whilst UVA rays cause invisible damage that contributes to skin ageing. Both can cause skin cancer.  Read the packaging of your sun protection carefully. When it says ‘SPF’ on the label, it only refers to the amount of UVB protection the product offers. So SPF30 offers 30 times the natural protection your bare skin has against UVB rays but not necessarily against UVA rays. Thanks to EU regulations, all sun protection products must have a minimum UVA protection that’s one-third the amount of UVB protection. So an SPF30 product has at least a UVA protection of 10.  Some products use a star rating or detail a product’s UVA rating in other ways, but at the moment it isn’t standardised.

What level of protection?

Products with SPF50 will block approximately 98% of UVB rays, but not everyone needs SPF50. A good median is SPF30, which blocks 97% of UVB rays. If you’re going on holiday somewhere sunny, consider bumping up the protection to SPF50.  But, even if you have slathered on a layer of SPF50, you must still take other safety precautions. Stay out of the sun during the midday heat, keep children under 3 completely out of the sun, cover up and reapply your product often.

What kind of product to choose?

There are two main types of sun protection; chemical and physical. Chemical sun filters tend to absorb fully and work inside the skin, whilst physical sun filters sit on top of the skin and create a barrier. If you have sensitive skin you may get on better with physical filters, while if you have oily skin or spots you will almost certainly prefer chemical filters. You can get sun protection in foundations, BB Creams, moisturisers, even facial mists nowadays! So there’s no excuse for skipping it; you’re sure to find something that works for you.

Image:istock.com/RossHelen

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