How to protect yourself against harmful UV rays

By
Cedars Dermatology


With
the summer months fast approaching and the sun finally peeking in
through the clouds here in England, it is easy to forget the
importance of protecting your skin. The number of skin cancer victims
is on the rise, with at least 100,000 new cases diagnosed every year,
so it’s more important than ever to know how to protect your skin
effectively. Skin cancer kills seven people EVERYDAY in the UK, over
2,500 people per annum. Survival rates closely relate to how early
cancer is detected and at Cedars Dermatology, we see around 70
patients per week. We would always recommend getting checked out if
you have any concerns.

A
common misconception in the UK is that on a cloudy day, protecting
your skin from the sun isn’t important. However, you can still get
sunburned on a cloudy day, although the clouds may block the sun
light, they don’t block all of the harmful UV rays that the sun
emits. Overcast skies still allow 30-40 percent of UV rays to
penetrate through.

Many
cases of sunburn occur when people are just out and about rather than
deliberately sunbathing. Anything from watching sports outside,
walking around town and getting your gardening done can lead to your
skin being exposed to harmful UV rays. Therefore, you should try to
stay in shaded areas when the sun is at its strongest, between 11am
and 3pm. When you are in the sun, wear a wide-brimmed sun hat and
sunglasses. ALWAYS use a high factor sunscreen (minimum SPF 15),
applied half an hour before you go into the sun and reapply
regularly, especially after swimming. Remember, even sunscreens
labelled ‘waterproof’ can easily be sweated off or rubbed off by
towel drying and the all-day sunscreens don’t take into account the
fact that sunscreen can easily be rubbed off, therefore don’t give
all day protection.

A
top tip when choosing a sun cream is looking at both the SPF and the
number of stars given for UVA protection. Most people overlook or are
often unaware that sunscreens are rated separately for their SPF and
UVA protection. The UVA star rating is usually on the packaging with
the stars ranging from 0 to 5, the higher the number of stars the
better.

A
mistake people frequently make is believing that moisturiser with an
SPF can be used as a replacement for sunscreen. Although they are
good to use in general, the formulas are less likely to be waterproof
and rub-resistant. Moisturisers are applied thinly and people don’t
often reapply moisturiser, therefore you are unlikely to get the same
level of protection. The majority of moisturisers containing an SPF
don’t contain any UVA protection either and as a result will not
protect against UV ageing.

Fake
tan is another product that you can’t use as a sun cream
replacement. If you are after a golden glow, fake tan is recommended
over sunbathing or sunbeds, but that’s not to say that once you
have a tan you are safe from the sun. While some fake tanning
products do contain added sunscreen, these will only give you
temporary protection.

Contrary
to common belief, even the darkest skin types can burn, though they
may take longer to do so. Darker skinned people may find physical
sunscreens, like titanium-based products, can look chalky and white
on the skin. Newer creams are micronized, so the particles in it are
small enough to allow them to blend in and disappear into the skin.
Antioxidant serums can help with the ageing effects of the sun but
they are not as important as the main sunscreen.

If
your skin looks slightly red after being in the sun, it’s burnt.
Sunburn doesn’t just mean peeling or blistering skin. Sunburn
indicated that UV radiation has damaged the DNA in your skin cells,
these damaged cells can build-up over time and can lead to skin
cancer.

Another
thing you need to keep an eye out for is any changes in a mole’s
size, shape or colour. If you have any concerns, it is best to seek
advice from your GP or family doctor, who may refer you to a
dermatologist. These are the only doctors who have specialist
training in problems of the skin. A dermatologist will perform a full
skin check up with the aid of a tool known as a dermatoscope and may
go on to remove or biopsy the mole to assess its nature. Early
detection is key and learning how to perform skin self-examination
may be potentially life-saving. 




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