Your Skin and the Sun

The average Irish person with pale, slightly freckly skin is not at all suitable for sun exposure and should probably be living underground! We have almost no inherent photo protection unlike darker skin. The first step to optimum sun-protection is to start thinking of ‘daylight protection’ and not just ‘sunlight’ protection!

UV rays are there all year long, particularly UVA, even if you can’t see them.

Sun damage creates premature aging, pigmentation, broken blood vessels and skin cancers. Skin aging occurs through a combination of sun exposure (photoaging) – 80% and the passage of time (chronological aging) just 20%. If we were to offer only one skin care tip, it would be the daily application and re-application of factor 50 sunblock, whether or not you’re planning to go outdoors! With absolutely NO other cosmetic intervention whatsoever, you will see an improvement in your skin after 6 months use of this alone, and greatly reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Our simple preventative advice is to apply sunblock every single day of the year regardless of the weather – hail, rain or shine. Recent studies have shown a significant reduction in skin cancer in people who apply sunblock daily versus those who apply it when they feel they need it, i.e. before a planned sun exposure. The main reason for this is because the vast majority of our sun exposure is incidental and unplanned. It is estimated that only 1/3 of our lifetime sun exposure is obtained on holidays so that leaves a large 2/3 of our exposure gained incidentally doing everyday tasks.

The 365-Day Approach to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun

Imagine: Why is it that we would never dream of going for a walk, or eating our lunch outside on our holidays abroad without applying our sunscreen?

It’s a bit like going in a car without a seat belt or cycling without a helmet!

Did you know?

  1. Most people in Ireland have no idea how much Ultra Violet (UV) exposure we get here!
  2. Damaging sun rays can travel through clouds, glass windows including car home or office window and clothes, hence the adage ‘if you can see through it you can burn through it’.
  3. Many Irish skin cancer patients have rarely holidayed abroad.
  4. While Vitamin D is important, taking it as a supplement is much safer than risking sun exposure.

Why Worry about Ultra Violet Rays?

UV rays create a year round problem as UVA levels are almost as high in Ireland in the winter as the summer.

  • UVA penetrates deeply into the skin and is thus responsible for most skin cancers and photo aging
  • UVB predominantly affects the upper skin layers causing sunburn and damage

What can you do?

  • “JUST DO IT” Don’t wait to check the weather before deciding whether or not to apply your sunscreen. Use it 365 days a year, yes even in Ireland. After all you don’t look outside before deciding whether or not to wash your teeth!!
  • One easy approach is to find a moisturiser with at least SPF 30, preferably 50, and use it automatically every morning.
  • But …remember to reapply your block regularly to maintain maximum protection.
  • Your sun protection needs will vary depending on your activity i.e. you obviously need it far more frequently if sweating during sports, gardening or water activities versus sitting at a desk.

How much?

Apply enough sunscreen. According to application guidelines i.e 2gr/cm² is the equivalent of a teaspoonful for your face alone!! Studies have shown that the average application of SPF 50 applied thinly yields protection only equivalent to SPF 20!

Which sunscreen?

There is a wide variety of formulations of sunscreen available, chose the correct one for your situation:

  • Thicker white creams will have better staying power during physical activities but won’t look good in the office where SPF 50 containing moisturisers will go unnoticed.
  • Sprays are easiest for hair thinning or balding scalps, hairy chests and legs, and are less messy to apply.
  • Aerosols and sprays are more popular for children’s needs
  • “Sticks” are also useful during sporting activities e.g. reapplication half way round the golf course or on the tennis court, when you don’t want to get hands greasy.
  • Tinted preparations are ideal for face as a make up. Plus they are handy for topping up discreetly during the day on top of existing makeup.
  • Physical cream blocks with a high factor are better for babies and toddlers.

Simply experiment and find the one you like and make it part of your daily routine.

Keep sun protection everywhere including in your car so you’ll never be really caught out!

Cap it

If your hair is thinning always wear a hat (or a wig!!) outdoors to avoid unsightly crusty lesions or cancers in later life.

Golfers go for Pairs!

Wear a pair of gloves so you have a matching pair of hands. Try to pick tee times that spare you the midday sun when possible.

Cover up

  • Proper clothes and hats are the best protection from the sun as you can easily sunburn through light clothing.
  • Hold the clothes up to the sun and if you can see rays though the material, the sun can see and damage your skin.
  • Rash vests are available for adults as well as kids for swimming and other summer activities.
  • Light summer scarves are useful to protect the neck and chest while outdoors. The chest area is a common site for skin cancer amongst women and when treated the scars here can be unsightly.

Vitamin D

Finally, remember to take daily Vitamin D3 to protect against weakening of the bones**. Medical reports suggest that Vit. D deficiency is surprisingly common in Ireland and this can result in weak bones, increased risk of internal cancer, along with neurological disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis & dementia. Most importantly, it has been recently published that sunblocks do not prevent the skin from manufacturing Vitamin D!

Top Tips

  1. Use a sunscreen 365 days of the year.
  2. Reapply, reapply, reapply.
  3. Don’t spare the sunscreen. Face, neck, chest, hands, arms, lower legs, anywhere exposed !!
  4. Use the right product for the right occasion.
  5. Have a supply of sunscreen to hand, by keeping it in the car handbag or sports bag etc.
  6. Cover up with SPF and clothing.
  7. Check your Vitamin D3 levels.
  8. And remember if you can see through it, you can burn through it.