The summer is here at last and according to local travel agents bookings for holidays both at home and abroad are up. This is great news for the economy and also shows that people’s spirits are changing. However, one thing that is taking longer to change is the Irish man’s inability to apply sun cream liberally or even at all! And I must include the odd Irish woman in this as well to keep everyone happy. So before you pack your old O’Neill’s shorts and the latest Roy Keane autobiography, please read the following and be safe not sorry on your trip to the sun.
Q: What is in sunlight that puts our skin at risk?
A: Sunlight includes invisible ultraviolet radiation. Three types exist. UVA which causes premature skin aging, wrinkling and potentially skin cancer. These rays can even penetrate clothes. UVB causes sunburn and UVC is deadly to humans, but luckily is absorbed in the atmosphere before it reaches earth. Excessive UV radiation also weakens the body’s immune system.
Q: What sun protection factor (SPF) should we use?
A: Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The higher the SPF the better. To see how long your sunscreen will last under perfect conditions, take the number of SPF and multiply it by 10. That is the length of time you would be safe from the sun’s rays. So a SPF 20 will give you 200 minutes protection. If you are prone to burning, start with factor 30. Price does not matter. There are really good own brands out there. Go for broad-spectrum sunscreens, which protect against harmful UVA and UVB rays. Don’t use last year’s cream, as it could be past its sell by date. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of one to two years.
Q: How do I put on sun cream properly?
A: You should apply sun cream around 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside. The skin needs time to absorb the cream. Don’t rub it in until it disappears. It needs to form a barrier. Apply using long strokes and aim to leave a light layer over the skin. Make sure to cover the hair line, eyelids, nose, ears, backs of the legs and tops of the feet. Re apply once you have come out of the water and don’t forget to do your back as well. Use a sunblock on your lips. Choose a product that has been specially formulated for the lips, with a sun protection factor of 20 or more.
Q: How long can I stay in the sun?
A: We can burn after 15 minutes without protection. The summer sun is most damaging to your skin in the middle of the day. Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, either under an umbrella, a tree, canopy or indoors.
Q: Why do I tan?
A: Tanning is actually the body’s natural defence against the sun. The suns light causes our skins cells to make melanin which absorb harmful rays. These cells are pushed to the surface of the skin during exposure. They are dark in colour, thus giving us that tanned look. Fair skinned people do not have as much melanin as darker skinned people so they must use more sun cream.
Q: What should I do if I get sunburn?
A: Painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, will ease the pain by helping to reduce inflammation. Have a lukewarm shower to decrease the stinging pain and apply after-sun lotion. Aim to have as many of these showers as possible. Drink plenty of water. Do not expose your skin to the sun again if burned.
We particularly forget to apply cream hear at home. Farmers working out in the fields during the summer months are the biggest culprits. We can also burn while out walking, even on a cloudy day, sitting indoors behind glass or while driving. Use at least a SPF 15 during the sunnier days this summer at home. Skin cancer is a silent killer and is on the increase, so be protected and Bon Voyage.