The Skin Nerd: Have fun in the sun, but keep your skin safe too

Our two weeks of Irish summer are something that we all look forward to. It’s a positively joyous feeling to get the legs out, wear flip-flops like they’re going out of fashion and redirect your treat budget to 99s - bonus points if you repurpose a basin into a foot cooling device when you’re in the back garden.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and last year, in a study carried out by, Ireland ranked as the 14th country most susceptible to skin cancer. Although ironic coming from me, many Irish people don’t take the sun seriously. When we get sunburnt, we become the punchline, but not protecting our predominantly fair skin tones from UV rays is no laughing matter.

According to the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, approximately 160 deaths occur from melanoma in Ireland each year, the highest melanoma mortality rate in Europe. Incidences of non-melanoma skin cancer have increased year on year and are predicted to double by the year 2040.

Reducing your chances of developing skin cancer is entirely in your hands and though it requires a certain level of diligence, it is not difficult. The Irish Cancer Society’s SunSmart Code is a multi-pronged line of defense against UV damage that we should all be adopting from April through to September, whether we remain on our Emerald Isle or fly further afield.

Step 1, being to seek shade, addresses something that lots of us tend to ignore: staying out of the sun is always better than spending time in the sun and wearing SPF.

SPF is a mainstay of Nerd culture and I speak about it relentlessly but it isn’t a bulletproof vest and cannot provide you with absolute full protection from UV rays. SPF of even the highest factors can provide you with 97% to 98% protection and that’s it. Nobody wants to hear this but sunbathing is ill-advisable and should be actively avoided, as should long

periods spent in direct sunlight. Even so, good shade, as noted by the Irish Cancer Society, can only provide you with up to 75% UV protection so the underside of a nice tree doesn’t mean you can skip your SPF either.

Invest in UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) clothing, meaning clothing that can help to prevent UV rays from penetrating through to your skin. Outdoor brands such as Columbia have lots of UPF gear but if you truly can’t see yourself wearing hiking shorts, opt for clothes made of cotton, linen or hemp, and dark colours.

Get a wide-brimmed hat, the bigger and more dramatic, the better. Wallaroo (url=[/url] or Neelu’s Beauty Salon, Upper Liffey Street, Dublin) are an American hat brand that specialise in UPF hats. 

When it comes to SPF, you should be looking for a broad-spectrum SPF of a high factor, preferably SPF 50, but the difference between an SPF 50 and SPF 30 is actually smaller than you’d think. Water-resistance is a bonus as the SPF will last better if you’re a bit sweaty — let’s be real, we all are!

Application is key. Make sure you’re applying half a teaspoon to each arm and your neck, face and ears, and a whole teaspoon for each leg. I genuinely believe in using a teaspoon to measure it at least once as nobody applies as much as they think they do. Top up once every two hours when you’re in direct sunlight and if you’ve had a dip.

We need to be protecting our skin from damaging UV light all year round but the summer is where we see the most UVB rays, the rays that are believed to be of slightly more concern when it comes to skin cancer. Up the ante and stay safe.

The Nerdie Pick

Available from pharmacies nationwide or online at The Elave Sensitive Sun SPF50+ is a high-factor, water-resistant sunscreen that protects from UVA and UVB rays and contains antioxidants to shield you from environmental damage.

It’s Irish, cruelty-free and veganfriendly and best of all, paediatricianapproved for use on newborns. Elave’s full range is geared towards those with sensitive skin and this sunscreen is oil-free, making it a real all-rounder.

It costs €25 for 200ml.

More on this topic

Tried and Tested: Waterproof mascara, facial SPFs and serums

Skin Nerd: The pros and cons of moisturisers and serums

The Skin Nerd: I want to look younger faster, is botox the answer?

From snail facials to blood moisturiser: the strangest things people have done for their skin

More in this Section

Bake: Michelle Darmody's recipes for the perfect summer picnic

Why Doug and Monique Howlett are moving back home to New Zealand

Learner Dad: 'It’s not unusual for someone to go home in a different pants to the one they arrived in'

What’s the Occasion? What to wear on your next big day out

Latest Showbiz

Ed Sheeran gives local unsigned acts chance to perform at his homecoming gigs

Love Island’s Joe Garratt insists he never tried to ‘control’ Lucie Donlan

Marvel boss reveals he has been trying to recruit Keanu Reeves

The Hills star Justin ‘Bobby’ Brescia says fame can ‘tear you apart’

More From The Irish Examiner