9 simple steps to sunbathe safely

Follow simple steps to sunbathe safely, says Sharon Ní Chonchúir

You’re bound to have heard the message about how important it is to wear sunscreen. You’re quite likely to grab a bottle of factor 15 before you head off on your beach holiday and you probably slather yourself in it before you soak up the sunshine.

However, despite all your efforts, you may not be doing it right. A survey by the British Association of Dermatologists in 2016 identified that 80% of people are failing to adequately apply sunscreen. The situation is just as worrying here in Ireland.

According to the findings of a study carried out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) in 2016, 62% of people do not always check the label of their sunscreen to see if they protect against the two harmful rays from the sun, UVA and UVB. 30% admitted they do not understand the terms while another 27% did not understand the term SPF.

How, when and where you apply sun cream can make a huge difference to its effectiveness. Here are nine tips that will help you to sunbathe safely.

  • 1: Don’t apply sunscreen in the sun. Applying it in direct sunlight increases evaporation by up to 60% and reduces its protectiveness. Put it on at least 15 minutes before going outdoors. That will give it the time it needs to sink in.
  • 2: Don’t ditch the SPF on cloudy days. Even when the sky is overcast, UV radiation levels can still be at 80%, which means that sunscreen is still required.
  • 3: Look up the UV index instead of the weather forecast. The temperature can be deceptive. A breeze might keep you cool but it doesn’t affect UV levels and you can still burn in the sunshine. By looking up the UV index for your area, you’ll know when it’s necessary to wear sunscreen.
  • 4: Make sure you cover all of the most sensitive spots on the body.The most common place for men to develop a malignant melanoma is on the chest or back and for women, it’s the legs. Slather that sunscreen on liberally all over.
  • 5: Don’t skip your lips. Many people forget their lips and this is why this part of the face shows its age more quickly than others.
  • 6: Top up your application every two hours and be mindful of what you’re doing while wearing sunscreen. Sweat, exposure to water, towel drying and anything that rubs against the skin can significantly diminish your level of protection.
  • 7: Check the expiration date. In the HPRA survey, 34% said they would use sunscreen that was past its expiration date and 22% admitted they did not even know sunscreen could be out of date.
  • 8: Make sure you’re wearing enough sunscreen. Repeated studies have shown that most of us apply only 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen, which means we are getting far less protection than we imagine.

The minimum we should be applying is 35ml or about two tablespoons for all-over body protection.

  • 9: Don’t only use sunscreen on holiday. It’s not just necessary in the summer. Its use shouldn’t be limited to the beach or pool. UV rays are everywhere and it doesn’t matter if you’re enjoying a summer stroll or walking on a wintry day, you’re still being exposed to damage.

Daily, year-round application is essential if you wish to shield your skin from the sun.


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