This week it’s National Sun Awareness Week (3rd – 9th May 2021), a campaign led by The British Association of Dermatologists to highlight the dangers of exposure to the sun.

It’s a fact that exposure to the sun and using sunbeds increase your likelihood of getting skin cancer. They can also:

  • Speed up ageing
  • Cause blisters, headaches and sunstroke
  • Weaken your immune system
  • Cause permanent damage to your eyes
  • Lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding what exactly constitutes ‘exposure to the sun’. For example, lots of people don’t realise that a sunny day in winter can be just as dangerous as a beautiful summer’s day. 

 

Why should you protect your skin?

The sun is beautiful in so many ways, supplying us with warmth and essential vitamin D (as detailed in my blog post – Are you getting enough Vitamin D?) but it’s also the source of many dangers and over-exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun can lead to serious skin concerns, dark spots, premature-ageing and even cancer. Melanin, a skin pigment, is found in the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) and exposure to sunlight causes the skin to produce more melanin as a defence mechanism – this is what causes a tanned appearance. The melanin tries to protect the cells beneath the surface but without a protective barrier like sunscreen shielding your skin, UVB rays will penetrate the surface and cause the skin to burn. UVA rays will also penetrate the skin, going deeper through the dermis; prolonged exposure can reduce elasticity and cause fine lines and wrinkles.

How can you protect your skin in the sun?

If you can’t avoid the sun or bear the thought of sitting in the shade, sunscreen with broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays is essential (although I’d recommend wearing this in the shade too). Choose one with a high SPF rating, such as Aloe Sunscreen with SPF 30 – this means it takes the UV rays 30 times longer to penetrate the skin – and also consider one that’s waterproof.

You may not be planning to jump into a pool but sweat can affect the effectiveness of sun protection if it’s not waterproof. Aloe Sunscreen is also free from two ingredients that are known to destroy fragile coral reefs. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful substances commonly found in sunscreen; they bleach corals and are now banned from certain destinations around the world. If you want something lighter for your face, a day lotion with SPF could be the perfect solution. Forever’s Protecting Day Lotion contains SPF 20 sun protection from UVA and UVB rays. 

A hat is also essential wear, protecting your scalp, face, neck and ears, as are sunglasses with UVA and UVB sun protection – yes, the sun can even damage your corneas! Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol as this can lead to dehydration (your skin can also get dehydrated), and choose light, natural fabric clothing that covers sensitive areas over wearing less clothing that exposes more skin.

Why should you protect your skin out of the sun?

It’s easy to neglect your skin after sun-down, on overcast days or when the cooler weather hits, but doing so will only lead to dry patches that can become irritated, and skin that’s not effectively moisturised is also more susceptible to fine lines and wrinkles. Sun damaged skin is skin that’s in desperate need of some TLC and even if you haven’t burnt yourself after a day in the sun, applying after-sun is still an essential practice. This is because your skin goes into defence mode when it’s exposed to UV radiation, and although the damage caused may not be visible, it will continue to spread through the skin cells, even after the sun has set in the evening. Like with thermal burns, UV burns need to be cooled, and lost moisture also needs to be replaced.

Your skin is faced with a daily battle of protecting itself against environments that can lead to oxidative stress. Pollution, UV rays, car fumes and cigarette smoke are all irritants that can affect the skin. Well hydrated skin is able to handle itself a lot better than neglected, dry or parched skin. After-sun can help to add moisture back into the skin so that it can effectively fight such battles.

How can you protect your skin out of the sun?

Sunscreen should of course be your number one sun protection product, but after-sun follows closely. You need to choose an after-sun product that’s cooling, so one that’s rich in soothing aloe vera is perfect. Aloe is naturally cooling and colloquially referred to as the ‘burn plant’ thanks to the traditional opinion that the leaf gel can offer relief from burns sustained in the kitchen when cooking. You, of course, also need to find one that’s conditioning, giving your skin the moisture it needs to replenish itself after a long stretch in the sun. Also, choose one that contains a humectant like glycerine as humectants specialise in reducing moisture loss.

Aloe Vera Gelly contains 84% pure inner leaf aloe vera gel – that’s the highest-quality aloe vera you can get, as the inner leaf is the part with all the nutrients. It’s also soothing, calms irritation, and is full of humectants and moisturisers. It’s absorbed quickly, which means your skin gets what it needs, fast.

 

If you would like any assistance selecting the right sun care products to protect your skin type, please get in touch

 

You may also be interested in my Summer Skincare blog post containing three simple steps to help promote healthier, more vibrant skin.

 

Source: Forever Blog by Kate Hodge, August 2019