Dr Christian: Staying safe in the sun this summer

20th August 2019

Having recently witnessed the hottest day ever on record in the UK, it’s easy to get excited about the warm and sunny summer we’re set to have (or worried about the ever-increasing climate). But first and foremost, you should be thinking about your safety and wellbeing in the hot weather!

Not only has a sunny day been proven to boost your mood, it also provides a healthy dose of vitamin D which your body needs for a strong immune system and healthy bones. But weighing up the positives with the negatives can prove to be an uneven playing field. The sun also brings with it the risk of dehydration, sunburn and premature ageing. 

Why you should stay safe in the sun

So how exactly do you ensure that you’re safe in the sun this summer? We sat down with our favourite doctor, Dr Christian, to find out how to protect yourself in the sun and why it’s so important.

“First of all, the absolute golden rule is to always wear sun cream. It’s important to remember that heat and sun power don’t necessarily mean the same thing, and you could be open to sun damage even if you don’t feel like you’re burning.”

The reason for always wearing sun cream is because the sun emits harmful UV rays; UVA and UVB. UVB rays focus more on the top layers of the skin and they are the ones that cause a tan (or sunburn). If you repeatedly expose your skin to UVB rays, these can cause more serious sun damage, like cancerous cells or free radicals.

UVA rays act a little differently and they’re the ones that people often forget to protect against. Whereas UVB rays only penetrate the upper layers of the skin, UVA rays are able to infiltrate much further down.

Dr Christian explains “people either don’t remember or don’t know to protect against UVA rays a lot of the time because their effects are not immediate. UVA rays are a lot less intense but that doesn’t mean they’re not causing damage.

“The problem is that they cause the kind of damage that you won’t notice until it’s too late. Whereas a sunburn is obvious, UVA damage is more subtle. It causes your skin to lose elasticity and damages your collagen, leading to premature ageing and a larger number of wrinkles.”

How to stay safe in the sun

Even when the sun doesn’t feel particularly hot, you should always use sun protection to ensure you keep your skin safe. Suncare products have an SPF (sun protection factor) which indicates the length of time that it will protect you for. For example, SPF 20 will extend the time you can stay in the sun by 20 times, whereas SPF50 will extend that time by 50 times.

When using sun cream, always make sure to apply generously, paying particularly close attention to any vulnerable areas, and reapply often (especially if you’ve been swimming or doing anything that’s caused you to sweat).

Sun cream may be the number one rule but that doesn’t mean it’s the only important factor in staying safe in the sun. Dr Christian has a few additional pointers on what you should do in the hot weather:

“It’s really important to stay hydrated so drink plenty of fluids; more than you would on a cool day. You should also make sure that you keep a close eye on your skin; if you notice yourself burning then cover up or head in for some shade.

“Even if you’re not burning, it’s still not wise to spend too long exposed to the sun. The UV rays are at their strongest between 10am and 4pm so make sure you get the appropriate amount of shade between those times.

“Another common issue in the sun, besides sunburn, is sunstroke or heat stroke. This can lead to you feeling dizzy or sick and can definitely ruin your fun in the sun! Protect your head, avoid excessive alcohol, and keep cool to ensure your time in the sun is enjoyable rather than dangerous.”