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How to stay safe in the sun

It looks like it’s going to be another hot summer so it’s really important to make sure you and yours have the right protection.

Dermatologist Dr Anjala Mahto gives advice on sun safety and choosing the best sun cream.

Dr Anjala Mahto is a consultant dermatologist and author of The Skin Bible, a no-nonsense guide to great skin.

 Why wear sun cream?

Connecting with nature and being outdoors has huge benefits for our mental health and vitamin D levels but also brings with it the responsibility to enjoy the sun safely. Protecting the skin from excessive sunlight has a dual purpose. Lowering your risk of developing skin cancer and slowing down skin ageing. 

What do we need to make sure we’re protecting ourselves and our families? 

With so many products on the market, choosing a sun cream can be confusing. You should be looking for a “broad-spectrum” product, which offers protection against both UVB and UVA  radiation. Opt for a product labelled SPF 30-50 with at least a four star UVA rating. If there is no star rating on the packaging then look for the letters “UVA” in a circular logo. 

UVA and UVB,what are they? 

Sunlight is made up of multiple wavelengths, including visible light, ultraviolet (UV) light and infrared radiation. UV light, mainly UVA and UVB penetrate the  earth’s atmosphere and are known to have effects on our skin. UVB rays, with a shorter wavelength than UVA, mostly penetrate the upper layers of the skin and are primarily responsible for skin reddening and  sunburn. UVA rays penetrate more deeply and can contribute to skin ageing.

Is there a right way to apply sun cream?

Many of us are guilty of under-applying. As a rule of thumb, aim for about a teaspoon per body area: one for your face and neck, one for each arm, one for each leg, one for your chest and abdomen, and one for your back. Reapply every 90 minutes or so to get the factor on the bottle. It should also be reapplied after swimming or sweating a lot. Remember to use it even on cloudy days. Ultraviolet light can penetrate cloud cover and some of the worst sunburn occurs when you’re caught out.

What’s the difference between chemical and  mineral sun cream?

These are the two main types  of sun cream. The first uses chemical filters to absorb UV radiation whereas as physical or mineral (often containing titanium and zinc) form a physical barrier blocking out the rays. Choice depends on personal preference but those with sensitive skin, rosacea or eczema may find that their skin is better suited to mineral products. There is currently lots of debate on whether sun cream chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate damage the environment; if this is a worry, then opting for a mineral sunscreen may be better but this remains to be seen. 

What are your basic rules for being in the sun?

Sun cream is only one part other precautions include protective clothing, hats, sunglasses and seeking the shade between 11am-3pm. Children under 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight as their skin is delicate and the risk of burning is high. Toddlers and older children should be using broad-spectrum SPF 50

Our sun cream top picks:

Ambre Solaire Clear Protect Spray SPF50 200ml £12 The USP for this sun cream is that it’s clear and broad spectrum. No white marks here, and hopefully no sunburn either.

Child’s Farm Sun Cream SPF 50+ 125ml £12 This high-factor formula is extra gentle on even babies’ delicate skin and comes paediatrician approved

Nivea Kids Pocket Size SPF 50 50ml £5.99 Practical pocket-size lotion for on-the-go care. It’s also reef safe as it’s free from octinoxate and oxybenzone.

Organic Children Lotion & After Sun Aloe Vera 200ml £12 Being in the sun can be drying for skin, especially if your child has eczema. This organic lotion provides a  soothing solution.

Ultrasun Extreme SPF 50+ 100ml £22 This vitamin enriched, non-greasy,  high protection cream is designed for ‘extreme’ conditions – yes, lying on the beach counts.

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