Avoid the burn

We know that it’s a topic we’ve touched on before, but after a skin cancer scare close to home at Brum Towers, it’s a reminder that we all need to be super careful before venturing out into the sun…

Millions of Brits jet off to foreign holiday hotspots every year and it also looks we’re heading for a gorgeous summer here too – but health experts warn the UK sun can be just as dangerous as relaxing in more exotic climes.

It’s a message that’s oft repeated but rightly so – unless you give your skin the correct protection you are storing up potentially deadly consequences. Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer. Sunburn does not just happen on holiday. You can burn in the UK, even when it’s cloudy.

There’s no safe or healthy way to get a tan and it’s one of the great myths that a tan makes you healthier. At the very best, the sun’s rays will cause premature ageing of your skin, while the worst-case scenario is that they can cause skin cancer. While we don’t want to be seen as spoilsports, we asked the experts for their advice to make sure you can enjoy the summer sun safely.

Here’s their top tips:


Apply lots of it, often. Make sure to especially cover areas at the back of the neck, top of the ears and scalp. UV rays from the sun are reflected from sand and sea and any other bright surfaces onto your skin, whether you’re in the shade or not.


Go for a sunscreen with a high SPF. The higher the SPF number the more protection there is from burning caused by UVB radiation. While sunburn is mainly caused by UVB, experts say UVA rays may be just as important in causing premature skin ageing and cancer.


Revealing too much flesh is dangerous in the sun. Wear a T-shirt or loose, light clothing to cover your chest and shoulders. A hat and sunglasses are a must-have, too.


Enjoy the summer weather but try and stay in the shade rather than being directly in the sun. It’s a good idea to have a sunshade to sit under when the sun is at its height. In the UK, this is between 11am and 3pm from March to October.


It’s simple to remember to protect yourself against the sun when you’re at home at the weekend or on holiday – but remember to take sunscreen to work with you and apply before sitting outside on your lunch break.


A day at the beach without proper eye protection can cause a temporary but painful burn to the surface of the eye, similar to sunburn.


If you have any moles check them for changes in colour, size or shape. If something’s not quite right, ask your GP.


Contrary to what many people believe, having a fake tan won’t protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.


Experts say there’s a 20 per cent increase in the risk of melanoma no matter how infrequently you use a sunbed.


UVB rays cause sunburn and play a key role in causing skin cancer while UVA is the main cause of skin ageing. A sunscreen’s SPF number refers primarily to the amount of UVB protection it provides. Look for a sunscreen that can protect from both UVA and UVB.
A sunscreen’s SPF number tells you how long the sun’s UV radiation will take to make your skin redden while using the product versus the amount of time without sunscreen. Factor 30 takes you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. An SPF30 screen allows about three per cent of UVB rays to hit your skin, while SPF50 allows two per cent. So, as a general rule, the higher the SPF the better the protection.


Most people do not apply enough sunscreen. As a guide, adults should aim to apply around six to eight teaspoons of sunscreen if you’re covering your entire body. If sunscreen is applied too thinly, the amount of protection it gives is reduced. If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, sunscreen needs to be applied twice, 30 minutes before going out and then just before going out.
Sunscreen needs to be reapplied liberally and frequently, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and this includes applying it straight after you have been in water, even if it’s ‘water resistant’, and after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off.