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How to protect your skin from harmful UV Rays!

Verity Edwards-Flaherty

May is national skin cancer awareness month and with rates of the disease rapidly increasing and 86% of all cases preventable, I want to share with you some top tips from national skin cancer awareness charity Skcin, on how to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays to prevent skin cancer.

First things first – avoid UV tanning and never allow your skin to burn!

Sunburn, reddening, peeling and even tanning of the skin, whether derived from the sun and/or sunbeds is clear indication of sun damage. When we burn, the superficial layers of the skin release chemicals that cause the blood vessels to expand and leak fluid, causing swelling, pain and redness. Without sun protection UV radiation starts to penetrate deep into the layers of the skin, causing damage to the DNA in our skin cells. Damage from UV is cumulative and irreparable which means once the tan fades the damage remains, which can result in serious consequences over time.

To prevent skin cancer check the daily UV forecast and when UV levels reach 3 or above – take action to protect your skin by following Skcin’s Five S’s of Sun Safety – Slip, Slop, Slap, Slide, Shade:

1) SLIP ON SUN PROTECTIVE CLOTHING

  • Clothing can be one of the most effective barriers between our skin and the sun.

  • Clothing should always cover shoulders, but ideally as much skin as possible.

  • A closer weave fabric will provide better protection.

  • A high UPF rated fabric provides best protection.

2) SLOP ON SUNSCREEN

  • Always use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or above.

  • Make sure it’s broad-spectrum and carries a UVA symbol (ideally labelled minimum 4 star).

  • Store in an accessible, cool place and remember to check the expiry date.

  • Apply a generous amount to clean, dry, exposed skin 20 minutes before going outdoors.

  • Regardless of the instructions all sunscreens should be re-applied at least every 2 hours (more often if perspiring) and straight after swimming.

  • Remember to protect your lips with an SPF 30+ lip balm.

3) SLAP ON A SUN HAT

  • Always wear a hat with a wide brim that shades the face, neck and ears.

  • A close weave or UPF rated fabric will provide better protection.

  • Baseball caps do not provide good protection as they don’t shade the ears and neck.

4) SLIDE ON SUNGLASSES

  • Solar UV radiation can be damaging to the eyes, so wear quality sunglasses.

  • Overall protection depends on the quality of the lens as well as the design.

  • Look for the European CE mark, which indicates a safe level of protection.

  • Those labelled with a high EPF (which ranges from 1-10)  will provide best protection.

  • Ensure they are close fitting and wrap-around to stop UVR entering the top and sides.

  • Remember price has no reflection on the quality of protection.

5) SHADE FROM THE SUN

  • Shade can provide a good barrier between our skin and the sun.

  • Seek shade whenever possible, particularly during peak UV hours 11am-3pm.

  • Keep toddlers and babies in the shade at all times.

  • Never rely on shade alone, always combine with personal protection measures.