28 Jun 2021

Stay Safe in the Sun

Most of us enjoy the sun and the warmer weather, particularly in Ireland. When we do get a little bit of sunshine each year, everyone heads outside. However, if we overexpose our skin to the sun’s UV rays it becomes red and painful – sunburned. Severe sunburn can cause blistering, swelling of the skin and heatstroke (dizziness, headaches & nausea). Exposure to UV radiation can also lead to eye damage, skin drying, premature aging and in more serious cases, skin cancer. To prevent damaging our skin, it is vital that we protect it all year round no matter what the weather. To provide ourselves with optimised protection it is important to understand the terminology surrounding sun care and sun protection.

UVA vs UVB Rays

There are two types of UV rays that the sun emits. Both can cause serious damage in different ways. It is important to understand the difference between them and the harm they can cause.

UVA Rays are always present throughout the day (even if it is cloudy). They are known to be the “aging” rays as they can cause long term effects such as wrinkles and discoloration. 80% of UVA rays reach the outer layer of the dermis (the layer of skin beneath the epidermis). As well as causing premature aging, they are responsible for 35% of skin cancers. UVA rays do not typically cause burning because they cause damage deeper in the skin. This can make them even more dangerous as we don’t feel the negative effects of them immediately. They can penetrate through glass and reach the skin even when indoors.

UVB Rays tend to be at their strongest in the summer months but are still present all year round. These rays are associated with burning and are responsible for 96% of sunburn cases. Unlike UVA rays, they don’t penetrate the skin as deep. They typically cause damage to the outer layer of the skin and the harm is immediately visible. UVB rays play a major role in skin cancers, particularly melanoma. However, they can not penetrate through glass like UVA rays can.

What is SPF?

The sun protection factor or SPF indicates protection against UVB rays. Many people believe that an SPF of 50 provides almost double the protection as SPF 30. However, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. Higher SPF can often give people a sense of false security, so it is vital to understand the differences in each factor. When shopping for sun cream, it is important to opt for one that says “broad spectrum” on the label. This indicates that it will help protect your skin from UVA rays as well as UVB rays. In Ireland, a minimum of SPF 30 is recommended.

How to apply sun cream?

It is recommended that most adults will need to use around one ounce (approx. 30ml) for the entire body, however this will vary from person to person. It is key to remember the sensitive areas that often get forgotten about, ears, tops of the feet and the back of the neck. For smaller areas such as around the eyes and lips, a stick sun cream is sometimes the best option here. It is important to not forget these areas. Sun cream should be applied 15 minutes before going out in the sun and reapplied every 2 hours or immediately after being in water, sweating or towel drying. Even in the Winter, everyone should apply sun cream to the face and neck. This will help protect the skin all year round. It will help maintain youthful skin and prevent signs of premature aging caused by UVA rays.

Stay Safe in the Sun Tips

To stay safe in the sun this summer and protect ourselves from the harmful UV rays we recommend following the 5 S’s:

  • Seek shade – especially when the sun is at its strongest (around 11am to 3pm).
  • Slip on some clothes – wearing light, long sleeved or long-legged clothing will help protect your skin against harmful UV radiation and is very important where children are concerned.
  • Slap on a hat – A wide brimmed hat or other styles that give protection to the face, neck, head, and ears are best. Be a good role model for children by wearing a sunhat and encouraging them to do the same.
  • Sunglasses – Make sure to choose glasses that offer UV protection. Wrap around styles are ideal.
  • Sunscreen – Use a sunscreen that feels good on your skin. It should offer a broad spectrum of protection against the various UV rays. Opt for SPF 30 or higher for greatest protection and choose child specific varieties to protect your little ones.

At Hickey’s Pharmacy, we have a range of quality sun products in store, for example, the La Roche Posay Anthelios range which offers a range of SPF 30 – SPF 50 products. This range is dermatologically tested and easy to apply. A variety of creams, fluids and gels are available to suit all product preferences as well as children’s varieties and pocket versions. We also have a wide selection of other family favourites including P20, Nivea and Ambre Solaire in all Hickey’s Pharmacies.
Other products that can be of benefit include:

  • Thermal Spring Water – cools and refreshes skin that is sensitive and/or irritated by outside factors including the sun.
  • After-sun – like La Roche Posay’s Posthelios range of cooling after-sun gels for the face and body.

Don’t hesitate to ask one of the team in store for advice on the right product for you or your family.