Dispelling Sun Care Myths
PROTECTING OUR SKIN IN THE SUN IS SO IMPORTANT, YET THERE ARE SO MANY MIXED MESSAGES SURROUNDING SUN SAFETY THAT WE’RE STILL GETTING BURNT.
Today the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new advice warning that there is no safe or healthy way to get a tan from sunlight. The health watchdog’s latest guidance also states that an existing tan provides little protection against sun exposure. It recommends using at least factor 15 sun cream, with adults urged to use 6-8 teaspoons (35ml) per application.
The report has also found that, although we need to stay safe in the sun, many people lack Vitamin D so we do need exposure to sunlight, but it needs to be balanced against the risk of skin cancer. Vitamin D has several important functions including helping to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children, and bone pain and tenderness in adults.
I welcome the new guidelines, they offer clarity for sun worshippers ahead of the holiday seasons, but there are some other sun care myths that I want to dispel while we’re on the subject of sun safety…
1. PROTECTION FROM UVA RAYS IS ONLY MEASURED BY A STAR RATING
This isn’t the case, which is why some products don’t have a star rating, including our own. This doesn’t mean that they don’t offer protection from UVA rays. There are many ways to identify if a product protects against UVA rays, the main one being the UVA symbol circled on the bottle, which shows the product complies with EU recommendations. The star rating system is actually a retailer initiative that that only certain products participate in. Also – keep an eye out for independent tests by credible third parties such as Which?. Our Calypso Sun Lotion SPF 30 has won a Which? Best Buy two years in a row
2. Sun cream will stop you getting a tan – When our skin tans it is a sign of skin damage, however sunburn is the biggest danger to our skin when we are trying to get bronzed. Sunburn can be avoided by using a high factor sun cream, with a minimum SPF of 30, and being sensible in the sun. You will still get tanned by doing this, but it will take longer, and you will be more protected from both UVA and UVB rays. There is also a difference between sun block and sunscreen. Sunblock completely prevents UV rays from getting to the skin which would prevent tanning, however sunscreen filters UV rays preventing sunburn whilst allowing the skin to tan.
3. Sun cream doesn’t need to be applied when it’s cloudy – Clouds don’t offer protection against the sun’s rays when it is hot, so sun cream does need to be applied even on cloudy days. The best thing to do is to look online and at weather forecasts to see what the UV levels are that day, if you aren’t sure whether you need it or not. Always bear in mind that you don’t need to be in direct sunlight to be exposed to UV rays.
4. All products with the same SPF offer the same level of protection – All products vary and the SPF of a product indicates its level of protection against UVB rays, not UVA rays, so no, products with the same SPF don’t offer the same levels of protection. The SPF is only one feature of the cream and there are others to be taken into account, predominantly the level of UVA protection also, which can differ. There are also other features to sun creams, such as it being waterproof or it being a ‘once a day’ product, which will determine the level of protection it is offering you. Ensure the product you are buying is EU compliant against both UVA and UVB rays, whilst the SPF should vary depending on the UV levels and the amount of time you will be in sun, but we recommend a minimum SPF of 30 when in the sun.
5. Sun cream doesn’t go out of date – False, sun cream does have a shelf life and it should be adhered to, or you won’t be getting the levels of protection you believe you are. Look out for the ‘jar’ logo on sun creams, which will indicate the number of months the product will last for: for example 12M is 12 months after opening. Sun creams are usually between 12 and 24 months. This expiry date is based on the product being kept in the recommended conditions, usually a cool place out of direct sunlight. If yours has been kept elsewhere then you need to take this into account. Sun cream can change in texture and colour if it is out of date too so keep your eye out for this too.
6. Expensive sun cream offers more protection that cheaper brands – This couldn’t be more wrong as a statement. Our Calypso Sun Lotion was recently tested by Which? for their 2015 sun cream round up, and it was the cheapest product on test, costing £1.20 per 100ml. It passed all the relevant tests and the levels of protection in our budget product were proven to be the same, or better, than some of the more expensive creams. The Which? report said major High Street suntan creams from Piz Buin, Malibu and Hawaiian Tropic all failed skin protection tests.
7. We can’t get sunburnt when it water – Water lures us into a false sense of security where sun care is concerned. As it cools us, and because we often immerse ourselves in it, we can’t feel the heat from the sun and we believe the sun isn’t reaching the parts of our body covered by the water, however this isn’t the case. Water actually reflects UV rays making us more exposed, we just can’t feel it. To be extra safe, wear t-shirts and shorts when in the water.