Today, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published new sun care advice. Among its many recommendations, it stated 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 sun protection. It recommends using at least an SPF15 sun cream, with adults urged to use 6-8 teaspoons (35ml) per application.
The report has also found that many British people lack vitamin D so we do need exposure to sunlight. However, 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 Osteoporosis in adults.
We welcome the new guidelines as they offer clarity for sun worshippers ahead of the holiday seasons. Nevertheless, there are other sun care myths that we 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 simply 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 only certain products participate in. Also, keep an eye out for independent tests by credible third parties such as Which?, the consumer watchdog. Our Calypso Sun Lotion SPF 30 has won the Which? “Best Buy Sunscreen” award two years in a row.
2. Sun cream will stop you getting a tan
When our skin tans it is a sign of sun damage. However, sunburn is the biggest danger to our skin when we are trying to get bronzed. It can be avoided by using a high factor sun cream, such as SPF30, 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 sunblock and sunscreen. Sunblock completely prevents UV rays from getting to the skin, making it impossible to get a tan. Sunscreen on the other hand 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. 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. The means that products with the same SPF don’t offer the same levels of protection. The SPF is only one feature of the cream. There are others to be taken into account, but the most important one to consider is the level of UVA protection. There are also other features to sun creams, such as it being waterproof or it being a ‘once a day’ product. This will determine the level of protection it is offering you. Our advice is to always ensure the product you are buying is EU compliant against both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF should vary depending on the UV levels and the amount of time you spend in the sun. We recommend a minimum SPF of 30 when exposed to direct sunlight.
5. Sun cream doesn’t go out of date
False. Sun cream has a shelf life and it should be adhered to in order to prevent sunburn. Look out for the ‘jar’ logo on sun creams, which will indicate the number of months the product will last. For example, 12M means 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. This is usually a 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 SPF30 Sun Lotion was recently tested by Which? for their 2015 sun cream round up. Despite being the cheapest product that was tested, costing £1.20 per 100ml, it passed all the relevant tests. Its level of protection was proven to be the same, or better, than some of the more expensive creams. Surprisingly, the report stated that popular suntan creams from Piz Buin, Malibu and Hawaiian Tropic all failed sun protection tests.
7. You can’t get sunburnt when in 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. This makes us think that the sun isn’t reaching the parts of our body covered by the water. However, water actually reflects UV rays making us more exposed, we just can’t feel it. To be extra safe, we would recommend wearing t-shirts and shorts when in the water.