Only up until a few years ago, many people thought that sun lotion was just something you slathered on at the beach to get a better tan – but my how times have changed! Today, we are well aware of the health and wellbeing effects of sun damage as well as the importance of protecting ourselves to avoid sunburn from ultraviolet (UV) radiation or even depletion from blue light.
Signs of sun damage: the effects on your skin
While sunburn is clearly a painful warning that your skin has been damaged by too much exposure to UV rays, there are other undesirable consequences that appear later down the line.
Not only does sun damage make it difficult to reverse the signs of ageing, the effects can speed up the process, making you prone to developing age spots early on and the fight on premature wrinkles tough. Even more worryingly, people who have had severe sunburn are more than twice as likely to get melanoma, a form of skin cancer, than those who have not (and the risk is even higher if you have had sunburn several times in your life).
In order to protect our skin from serious damage, below are some great tips to help you learn how to protect your skin properly in the sun as well as teach you how to spot the signs of more serious issues before they get worse.
How to repair and avoid sun damaged skin naturally
1. Check yourself
Once a month, or even after every shower, make it a routine to check your face and body so that you are familiar with what is normal for you.
2. Protect at peak time
The sun is at it’s peak between the hours of 10am and 2pm. If you’re out and about or at the beach during this time, make sure to cover up or sit in a shaded area to avoid sunburn or further damage to your skin. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outdoors and reapply every two hours if you’re continuing to expose your skin throughout the day.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your surroundings, just be mindful – water, sand and even snow reflect UV rays which can increase your chances of sunburn. Take a little dip to cool off or enjoy a shaded stroll – just don’t sit there and fry on your sun lounger.
3. Get vitamin D through food
The sun provides plenty of vitamin D, however you can look to foods and supplements for a top-up too. Healthy foods that are high in vitamin D include salmon, eggs, canned tuna and mushrooms.
4. Know your products
Don’t be put off by the sunscreens of yesteryear which were thick, sticky and left yellow marks on your clothes. I have been able to convince lots of cynical patients to use sun protection on a daily basis throughout the year by introducing them to products that look and feel just like a moisturiser or BB cream. This includes acne sufferers who need a bit of guidance about products that aren’t going to make their breakouts worse.
In the UK, it’s advisable to wear sunscreen between April and September if you’re spending time outdoors or by a window with sunlight streaming through. You can be caught out on cloudy days, so don’t be falsely reassured if the weather is overcast.
Do you need to see a Doctor for a sunburn or sun damage?
If you’ve never had your skin checked by a Dermatologist, booking in for a full skin check is a good place to start. This is even more important if you have any moles that are increasing in size, changing shape or colour, itchy, bleeding or behaving differently in any way. Although your GP or mole mapping clinic should alert you if there are any worrying features and may recommend a specialist referral in turn, a Consultant Dermatologist is the only doctor who is trained and qualified to check your moles so make sure you see the right person the first time.
This means that as well as taking a detailed dermatological history, a Consultant Dermatologist like myself will ask specific questions about your family and previous sun exposure to help evaluate your risk of skin cancer. This is followed by a top to toe examination of your skin to assess your moles and any other signs of skin cancer or precancerous skin change. Any suspicious areas will be arranged to be removed and tested where appropriate, and you will leave with advice on how to monitor your skin for future changes.
So before you book that Winter-Beach getaway, make sure you’re up to speed with the best preventative tools to help you avoid sun damage. Should you be worried about any skin conditions or you see something that doesn’t look quite right, seek the professional help of a Doctor or Consultant Dermatologist as soon as possible.