5 common myths about safety in the sun
We all love a sunny day. But it’s important not to let sunburn catch you out, because too much UV from the sun (or sunbeds) causes most cases of skin cancer. This might feel like old news, but rates of melanoma (the most serious type of skin cancer) are still increasing.
And when it comes to protecting you and your family from too much sun, there’s a lot of information out there. Unfortunately, it’s not all true.
Here are some of the most common sun myths we hear. Read on for the facts and best ways to protect yourself from too much sun this summer.
Myth 1: ‘The sun is strongest when it’s hottest’
The heat of the sun doesn’t come from its skin-damaging UV rays. The UV rays are always strongest when the sun is highest in the sky, which in the UK summer is between 11am and 3pm (it can be different abroad). But the temperature varies more and tends to be highest slightly later. So if you want to get out and enjoy the nice weather later in the day when it’s still warm, the risk of burning won’t be as high.
Myth 2: ‘Sunscreen is the best way to protect myself from too much sun’
When it comes to protecting your skin, there’s more to think about than just sunscreen. Sunscreen shouldn’t even be the first thing you think about. Making sure you spend time in the shade, especially between 11am and 3pm in the UK summer – as well as abroad -, and covering up with clothing, a hat and sunglasses are much better ways to enjoy the sun safely. Sunscreen is best used as a supporting act to protect the bits you can’t cover. Use one that has at least SPF15 and 4 or more stars; put plenty on and reapply regularly.
Myth 3: ‘I can’t get sunburnt on cloudy days’
Yes you can – UV rays can go through clouds, so cloudy and even rainy days can be deceiving. If it’s overcast or if there’s a bit of wind you may also not notice that you’re getting sunburnt before it’s too late. The UV Index can help you check how strong the sun will be on a given day – if it’s 3 or above the sun’s strong enough to cause sunburn, especially in people who burn easily and/or have fair skin.
Myth 4: ‘A ‘base tan’ will protect me on holiday’
Some people think a pre-holiday tan or sunbed tans will protect them from burning, but a tan offers very little protection against the sun. Some studies have found that tans only offer protection equivalent to using factor 3 sunscreen. And tans from sunbeds could be as low as SPF 1.
Myth 5: ‘I need to get as much sun as possible to get enough Vitamin D’
While it’s true that we all need some sun to make vitamin D, for most people brief, casual exposure to the sun allows the body to make enough, so there’s no need to sunbathe or risk sunburn. And once you’ve made enough, your body will just start to break down any extra vitamin D that’s made – so spending even longer in the sun won’t help.
Let’s face it, we all enjoy the sun and no one’s saying you need to stay indoors all summer. But by enjoying the sun safely, you can have the best of both worlds. And that’s as simple as seeking out some shade during the middle of the day, covering up with loose clothes, sunglasses and a hat and applying lots of sunscreen with at least SPF15 and 4 or 5 stars.
Head to Cancer Research UK’s website for more sun safety advice