Sun Awareness Week: Three tips for looking after your skin this summer

From 6 May to 12 May, the British Association of Dermatologists encourages everyone to learn more about sun protection and skin cancer. The organisation is urging people to educate themselves on the fact that - despite the cloudy and rainy days - sun protection is needed all year round.

This year, the focus is all about how to spot non-melanoma skin cancer and best practices for people to check their skin for skin cancer. The main cause of non-melanoma skin cancer is ultraviolet light, which comes from the sun and is used in sunbeds.

With 16,744 people diagnosed with new cases of skin cancer each year, everyone must brush up on their sun knowledge - particularly when it comes to protecting their skin. 

Here are talkhealth’s top three tips for protecting your skin from the sun: 

1. Make sure you wear sunscreen that has protection against both UVA and UVB rays

The Skin Cancer Foundation says that: ‘Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength. It is associated with skin ageing. Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength. It is associated with skin burning.’ 

UVB rays are more commonly associated with causing skin cancer, as they are the main cause of sunburn. However, UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, that’s why they are more likely to cause photoaging on top of contributing to skin cancer formation. 

When looking for sun cream, chemical-based sun creams are the best at absorbing UV rays. However, physical and mineral-based creams contain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide which create a UV-protecting barrier.

2. Stay out of the sun between 11 am and 3 pm

Sunlight is strongest between these hours, so if you can - particularly when it’s sunny - seek shade and try to stay indoors. The NHS says: ‘Even driving a car, walking to the shops or eating outdoors increases your exposure. If you do have to go outside at this time use a high factor sunscreen, wear a hat and clothes that cover your body.’ 

This four-hour window is only true in the UK, however, if you want to check if the sun’s rays are too strong for you to be out in, use the shadow trick. Stand outside and, if your shadow is shorter than your height, the UV rays have the potential to damage your skin. 

3. Make sure you re-apply the right amount of sun cream throughout the day

Most of us don’t wear enough sun cream in the first place, let alone re-apply it enough. Adults should put on the equivalent of one shot glass of SPF when they are heading out into the sun. This should be enough for a teaspoon per body part, one teaspoon for your face, head and neck, one for each arm, one for each leg, one for your chest and abdomen and one for your back and the back of the neck.

If you are heading out and not planning to swim, you should apply this amount of sunscreen every two hours. However, if you fancy a dip in the pool or sea, you should reapply sunscreen as soon as you have dried off. 

Find out other ways to manage your skin on talkhealth’s acne, eczemapsoriasis, and rosacea hubs. 

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 3 May 2024
Next review: 3 May 2027