Our skin is our largest organ, so taking care of it should always be a top priority, especially when cases of malignant melanoma are twice as common in young women. But, while we know the dangers of sun exposure – from disease to premature ageing – it’s still hard to resist the appeal of a tanning session, whether we’re on holiday or just chilling in the garden.
To minimise long-term damage and maintain healthy skin, check out these top tips from Dr Stefanie Williams, founder and Medical Director at private clinic European Dermatology London in Harley Street and Chelsea Bridge. As a published expert in the field of sun protection, she knows exactly what all tanners should be doing to keep safe...
1. Use a broad spectrum SPF30-50 every day
If you are serious about keeping your skin safe, sunscreen should be worn on a daily basis, even here in the UK. While you might not get sunburnt, your skin can still be exposed to significant amounts of UVA without even noticing. When used regularly, sunscreen even allows the skin to repair some of the existing damage. In a hot climate you must reapply every two hours and always apply liberally. For the best defence, I recommend a broad spectrum protection with SPF (UVB) 30-50 and high UVA protection, plus sun avoidance of course.
2. One shot glass of sun cream is only enough if you’re semi-clothed
Many people abide by the shot glass rule for applying sun cream. This simply isn’t enough! When wearing normal summer clothing a shot glass (i.e. two tablespoons) should just about cover most exposed areas (face, neck ears, hands, arms) but if you’re wearing considerably less, you should be using a lot more. Always avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm in hot climates and don’t forget to put cream on your lips and ears!
3. Replace sun cream every couple of years
Unless otherwise indicated by an expiration date, most sunscreen products are stable for three years from production. Of course, you can’t be totally sure how long the cream has been on the shelves so I personally tend to purchase a fresh one every year.
4. The safest way to tan
Unfortunately there is no safe way to tan. A tan is our skin’s response to a UV injury. Tanning occurs when the sun’s rays penetrate into the skin’s deeper layers, causing the skin to produce more pigment as a response to the injury (it is desperately trying to protect itself). Every time you tan, you accumulate damage to the skin. And what’s worse is that your skin doesn’t forget. It remembers every hour of sun (back to your childhood) and ‘clocks’ those up over time.