Now the temperatures are rising it’s tempting to throw off your woolly layers and head out to soak up the sun while it lasts. But think twice – dermatologists have been warning the public of the dangers of too much exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.

At the start of May, the annual sun awareness week saw dermatologists up and down the country calling for more education on the dangers of too much exposure to sunlight.

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Sun Awareness Week 2013

This year’s sun awareness week focussed on two main areas; firstly, educating people how to regularly self-examine for the signs of cancer, and secondly, teaching the dangers of sunburn and excessive tanning, particularly highlighting the risks of using sunbeds.

The week is part of a longer awareness campaign run by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) from April to September to offer advice on prevention and detection of skin cancer during the summer months.

BAD also launched a special World UV app, which can forecast UV levels in 100,000 locations across the globe. The helpful app can also offer advice on steps you can take to protect yourself from harmful sun rays and can be tailored by skin type.

The association reminds people they don’t have to avoid the sun all the time, but that it’s wise to protect your skin when you do spend time outdoors.

The Dangers of Sun Exposure

Regardless of the colour of your skin, or the amount of cloud cover, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun – every single day.

Serious problems which can arise from too much time spent unprotected in the sun include:

  • Skin cancer
  • Skin damage
  • Cataracts and other eye damage
  • Weakening of the immune system

In 2010, 12,800 people in the UK were diagnosed with malignant melanoma – the most serious form of skin cancer – and according to Cancer Research the incidence rate of this type of cancer has more than quadrupled over the past thirty years.

 How to Protect your Skin from the Sun

Your road to healthier skin starts off by finding out as much as you can about sun care.

While your body needs vitamin D from the sun, don’t go overboard. Only a short spell in the sun without sunscreen will give you all you need, typically just a few minutes in the middle of the day.

The best way to protect your skin is to avoid direct sunlight between 11am and 3pm, when the UV rays are at their strongest. However if this isn’t possible, wear sunscreen and seek shade beneath trees, canopies and umbrellas. It’s a good idea to check the UV index for your location before you even leave the house, and remember that certain skin types need protection for anything over 3.

Sunscreen should protect against UVA and UVB rays – also known as broad spectrum sunscreen. Although sunscreens cannot offer complete protection, they can protect your skin from 90 per cent of UVB rays from factor 15 upwards.

You can also protect you skin by wearing long sleeved tops and trousers – but be careful as you can still get burned through certain weaves of fabric. A wide brimmed hat will also keep the sun off your face.

When buying sunglasses always check that they are coated with UV protection, as sunglasses without can prove even more detrimental to your eyesight than not wearing any. Sunglasses should also be marker with the European Standard CE mark and the British Standard to show they are made to a high safety spec.

So in summary, to protect your skin this summer you should;

  • Avoid the sun
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Seek shade
  • Cover up

Once your sun care’s taken care off, all you have to concentrate on is enjoying the warm, sunny days!

What are your Top Tips for a Healthy Tan?