This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions.
The sun is beginning to make its appearance and the British summer is certainly under way. Before you whip those arms and legs out and inflate the paddling pool, it is worth quickly familiarising yourself with the following myths around staying sun safe.
1. Sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer – TRUE
Over the years it has become hard proven fact that sun exposure is directly linked to skin cancer. Too much sun exposure, and in particular burning of the skin from the sun, damages our skin cells.
The good thing, however, is that protecting your skin is incredibly easy and quick to do. If you get yourself (and your children) into good habits early – you can not only reduce the volume of unpleasant looking sun damage and accelerated skin ageing, but also reduce the risk of skin cancers.
2. You don’t get sun damage when it is cloudy or cold outside – FALSE
It may sound bizarre that sun damage is possible through our dense British cloud cover, but it is very true.
Yes, clouds may filter out sunlight but they do not filter out UV (ultraviolet) rays. So even on a cloudy day, you are getting around 80% of the sun’s effects on your skin and it is precisely those UV rays that damage the skin.
So a top tip here is that sunscreen should be a routine part of everyday personal care.
3. Sun creams are thick, greasy and unpleasant to use daily – FALSE
Gone are the days of streaky sticky sun creams. There are many excellent and high SPF, non-fragranced, non-greasy sun creams out there, including oil-free ones, hypoallergenic lotions, sun creams tested on eczema, creams that also act as a moisturiser and so on.
Don’t be fooled by make-up with SPF in it, however. It rarely has sufficient sun protective qualities to do an effective job, so best to get a good SPF on at the end of your makeup routine.
4. All this excessive use of sun cream is causing vitamin D deficiency – FALSE
It is a fair and interesting point, but here is where the evidence currently stands on this:
Sunlight comprises of UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are used by the skin to help the body create vitamin D. Sun creams work by blocking a high percentage of UVA and UVB rays from getting to the skin. Therefore the amount of UVB rays reaching the skin are lowered and so is the synthesis of vitamin D.
This all said…we are in the throws of a Vitamin D pandemic and not because of sunscreen and being sun aware. More because we spend a lot of time indoors and rarely receive much sun exposure. Also, we get vitamin D from our diets too and owing to many having a diet lacking in vitamin D rich foods (i.e. oily fish, red meat, eggs) this is likely also part of the reason why so many of us are vitamin D deficient.
The take away message when it comes to vitamin D is that 1) in the UK Public Health England suggest we are probably best off all taking a vitamin D supplement anyway (thus the impact of sunscreen on vitamin D is no longer a concern) and 2) our skin is incredibly efficient at making vitamin D so will be doing so even through sun cream as a percentage of UVB still gets through even with 100% perfect application.
If you’re worried about your vitamin D levels, give us a call at RoC Private Clinic and we can book you a consultation and arrange a blood test. Many in the UK are so deficient in vitamin D that over the counter supplements are not sufficient to replenish vitamin D stores and a special course needs to be prescribed.
5. Children burn more easily than adults – YES
Children’s skin is more sensitive to the sun. Moreover, it is important to know that the negative effects of the sun’s rays accumulate during our lifetime and 80% of our total lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18 years. This, of course, makes sense as children spend more time outdoors but what is poignant is that studies show a higher incidence of skin cancer in those with a history of sunburns in childhood and adolescence.
We, therefore, have a real responsibility to take extra care of the skin of our children and also educate them to continue doing so for themselves as they get older.