How to protect your skin from the sun


Summer has arrived, so it’s time that we really give some attention to protecting our skin from the sun. From how to choose a good sunscreen and tips for protecting your skin, to what foods you should be eating, we share our advice on summer skin protection.

Why do you need to protect your skin from the sun?

Sunburn itself is nasty and sore. It’s an unpleasant experience, so we all instinctively understand why we want to avoid it! From a health perspective, sunburn really must be avoided. Sunburn, just once every two years, can triple your risk of developing melanoma

However, the reasoning behind sun protection isn’t just about sunburn. In fact, a sun tan is also a sign of skin damage, so we need to know how to protect our skin from tanning, as well as burning.

UV rays, which we get exposed to in the sun, cause skin damage. This is because they can penetrate deeply into the skin. This leads to premature ageing, sun spots, hyperpigmentation and can worsen existing skin conditions, including varicose veins.

Bear in mind that you do need some sun exposure in order to get enough vitamin D, which is needed for healthy bones, immunity and all round systemic good health. 

How to protect skin from sun damage

Of course, the most obvious route to take is using sunscreen. Wearing sunscreen on your face all year round will help to protect it from premature ageing and sun damage. You can then get enough vitamin D from exposure to other areas of your skin. 

How to choose a good sunscreen

Before we cover other ways to protect your skin from the sun, it’s worth explaining a little more about sunscreen. 

Not all sunscreen is created equally. You need to check the label and choose carefully.

We recommend choosing a ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen. This means that it has been developed to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. You’ll need to look at the SPF for protection against UVB, ideally opting for a rating above 30, especially in the summer months. However, you also need to look at the star rating for UVA protection. This may be on the back of the packaging. Look for 4 stars or above. 

What else can you do?

  • Check your sunscreen is in date

Sunscreen goes out of date. What often happens is that we leave sunscreen in our cupboard from one year to the next and neglect to check its expiry date. 

  • Limit your time in the sun

Even if you are wearing sunscreen, you shouldn’t spend any longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen. Sunscreen does not protect you completely. Indeed, whilst some natural sunlight is good for vitamin D levels, beyond that you should limit your time in direct sunlight. Specifically, in March to October, stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm. 

  • Reapply sunscreen

Even if you have chosen water resistant sunscreen, it’s not infallible and it will need reapplying. If you’re swimming or sweating, you will need to apply it more often. 

  • Cover up

Be glamorous and opt for lightweight natural fabrics that cover up the skin, especially on sunny summer days. Wear a hat to provide shade over your face, neck and chest, but also to protect the delicate skin on your scalp.

  • Apply sunscreen properly

Did you know that many of us don’t apply anywhere near enough sunscreen? You actually need to use about 1 teaspoon of sunscreen just for your face and neck. When you apply it too thinly, it doesn’t offer you as much protection. Sunscreen also takes a little time to be effective. Therefore you should apply it at least 30 minutes before you step out into the sun. 

  • Know how to protect your skin naturally with food

Some foods actually help to protect your skin from the sun. Blueberries, for example, are rich in antioxidants and effectively ‘mop up’ the damage caused by the free radicals triggered by sun exposure. Tomatoes and watermelon, containing lycopene, absorb UVA and UVB radiation. Carrots, and other veg containing beta carotene, give you vitamin A which can act as a natural sun protection if consumed regularly. Of course, you should never use food as a replacement for your sunscreen.

What else do you need to know about protecting your skin from the sun?

This summer, Cancer Research UK is running a campaign called #OwnYourTone. The idea is to love your natural tone and protect it. We love this idea! We really should celebrate the skin we’re in. 

However, we also know that many of us want that radiant glow of summery skin. So, is that possible without skin damage? The trick is to use fake tan. Whilst the colour obtained from a spray tan, for example, won’t help to protect you from the sun, it will give you the skin colour you desire without actually having to expose your skin to the sun’s damaging rays. This means that you can do all of the above tricks to cover up and stay away from the sun, whilst still getting the colour you desire.

What you shouldn’t do is use a sun bed. This absolutely does not protect you from the harmful rays of the sun. In fact, the British Association of Dermatologists asserts that sunbeds are actually more dangerous than natural sun exposure.

Bear in mind that some people need to do more to protect their skin from the sun than others. Those who have paler skin, have red or fair hair and are freckly, should stay in the shade as much as possible! If you have many moles, or if you have a tendency to burn, you should also avoid too much sun exposure. 

Desperate for a tan without sun damage?

If you just can’t resist a tan but want to steer clear of skin damage, then organise a mobile spray tan at home. You’ll be able to get the colour you desire, without the risks or the damage.