Posted in News

With temperatures soaring last week we were all looking at ways to stay cool.  For a lot of us, this involved staying out of the sun.

Temperatures have become more manageable again this week, with many of us enjoying outdoor activities and a British summer of sun.

So how do we stay safe in the sun? And what about our vitamin D?

If we start with vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight is our main source of this.  Vitamin D is essential for good bone health.  An increasing number of people in the UK are deficient in this vitamin so a ‘little and often’ approach to low levels of light exposure are recommended.

Researchers at the University of Manchester have been looking at the relationship between sunlight exposure and vitamin D. They have found that – for lighter skin types – daily sunlight exposure for 10-15 minutes between April and September provides sufficient year-round vitamin D while also minimising the risks of sunburn and skin cancer. For darker skin types, 25-40 minutes is recommended.

Essentially some sun, in the absence of suncream, is needed to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. But no pinkness to the skin should be seen in trying to achieve this.  Not all skin types will manage this amount of sunshine without seeing any skin changes, for these individuals an alternative source of vitamin D is needed.  Your local pharmacist should be able to help with this.

Which brings us on to sun safety

Aside from the exposure recommended to maintain vitamin D levels, suncream with a minimum of SPF 30 should be worn on all sun exposed skin.  SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the protection against UVB radiation, which is linked to skin cancer. Whereas UVA radiation is linked to skin aging.  It is worth looking for a 4 star, ideally 5 star rating against UVA on your suncream as well.  A waterproof suncream is even better, it not only protects you if you are swimming, but also if you are sweating.

There are a number of sun exposure bracelets which can be bought which will monitor your UV exposure.  The idea is that these are worn and suncream applied to the bracelet at the same time as to skin. These bracelets change colour when further suncream is needed, with  a different colour indicating maximal UV exposure has been reached as a sign to head inside.

As well as suncream there are other measures which can be taken.  Such as wearing clothes as a first line of defence with a wide brimmed hat. Wearing sunglasses with a good quality lens which filters out UV radiation, those with an EU CE mark tend to offer best protection.  Staying out of the sun, particularly between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest allows you to stay cool which out of the rays.

Lastly if in doubt, check it out!

The British skin foundation recommends checking your skin once a month. Taking note of any changing moles or new ones. 70% of adult melanoma cases are associated with a new mole appearing on the body.

Any changes can be of concern however it is particularly important to look out for moles which are growing in size, changing shape, developing new colours, bleeding, pain, crusting, red around the edges or itching.

If you are concerned please seek advice.

There are a number of ways to track your own moles, taking photographs alongside a ruler for reference as an example. Or various apps, will track your moles with photographs shown side by side, an example is Miiskin which allows up to 3 moles to be tracked for free.