INCREASING numbers of Britons are suffering from vitamin D deficiency because of paranoia about sun damage.
But at the other end of the scale, an alarming seven per cent more people in Spain developed skin cancers in 2011 than in the previous year, clearly suggesting some are not protecting themselves enough from the sun’s harmful rays as we hit the hottest time of the year.
So here is some expert advice on what to consider when choosing your sun cream this summer.
What are UVA/UVB rays?
Radiation from the sun enters the skin through UVA and UVB rays. Both can cause skin cancer, but it’s the UVB rays that cause the skin to go red.
Meanwhile UVA rays penetrate deep below the skin’s surface and damage the cells beneath, causing premature aging in the form of wrinkles, sun spots and leathery skin.
What is SPF?
A product’s Sun Protection Factor (SPF) shows how much longer you can stay in the sun without your skin burning.
If you normally burn within five minutes with no lotion on, wearing sun screen with SPF 20 will mean you can spend 100 minutes in the sun without going red.
Which SPF should I go for?
Essex Dermatologist Dr Hillary Allan says anything below factor 20 is a waste of time, while Dr Veronique Bataille advises not to go below 30 in hot sun if you’re fair.
Generally speaking, since most people apply sun cream badly, it’s best to go for a higher factor to make sure you are protected.
How should I apply it?
A fingerful of cream should be applied on each area – so 35ml for the whole body of an adult.
The initial application needs to be done 30 minutes before going in the sun so the skin’s top layer absorbs it, and ALWAYS reapply after swimming.
Spray or cream?
According to Dr Allan, since sprays are easier to use people are more likely to apply them thoroughly and repeatedly – although other experts warn that sometimes sprays are not applied thickly enough.
Cheap or expensive?
The main advantages of more expensive creams are that they smell nicer or feel less greasy on your skin.
As Dr Bataille says: “In terms of efficacy, deep down all these products are very good and you’re not putting your health at risk by choosing cheaper products.”
How do I make sure I get enough vitamin D?
Some experts advise even fair-skinned folk to get out in the sun with no protection for 20 minutes for three times a week – unless this makes you burn.
However, the more cautious Professor Newton-Bishop says it is best to cover up completely and make sure you get enough vitamin D through supplements.