Protecting your skin from the effects of the sun

As the weather warms up after a long cold winter and the days begin to lengthen, it’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. Not only does sunshine have the proven effect of making us feel happier, it also provides benefits to the body and skin. However these benefits also come with risks from sun exposure and its harmful effects, meaning it’s vital to properly protect your skin while you’re having fun in the sun.

Absorbing sunlight is one of the main ways that our bodies make vitamin D, an essential vitamin used in processes from bone health to cardiovascular function. Vitamin D prevents the bones from becoming thin and brittle by helping them to use calcium effectively- without vitamin D we can form osteoporosis or osteomalacia, bone diseases that stop them from working correctly. Another brilliant benefit of vitamin D is that it can strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation in the body meaning we can gain greater protection from viruses and infections. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to get good levels of vitamin D from foods, which is why we need regular exposure to sunlight, no wonder vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin!

Although sunlight is great for our bodies, it can prove very harmful for our skin. The UV radiation in sunlight is able to damage the skin, resulting in inflammation that can cause premature ageing. The red hot rash and peeling skin of sunburn is one of the damaging effects that we can see, but it’s the damage that we can’t see which is most detrimental to our skin. Over time, this damage can cause wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots and sagging.

Thankfully there’s an easy way to make sure you stay safe in the warm weather and shield your skin from the potential ageing effects of the sun. Before you go on holiday or plan a day out in the hot weather, make sure to double check that you have sun protection. You should be wearing sunscreen daily throughout the year to protect your skin, but using an SPF is especially important in the summer months when the sun’s rays are at the their strongest.

SPF stands for sun protection factor and this can range from factor 10 to factor 50, with higher numbers indicating that the product will do better at protecting your skin from UVA and UVB rays. In the English summer you should be using at least factor 20 to adequately protect your skin, but a holiday in a hot country will call for a higher SPF to prevent burning as well as long term damage.
Whether at home or abroad, protection should be applied at least 30 minutes before going out into the sun and always reapplied after swimming. Your face is an incredibly important area to protect, as the skin can be sensitive so this shouldn’t be left out- remember to pay special attention to the lips, delicate area around the eyes, the neck and décolleté as these are the areas that can show the ageing process the most.
Sunny days are a wonderful treat for us to enjoy, but making sure you protect your precious skin with SPF should be a top priority before venturing outside.