GP Alice Fitzgibbon shares her advice on sun safety for the trades.
As we turn into the summer months, woolly jumpers and beanie hats may be forgotten. The sun will (hopefully) arrive and bring with it plenty of vitamin D. Skin health and the sun, particularly when working outside, is very important. Outside workers are exposed to all the elements; the risks from sun exposure are likely to be the most dangerous to health in the long term.
So firstly, the sun is good for us. We need sunlight on our bare skin to help our bodies produce vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones. Most of us will get adequate vitamin D during the summer by having hands, forearms or feet exposed to sunlight each day between April and October. This might be achieved as easily as walking to work outside or waiting at a bus stop. You can also get vitamin D from foods such as eggs, cheese and cereals.
When we have too much sun exposure on unprotected skin, sunburn happens. Sunburn is a type of burn to the skin from the Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Sunburn can vary from mild to severe, however it is important to try and prevent it whenever possible due to the damage it can cause to the skin over time. The radiation from the sun, UVA and UVB rays, both affect the skin in different ways- UVA causes deeper damage and ageing, UVB causes superficial sunburn. The radiation from these rays can cause changes in our skin and if skin cells are damaged they may change and develop into skin cancers (more about that next time).
Over the years, sunburn might have happened to you many times. Each time it happens, the skin becomes more and more damaged. It makes you look older and more wrinkly too! Having a tan isn’t a healthy look- it just means you skin has recognised the damage from UVA radiation and it is trying to protect itself by becoming darker to block the rays from getting through and causing more damage.
So how can you look after your skin this summer? The best way to do this is to limit sun exposure to the skin either by spending time in the shade if you can, especially between the hours of 1100 and 1500, wear light pieces of clothing that cover the skin and protect it from radiation and to use sunscreen. As a minimum, you should look for sun screen that is at least Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 (I would advise using at least SPF 30 for extra protection) and has a four star UVA rating. Here are the top tips for sun safety:
- Make sure you apply sun screen early enough. It takes time to work on the skin as it sinks in so usually putting it on around 30 minutes before going outside is recommended
- Make sure you put on enough! You need at least 2 teaspoons worth to cover your arms, head and neck properly
- All uncovered sites need sun screen: ears often get forgotten about (or wear a hat to cover them)
- If you sweat or get wet, reapply sun screen.
- Make sure your bottle is in date- after 2 years you need a new one
- Keep and eye on your mates and remind them to apply sun screen regularly throughout the day.
The skin is an important part of your body. Look after it this summer: sun cream is for everyday not just a holiday.