Be UV smart this summer with Dr Anjali Mahto’s top tips for staying safe in the sun
Words Dr. Anjali Mahto
As Sun Awareness Week approaches (8th – 14th May), there’s no better time to think about how we look after our skin in the sun. Eight out of ten people are failing to adequately apply sunscreen before going out in the sun, according to a survey carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists to mark Sun Awareness Week. 80 per cent of us don’t apply sunscreen before going out in the sun and then shortly afterwards. The survey also found that 70 per cent of people fail to reapply sunscreen every two hours as recommended.
We spoke to Dr. Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, about her top tips for staying safe this summer…
Are we only at risk of UV damage during in the summer months?
Although the highest risk months in the UK are May to September, UV rays are something we need to be aware of all year round. UVB, the rays that cause sunburn and can lead to skin cancer, and UVA rays are present even on cloudy days (30-40% of UV will still penetrate through cloud cover), which reach deep below the skin, causing premature ageing and are also linked to melanoma.
It’s also important to bear in mind altitude (UV rays are stronger the higher you go) and the fact that 75% of harmful rays are reflected back from snow. So those on skiing or mountaineer holidays during the winter can be caught out.
Do UV rays impact the skin in other ways?
As well as sun spots and pigmentation, UV rays impact the skin in several ways. One of the biggest causes of premature ageing is sun damage. This is visible in fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, freckles and other discolouration’s, which all result in an undesirable complexion.
What can be done to help protect the skin?
The best way to enjoy the sun safely and protect your skin regardless of your age, is to use a combination of shade, clothing and sunscreen. On sunny days, try to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm and cover up with a t-shirt, hat and sunglasses. Applying SPF is also incredibly important to protect the skin from sun exposure. Not just in hot climates and sunny weather, but every day. A factor of 30 or above ideally.
What are the treatment options available to those who already have UV damage?
The first and safest thing to do when looking to treat UV damage is to visit a dermatologist for a proper, professional opinion. In terms of treatment, IPL (Intense Pulsed Light Therapy) can be used to treat everything from pigmentation to fine lines and uneven skin tone. It’s a great option for those who want significant, long-lasting changes but without going the whole hog with laser. This isn’t one for those with olive and darker skin tones due to increased pigment however.
For more targeted skincare concerns such as pigment spots and slowing down the ageing caused by skin damage, a laser treatment, such as fractionated erbium:yag and Icon 1540 resurfacing laser, will target specific structures in the skin and induce controlled wounds, encouraging the skin cells to repair them. Speak to your dermatologist about the different laser options and what will work best for you.
Is there any other type of protection we should look for in sunscreen, other than from UV rays?
UV light makes up only about seven per cent of the sun’s rays, with about 50 per cent of it consisting of infrared-A (IR-A) light. IR-A appears to induce free radical formation and penetrate the skin, causing damage that can potentially lead to skin ageing. Traditional sun creams do not generally have IR-A protection.
Although there is currently no clear evidence that IR-A has a role in the development of skin cancer, it’s still worth applying products that protect against IR-A rays as well as UV. Heliocare 360 Gel Oil-free SPF 50, which protects against UVB, UVA, Infrared‐A (IR-‐A) and high energy visible light, is a great option. If you’re concerned about skin ageing, by all means look for a sunscreen with IR-A protection, but UVB and UVA protection are still by far most important.