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Safe summer skin: a dermatologist’s guide

While appreciating summer, we share with you top tips by our consultant Dermatologist Dr Zainab Laftah and on the steps required for you to enjoy summer with your children, be it in London or abroad.

Sunlight has numerous benefits. Amongst these is the increased release of serotonin, a chemical secreted by the brain, linked with boosting mood and feelings of calmness. However, rates of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the UK, continue to rise and UV exposure remains the leading preventative cause.

Top 5 steps to help you enjoy the sun safely this summer.

1. When the sun is strong, seek shelter

The summer sun is at its strongest between 11am-3pm. The fairer your skin, the more likely you are to burn and in some this can happen within 10 minutes. Skin that has turned red or pink indicates sunburn; a sign that the DNA in skin cells has been damaged.

Note that sunbeds are never safe and should be avoided. Unfortunately, there is a misconception that they can prepare the skin for holiday sun or be considered a safer alternative to tanning. However, they have been linked to increased rates of skin cancer.

2. Use the solar UV index to predict the risk of sunburn

The UV index, which details the amount of UV radiation expected to reach the earth’s surface, can be used to predict the risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. This information can be found on weather forecasts and UV index apps, with levels of 3 or more conferring an increased risk of sunburn.

3. Cover up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses

Clothing is your first-line defence against UV radiation. Always choose a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face and the back of your neck. UV protective sunglasses identified by the European CE mark offer eye protection and wraparound styles are preferable.

Often there is concern about vitamin D, however being sun smart should provide an adequate amount of sunshine for vitamin D production. For those at risk of deficiency, a daily supplement is recommended. If you have any concerns speak to a doctor or pharmacist.

4. Timing and using the correct sunscreen is key

Sunscreens do not provide 100% protection so should be used in addition to clothing. The ‘Sun Protection Factor’ (SPF) refers to the level of protection against UVB radiation. UVB is linked to skin cancer and I recommend a minimum of SPF30 should be applied. UVA radiation, on the other hand, is associated with ageing, therefore consider a product with a 4 or 5-star rating for optimum protection.

Remember to apply sunscreens liberally to ensure good coverage, including the ears, nose and feet, allowing 20-30 minutes to permit absorption into the skin before going out. I advise reapplication at least every 2 hours, and immediately after swimming/towelling. Finally, don’t forget to protect your lips with an SPF 30+ lip balm.

5. Get to know your entire skin

I encourage my patients to check their skin regularly as this will help identify any changes. Finding skin cancers early saves lives so if you have any concerns about new growths, non-healing areas or changing moles please consult your GP or Dermatologist.

For Further Information, please check the British Association of Dermatology.

Dr Zainab Laftah is a Consultant Dermatologist who sees adults and children with all types of skin queries. Please contact Chelsea Pharmacy Medical Clinic to book a consultation.

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