It is best to prevent sunburn, because studies have shown that overexposure to the sun causes skin ageing and is one of the main risk factors for skin cancer. A study by the Academy of Dermatology in the USA showed that by the time you reach 18, you have already received half of your lifetime’s quota of sun damage, much of it while playing outdoors as a child.
- Always use a good sun protection cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 16 when any part of your skin will be exposed to the sun for more than 20 minutes, especially when you are on holiday in a sunny climate.
- Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before exposure to the sun, and use liberally – it takes 25g (1oz) to protect an adult body properly.
- Reapply sunscreen every two to three hours and after swimming.
- Use waterproof sunscreen when you swim.
- Build up skin exposure slowly, with a maximum of 20 minutes on the first day.
- Stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest.
- It is possible to get sunburn in the shade, so cover up with loose, light clothing and wear a wide-brimmed sun hat.
- Protect sensitive areas, such as your nose, nipples, soles of the feet and backs of the knees (when lying on your front), ears, and the top of your head – especially if your hair is thin.
- Protect your eyes with sunglasses that bear a British Standard (BS) or CE mark.
- Always use sunblock creams, cover-up clothing and sun hats for babies and children.
- A diet rich in antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E), boosted by nutritional supplements, helps to combat free radicals, the unstable molecules that may damage cells and trigger skin cancer.
Sunburnt skin can be soothed with aloe vera gel or calamine lotion. Anyone who has sunburn should drink plenty of water or diluted fruit juice to combat dehydration, and should stay out of the sun until the skin has healed. Seek medical advice quickly if you suspect sunstroke.