This blog post contains tips on how to protect your skin from too much sun, in the morning and the afternoon, if you are on holiday in the Mediterranean or Southern Europe. If you are anywhere where there is a lot of sun, and high temperatures, UV from the sunshine can cause skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and causes thin, wrinkled skin. In this and the subsequent blog post, I suggest a daily pattern of living whilst on holiday which may suit some of you, and protect you from excess sun.
You may have noticed that I have been writing a quite of few blog posts about sunshine. This is because at this time of the year many of us, including myself, are on holiday. We naturally migrate towards warmer climes where we can put on our flip flops and shorts and be by the sea, or in the mountains, or wherever is relaxing, and get a few UV rays. Whilst researching for these blog posts, I have learnt so much more about Ultraviolet light from the sun than I ever knew before. I had never realised one of the main differences between UVB and UVA rays; that UVA can penetrate our skin and cause damage, from sunrise to sunset even through clouds. I did not realise the distinction that UVB caused wrinkles predominantly and UVA caused cancer and in fact that they both can cause skin cancer. The sun UV skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
First of all, use common sense, try and keep out of the sun as there will always be enough for you to feel well, but avoiding the peak sun rays. This means if you are in continental Europe, getting up very early in the morning (round about 6 o’clock European time, which is 5:00 am UK time), having a cup of coffee and a small snack to eat and then be out walking at 7 o’clock. Usually, the sun is just coming up at that time, but you should already put on your factor 50 plus sunscreen against UVA and UVB. You can use a very light one that absorbs well into the face and does not feel or look greasy, and then use a slightly heavier milk sunscreen
Have your dark glasses on, even in the morning before the sun has really come out, and wear your hat. The time you should put the hat on varies a little bit because in the morning sun, it is very horizontal, and therefore the hat does not do an awful lot to protect you, at least not early on in the day if you are walking into the sun. A broad rimmed walking hat can protect the forehead, upper and middle face, back of the neck, and to a lesser degree, the shoulders and chest, and is better than a baseball cap.
However, sunglasses do a lot to stop glare and tiredness and sore, dry eyes and also protect the periorbital area skin around the eyelids and around the eyebrows and lower lids.
Round about 8.30 to 9am, you can be back inside in the house or hotel, shower, or pop to get a coffee in the local village having reapplied the sunscreen. You should definitely have definitely got the hat on by then, a broad-rimmed hat, and even if there is a bit of wind it does not blow off because it should have some cords, which helps hold it onto the head and of course wear your dark glasses. A good trick is to walk with a scarf, or a loose cotton shawl, which you can put over the back of your neck, shoulders and arms as well as sunscreen because the sun can feel quite hot on your skin from 9.30am to 10 am. The sun is good for you, it is good for your vitamin D and a tiny bit of tan, but I really do now understand that it is not good for you over about half an hour unprotected or 1 to two hours protected by sunscreen in the morning, and that tanning is a protective response of the skin to sun damage.
Something in me stops saying you should entirely avoid the sun. I think it is our natural desire to be warmed by the sun, to feel it on our backs and feel enveloped by light and warmth.
From 10 o’clock in the morning until 2 o’clock you should stay indoors, maybe reading a book, tidying the place, looking at e-mails, reading the newspaper, chatting to people, cooking, playing ping pong or table football, whatever you wish. In my next post, I’ll discuss how you can protect your skin from the sun in the afternoon.
For help with your skin, Jennifer Crawley is the Consultant Dermatologist at Clinica London with a special interest in dermatology. She is an expert in both adult and paediatric dermatology and has particular interests in research, teaching and leading audit projects.