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Dermatology skin blog: What should you do when you go to the sun in the afternoon?

In this two-part blog post, I share tips on how to protect your skin from damaging UV if you are on holiday in the Mediterranean or Southern Europe. UVA and UVB cause skin cancers and wrinkled thin old looking skin. In this post, I recommend how you can both enjoy the sun and avoid too much sun exposure for your skin, in the afternoon, and enjoy cool refreshing evenings.
We all love the sun but we have to be sensible about the slow damage being done by UVA and UVB, which can cause later skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is a very common skin cancer, increasingly seen in younger people, even in their 30s. It occurs in areas that have been exposed to the sun, on the face, around the eyes, on the neck, on the trunk, on the exposed lower part of the legs, and on the arms.

What should you do to protect your skin during the beginning of the afternoon?

Sometime between 2 and 3 pm, reapply some sunscreen and pop down to the sea or swimming pool again and chat to people there for about 20 minutes, but a maximum half an hour. Have a swim with sunglasses and a hat on. Then promptly back; no sunbathing, no lying out on a towel. Then, have a shower and stay inside for lunch.
Lunch is next, at around about 3-3:30. This is equivalent to 2-2:30 in the UK followed by a lovely siesta roundabout 4:30. This can last less than an hour. If you do too siesta, you might feel very groggy, so come out of the siesta after about 25 to 35 minutes and still indoors but relaxed.

What should you do to protect your skin during the end of the afternoon?

Venture out again to the pool or sea at 6 to 7:30 pm. This is a good time of day because it allows about an hour and half of fairly horizontal sunlight in which to go for another walk, or go for a walk and swim, or go for a swim and read on the beach, planning to be back in at the latest by 8:30 or 9 o’clock. Then after another shower, some more emails, music or reading, it is time for dinner.
In the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, dinner is often roundabout 9 to 10:30 pm and finishes roundabout 11:30 and guess what, you cannot go to sleep quite then, you will have to stay up till about 12 to 12:30, chatting or listening to music, reading, playing table football, pool etc.
If you count the number of hours’ sleep you will get with this regime, it is probably only about 6 to 6½ hours, but with the addition of a half hour siesta during the day, consisting of anything between half an hour to an hour and generally being relaxed, you should not feel tired after a few days of your holiday.
The main thing is to remember to wear a broad-rimmed hat, remember the dark glasses, remember the sunscreen and remember to stay in the shade or indoors effectively from 10am to 6pm, with a small swim, lunch and Mediterranean siesta in the middle.
If you’d like to discuss any specific skin condition related to sun exposure or otherwise, 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.

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