A parent applying sun cream to her child's back

How to stay safe and protected in the sun

03 Feb 2023


Whether you’re enjoying a staycation, or just making the most of the sunny weather at the weekends, there’s nothing better than being outdoors.  But looking after your skin in the sun is a must, as too much exposure can cause sunburn and eventually lead to skin cancer.

Unfortunately, we still need to worry about sun safety and our sun protection. The number of people diagnosed with skin cancer in Great Britain has more than quadrupled over the last 30 years, with around 15,906 cases of malignant melanoma diagnosed in 2015. 86% of these cases were preventable.

What factor sun cream do I need?

The most effective sun protection when you're out in the sun is an SPF (sun protection factor) cream. However, most of us don’t apply enough sunscreen for it to be effective. The average person needs around 36g of sunscreen to be properly covered, which is about six full teaspoons.

More than half a teaspoon to:

  • each arm
  • the face, neck and ears

More than one teaspoon to:

  • each leg
  • chest and abdomen
  • back

If you start off with SPF 50, but apply it badly, you'll only get SPF 30, which is still OK. But if you start with a 15, this can go down to 7.5 and you won’t get the right level of protection. Many experts now recommend minimum SPF 30 to avoid this happening.

Make sure your sunscreen also contains five-star UVA and UVB protection. UVA rays are the ones that age your skin, while UVB rays burn the skin.

Handpicked article: Why should we wear SPF?

Top sun safety tips

  • Put on sunscreen 20-30 mins before going outside, and again when you’re in the sun to allow your skin to absorb it properly.
  • Reapply sunscreen every couple of hours to maintain the right level of protection, and immediately after swimming.
  • Even though some lotions are water resistant, up to 85% of a product can be removed by towel drying, so you should reapply after swimming, sweating, or any other vigorous or abrasive activity.
  • Make sure you apply it behind the ears, the back of the neck, cleavage, tips of the ears, and the end of the nose as these are the bits we tend to miss.
  • Avoid the sun when it’s strongest, between 11am and 3pm. Stay in the shade and cover up with long sleeved tops and trousers. Most women have melanomas on their legs, while men tend to get them on their backs, as these are the areas we expose most to the sun.
  • Look for a picture on your sunscreen of an open pot with a number in it, like 12M. This is the use-by date in months. If your sunscreen has been open for longer than that, it has expired and won’t offer the right level of protection.
  • You don’t need to sunbathe to produce enough vitamin D. Just 15 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen should be enough.
  • Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses to protect your scalp and eyes.
  • Carry water with you to keep hydrated.

Shop Suncare

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

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