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Summer is upon us (in theory at least) and that means more time outdoors, enjoying those precious moments of decent weather. But just because we may have forgotten what sunshine looks like, doesn’t mean we should forget the damage that can occur if our skin is overexposed to the sun.

Because as well as sunburn and premature ageing, excess sun exposure is the number one cause of skin cancers, including melanoma – the most serious form. In fact, an estimated eight out of 10 cases of melanoma are linked to excess sun or UV light exposure.

So with the sun out, we thought we’d clear up 12 common myths around sun safety to help you keep your skin healthy and reduce your risk of serious damage.

Myth #1: ‘Sunscreen is the best way to protect myself from too much sun’

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Image credit: flickr

When it comes to protecting your skin, there’s much more to think about than just sunscreen – much more. Sunscreen shouldn’t even be the first thing you think about. Making sure you spend time in the shade, especially between 11am and 3pm in the UK summer – as well as abroad -, and covering up with clothing, a hat and sunglasses are much better ways to enjoy the sun safely. Sunscreen is best used as a supporting act to protect the bits you can’t cover. Use one that has at least SPF15 and 4 or more stars; put plenty on and reapply regularly.

Myth #2: ‘Tanned skin is a sign of good health’

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No it’s not – a tan is a sign that your skin is trying to protect itself from the damage the sun is doing – it’s certainly not a sign of good health. And any pink- or redness, even if your skin isn’t raw or blistered, is a clear sign that the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells has been damaged. This kind of damage can build up over time and cause skin cancer. Cancer Research UK would like to see more people celebrate their natural skin tone #OwnYourTone

Myth #3: ‘I can’t get sunburnt on cloudy days’

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Yes you can – UV rays can go through clouds, so cloudy and even rainy days can be deceiving. If it’s overcast or if there’s a bit of wind you may also not notice that you’re getting sunburnt before it’s too late. The UV Index can help you check how strong the sun will be on a given day – if it’s 3 or above the sun’s strong enough to cause sunburn, especially in people who burn easily and/or have fair skin.

Myth #4: ‘Sunscreen that’s more expensive offers better protection’

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Image credit: flickr

The most important thing is actually the SPF and star rating, rather than price or brand. In tests by Which? cheaper brands performed as well as more expensive ones, and the majority of products provided the level of protection advertised on the bottle. But no matter the price, what’s most important to remember is to put on enough sunscreen and to reapply it regularly. And that even goes for once-a-day sunscreens.

Myth #5: ‘Dark skinned people don’t get sunburnt’

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Anyone can get sunburnt – including dark skinned people. But different people will have a different risk of sunburn depending on their skin type. Generally in the UK people with fairer skin are at higher risk of sunburn whereas people with darker skin are more likely to have low vitamin D – so it’s a good idea to know your skin type and when you’ll need to protect yourself.

Myth #6: ‘SPF in my makeup is enough’

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Image credit: flickr

Sadly it’s not. Even if your makeup label claims to offer sun protection, you’d need to apply several times the normal amount of foundation to get even close to the level of protection stated on the bottle – and let’s face it: that just wouldn’t look good. And you’re also highly unlikely to reapply makeup regularly enough; so using makeup with SPF is not the same as putting on sunscreen.

Myth #7: ‘I need to get as much sun as possible to get enough vitamin D’

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While it’s true that we all need a bit of sun to make vitamin D, for most people brief, casual exposure to the sun allows the body to make enough, so there’s no need to sunbathe or risk sunburn. And once you’ve made enough, your body will just start to break down any extra vitamin D that’s made – so spending even longer in the sun won’t help.

Myth #8: ‘The sun in the UK isn’t strong enough to give me sunburn’

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It can be – especially between March and October. It’s easy to underestimate how strong the sun can be here and get caught out. In fact, a 2016 survey by Cancer Research UK and Nivea Sun showed that more than 8 in 10 British people have got sunburnt in the UK. Check the UV Index or use the ‘shadow rule’ to work out whether the sun is strong – simply look at your shadow and if it’s shorter than your height this means that the sun’s UV rays are strong.

Myth #9: ‘Sunscreens need to protect you from infrared rays too’

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Image credit: flickr

A number of sunscreens now offer protection from infrared rays. But when it comes to skin cancer risk, infrared protection isn’t important – it’s UV rays that matter. So there’s no need to fork out extra for sunscreen that protects from infrared if you don’t want to. Just make sure your sunscreen offers at least SPF15 and 4 or more stars for UV protection.

Myth #10: ‘A tan protects my skin from sun damage’

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A tan only offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of around 3 – not nearly enough to protect yourself from sun damage. There is no such thing as a safe tan.

Myth #11: ‘I’ve been sunburnt before, so there’s no point in protecting myself now – the damage is already done’

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Nope! First of all, your body has sophisticated repair mechanisms that can fix some of the damage that is done when you get sunburnt. Unfortunately, those repair mechanisms aren’t perfect and with every sunburn, damage builds up, increasing your risk of skin cancer. But because this damage is cumulative – rather than a one-time event – it’s never too late to start protecting yourself.

Myth #12: ‘Aftersun products repair the damage done by sunburn’

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Image credit: flickr

No they don’t. While aftersun products may soothe the unpleasant symptoms of sunburn, they won’t fix any damage that was done to the DNA inside your cells. So if you notice that your skin is starting to go red, seek shade and cover up immediately. Don’t spend more time in the sun that day – even with sunscreen – and don’t rely on aftersun to fix the damage.

Jana

Comments

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Jean Dudley September 1, 2016

I was diagnosed with skin cancer on my face last year. I had to apply cream to my face for 3 months, not very pleasant. Given the all clear, but it could come back in 5 years. I make sure I use suncream every day and wear sunglasses and a hat when in the full sun, its just not worth the risk.

Alison M August 7, 2016

Excellent article. I was in Italy recently on holiday and even though lots of people were sunbathing all day around me, I knew to be careful during peak hours and to have plenty of time in shade as well as my northern skin just not used to that intense heat

Michelle August 6, 2016

Great advice, although seeing as Cancer Research “teamed up” with Nivea sun care range a few weeks back and a lot of their products are 3 star rated (over super market ranges that are generally 5 star rated), this is a bit late now!

Sharn August 5, 2016

Great common sense advice but I’m sorry your myth 7 is a concern as I believe it’s not entirely correct…it is believed that up to.. 80% of the population in Britain are vitamin D deficient with drastic consequences. Rickets and osteoporosis is on the rise.. There has also been links to Vitamin D deficiency and cancer. We need 20 minutes of exposure on clear clean skin every day the sun is out throughout the summer. Too much sun harms us so does too little. Vitamin D cannot be made if every time we step outside we are wearing a hat and caked in sun cream. So while it’s essential to protect ourselves it is also essential that we try and get a measured amount.

Michelle August 5, 2016

Please keep raising awareness. I lost my dad to malignant melanoma 12 years since. It does happen to normal people and destroys families.X

Cemile Sami July 13, 2016

Thank you, I found this and every article you send me very useful and helpful. Specially this article x

Cat Senior July 6, 2016

Very useful information.nice and easy to understand and hopefully it will protect a lot more people.i have had skin cancer removed from my face…………not nice

sandy collins June 30, 2016

Very informative and necessary

Marilyn Parker June 30, 2016

I like it. Everything is set out in an interesting way. It gets to the point and is informative but doesn’t have too much information which might put people off reading it.

Estelita Tanedo June 30, 2016

A useful information

Liz Tucker June 29, 2016

We need diagnostic pictures and information to help people recognise cancers before its too late for treatment.

Susan Ford June 29, 2016

Excellent article. Concise. Thanks Sue Ford.

Pamela Holland June 28, 2016

Very good information. Have just returned from Lanzarote where I was horrified to see British families taking their very small children out in the sun without sunhat. There’s usually a strong breeze blowing there but the sun is still burning tender skin.

Beryl Milburn June 28, 2016

Brilliant info more than I knew already…………..having suffered a skin cancer on my face it reinforced the need to be vigilant and dispelled some misinformation through advertising. Thanks again

Lesley June 26, 2016

Great advice with some really useful info i didnt previously know