We Brits get very carried away in the sunshine. After all, with our cold and wet winters and springs, the first sign of the sun has us grabbing the sunscreen and putting our collective feet up in the garden with a glass of wine, beer or cider, or maybe even a cup of tea. The endorphins start up and we are left with a cosy feeling of calm. Is there actually a better way to enjoy a Sunday morning? Perhaps not… but unfortunately, sunshine doesn’t come without risks.
Several months without a significant amount of sunshine means that we will be even more susceptible to the sun’s rays. Even if you don’t tend to burn, your skin will not be used to increased sunshine. Make sure you use sunscreen if you intend to expose yourself to it for any length of time. Sunscreens also vary by how much you should put on and how often. It’s tempting to buy cheaper brands but it can be a false economy if you end up applying more of it more often.
Also, make sure you use the right factor. Too low and you will burn, particularly in the high summer. Too high and you won’t get the full benefits of the sunshine. For most people, a factor of 12 or 15 will do for British sunshine. If you have darker skin, go for something lower – for paler skin, something higher.
Drink Lots of Fluid
This is one measure that many people forget or let slip by. When it is particularly hot, you will sweat more and get dehydrated faster. Sometimes it is not obvious you are dehydrated as bodily thirst is just one symptom. Dry lips, sore throat and headache are also common symptoms and some people mistake this for mild secondary effects of sunburn. Keep water handy at all times.
Go Careful With Alcohol
Alcohol can make you drowsy and if you fall asleep, you could be susceptible to sunburn if you are not awake to keep your sunscreen topped up. One effect that most people do not realise is that alcohol constricts the blood vessels making your skin less efficient at heat regulation. Have you heard about how alcohol dehydrates you? It’s not actually true, at least, not in the way that we have come to believe it. It doesn’t dry you out, but what it does do is releases a hormone that makes you urinate more often. Therefore, if you drink alcohol, keep some water to hand too.
If you are not used to the sun (and the sudden burst onto the scene in April and May catches most of us unawares) then, until you are used to the new level of glorious sunshine, make sure you dress appropriately. Wear hats to cover heads. Long sleeves to cover arms that have spent around 4-6 months covered in winter jumpers or sweaters. A thin long-sleeved top should usually do the trick – a cardigan or shirt should be enough. Roll the sleeves up and down or remove your cardigan from time to time to get used to the sun.
Get Regular Shade
Similarly, ‘little and often’ applies to overall sun exposure. Spend no more than 30 minutes in the sun at any one time and then get a few minutes of shade to cool down before going back out again. This will ensure protection against sunburn as your skin can recover from the heat during each break. Be sure to check your sunscreen too.
Don’t Go Out During Hottest Period
We are constantly advised, particularly during high summer, to avoid going out between 11am and 3pm, but why? That is when the sun is at its most intense. UV rays are higher, it is hotter and we need to take even more of the same precautions stated above. You will sweat more meaning you need to drink more water and the sunscreen you put on earlier is likely to melt away. If you simply must stay out in high temperatures at this time of day, be even more mindful of your sun protection.
All it leaves for us to say is…
Enjoy the sunny weather!