COLUMN: ‘Pharmacists can help you get sun savvy’

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The sun’s shining, not a cloud in the sky and perhaps you’re relaxing on holiday with nothing much to do. 
All you want is to be outside, have a barbecue or go for a walk. 
Maybe you are on the beach, walking in the hills or just in your back garden, but please stop and ask yourself: ‘am I properly prepared to protect not just my skin but my eyes too?

The sun may have been around for six billion years but we are only just coming to understand how its ultraviolet (UV) rays can affect us.

According to NHS Choices, most of us do not even apply enough sunscreen, and miss out on the full benefit of the product we are using to protect ourselves. Sunscreens do provide some protection, but they have to be applied liberally, correctly, and repeatedly on all exposed skin (NICE guidance).

We all need to know how we can protect ourselves, the rule is you need to use at least two teaspoons (10mls) of sunscreen if you are covering your head, arms and neck.

If you need to cover your entire body, whilst sunbathing or swimming, you need two tablespoons (30mls), which is about six applications from a 200ml bottle.

In either case, sunscreen needs to be applied twice, 30 minutes before going out and then again just before going out.

If sunscreen is applied too thinly the amount of protection will be reduced. Therefore, it’s worth considering using a product with a higher SPF than you think is necessary .

Also, don’t forget to reapply after swimming, even for those products described as ‘water resistant’ – you can’t be too careful and definitely don’t want a nasty case of painful sunburn.

There is also an overwhelming choice of different products available and it’s important to choose the most appropriate one.

Check the label out for sun protection factor (SPF), which is the amount of UVB protection, and star rating, which is the measure of UVA protection. We also must not forget that sunlight, as well as visible light also has invisible, UVA (long-wave) and UVB (short-wave) rays.

Both UVA and UVB cause skin damage – sunburn, premature skin ageing, eye damage, including cataracts, and skin cancers.

That’s an awful lot to think about when you only wanted to go outside for some fun in the sun. But fear not, your pharmacist can help you choose the right sunscreen for your skin type. They will also help you choose a product that best meets your needs, for example, cream, lotion, spray, water-resistant, quick-drying or long-lasting.