Sunny days are here and summer is (finally!) just around the corner.
Most of us love being in the sun – but before you go on holiday, make sure you know how to prevent skin damage and how to make the most of the sun’s benefits in the safest way possible.
It is also fundamental to exfoliate before laying in the sun as it removes the dead skin cells that accumulate over time, and thus helps to ensure a uniform tan. Exfoliating also partly removes the skin’s outermost protective layer, so ideally it should be done a few days before sun exposure.
Before you go on holiday, it’s also useful to incorporate certain foods into your daily diet. Tomatoes and carrots, among other fruits and vegetables, are rich in lycopene, an antioxidant which increases the skin’s ability to defend itself against sunburn by up to 33%.
Dark chocolate and coffee are also said to protect against sun damage and reduce the risk of skin cancer – that’s one piece of advice that isn’t very hard to follow!
The best way of achieving a safe and long-lasting tan is to expose yourself to the sun gradually. Tanning for a few hours a day, or taking breaks in the shade helps to avoid getting sunburned. A good hat will also help shade your face and eyes from the sun's strong rays. Always try to avoid the sun between 12 and 2pm as it's at its strongest and most dangerous.
Using the right SPF with protection against both against UVA and UVB rays is also essential. SPF refers to the length of time that sunscreen protects your skin for, meaning that if your skin naturally starts to burn after 30 minutes, SPF 10 will protect your skin for 300 minutes (30 multiplied by 10).
Keep in mind these are only generic guidelines; most of us tend to apply less sunscreen than we should, and sweating and swimming also contribute to making it less effective. To be on the safe side, use higher protection for the more sensitive areas (face, neck, chest) and reapply it every two hours. It is also best to apply your sunscreen before heading out, as it takes around 20 minutes for it to be fully absorbed.
Always take a good pair of sunglasses with a UV screen. The skin around the eyes is thinner and more delicate than the rest of your face, and the sun's rays can harm eyesight as well. Better be safe than sorry!
After laying in the sun, the best thing you can do is apply after-sun to cool down your skin. You can do this both throughout your holiday and after, to extend the life of your tan.
If you do get sunburnt (ouch!) there are several remedies which can help ease the pain. Freshly cut aloe vera works wonders on skin burns, providing natural relief and deep hydration. If you don’t have any access to the actual plant, a lotion containing aloe vera will also do. You should also drink plenty of fluids to rehydrate your body and take cold water showers or (if too painful) apply cold towels to the burnt areas. Stay out of the sun for a few days until all redness disappears.
Lightly exfoliate your skin once a week once you’re back – contrary to popular belief it won’t remove your tan, but it will remove the dead skin cells and buff your skin, keeping it healthier.