Applying sunscreen and wearing a hat becomes second nature when heading outdoors on hot summer days.
But it's not just when the sun is blazing that we need to protect our skin. To mark Sun Awareness Week, which runs from May 2 to 8, consultant dermatologist and author of ‘The Skincare Bible’, Dr Anjali Mahto, has offered up her top tips for looking after our complexions and reducing the risk of skin cancer throughout the year.
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Popping on hats and layers is an effective method for reducing the risk of skin cancer, and is particularly important if you have risk factors such as fair skin, family history, or many moles.
"This remains your first-line option in protecting against the sun," she said. "This should be something you think about on a hot, sunny day, whilst on a tropical holiday or even when participating in outdoor sport. Clothing, hats, and sunglasses all have a role to play."
Ideally, try and stay out of the sun during peak daylight hours, when the sun is most likely to cause burning.
"This is usually between 11 am and 3 pm. Try and seek shade during these times," noted Dr Mahto.
Opt for quality sunscreen
Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays from the sun.
"This should be a minimum of SPF 15-30. Sunscreens can be of two kinds - mineral and chemical. Chemical sunscreens need to be applied at least twenty minutes before going outdoors; mineral sunscreens contain zinc and titanium, and work as soon as they are applied," the expert explained. "Sunscreens need to be reapplied every ninety minutes to get the stated protection factor on the bottle and most of us are guilty of not reapplying it as frequently as we should. Also, remember to reapply after swimming and sweating."
Reapply sunscreen frequently
Most of us also do not use the correct quantities of sunscreen for it to be effective.
"Sunscreen needs to be used on all areas not covered by clothing. About one-shot-glass-full (or 35ml) should be about right for an average-sized adult. A rough rule of thumb is about a teaspoon per body area: one teaspoon for your face, head and neck, one for each arm, one for each leg, one for your chest and abdomen and one for your back and the back of the neck. Don't forget your ears and the tops of your feet; these are commonly missed sites," she noted.
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Wear sunscreen on cloudy days
Even though the sun may not seem as strong on overcast days, it is still there, and the skin can be exposed.
"As many skin cancers develop due to cumulative UV exposure, it is worthwhile getting into the habit of wearing sunscreen on your exposed sites daily. For those who are concerned, it will also have benefits for your skin from an anti-ageing perspective," Dr Mahto added.