Looking after your skin in hot weather
Whether exploring parts of Britain or travelling further afield, it is important to look after your skin when you are out in the sun.
When your skin is exposed to harmful UV light, an inflammatory reaction can turn your skin red and hot to the touch. Depending on the severity of the sunburn and the damage caused, your skin may blister, flake or peel.
Believe it or not, you can get sunburned in as little as 15 minutes. So, if you plan on spending extended time outside – even if it is cloudy – you should protect your skin with sunscreen.
As well as the discomfort and disruption to your holiday or everyday life that sunburn can cause, there are more serious and longer-lasting effects.
Diagnoses of melanoma, also known as skin cancer, have increased dramatically over the past few decades. The incidence of melanoma in 2018 was 550% higher in men and 250% higher in women than in 1981.
This sharp increase has largely been attributed to over-exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun, combined with poor sun protection behaviour.
Skin cancer is now the 5th most common form of cancer in the UK, with 16,700 new cases every year.
Sunscreen, with a minimum protection strength of SPF 30, should be applied to all exposed skin before going out into sunlight and reapplied every two hours.
If you are likely to be swimming or otherwise immersed in water, you should reapply sunscreen after drying. Water washes sunscreen off, and the cooling effect of water can stop you from realising you are being burned.
The peak hours for sunburnt are 11 am to 3 pm when the sun is at its highest.
As well as regular sunscreen applications, it helps to cover up overexposed skin with loose-fitting clothes, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or finding shade.
Prolonged exposure to bright sunlight can also damage your eyes, and sunglasses that reflect UV light should be worn.
There are some simple ways to help ease mild sunburn:
- Firstly, get out of direct sunlight
- Sponge sore skin with cold water, then apply an after-sun product.
- Stay hydrated and take paracetamol and ibuprofen to reduce pain or swelling.
- Stay out of the sun until the sore skin has healed.
Scratching or removing peeling skin can cause further damage, as can using ice or ice packs on sunburnt skin. Avoid tight-fitting clothes that can aggravate sore skin.
If you cannot ease sunburn, your next port of call should be a Community Pharmacist.
Community Pharmacists can advise on the best treatment for sunburn and what other steps to take.
You don’t need an appointment to see a pharmacist; their advice is free.
In some cases, you may need to see a GP or get help from NHS 111 urgently.
But you should only do this if:
- your skin is blistered or swollen
- you have a higher temperature or shivers
- you feel very tired, dizzy or sick
- you have a headache and muscle cramps
While most cases of sunburn can be treated at home or with help from a Pharmacist, severe sunburn can lead to exhaustion and heat stroke, especially in children. If symptoms do worsen, then please seek appropriate medical help.