How to enjoy the sun safely and prevent sunburn

The sun can cause a lot of damage to your skin: wrinkles, patches of brown skin, a dull skin tone and even skin cancer. In order to get healthy, younger-looking skin and keep it that way, there are a few things you need to know.

What you need to know about the sun

There is no such thing as safe sunbathing, whether you do it in the sun or on a sunbed. The sun’s UVB rays cause sunburn, but UVA rays are the real silent killers. You can’t feel them but they are the most significant cause of skin cancer, wrinkles and a weakened immune system. UVA rays can even penetrate windows that don’t have a UV protective layer. Sitting in the shade or wearing a sun hat only offers partial protection. Even on a misty or cloudy day, all forms of the sun’s rays are present and can damage the skin.

Surfaces around you, such as water, sand, concrete and grass, reflect the sun’s rays from the ground to your skin. This exposes you to a higher level of radiation. Altitude increases the strength of the sun: in fact it increases by 4 per cent with every 300 metres.

So make sure you always protect yourself by using a product with a high SPF of 30 or above.

What you need to know about your sunscreen product

The SPF number (Sun Protection Factor) indicates approximately how long you can stay in the sun before getting burnt by UVB rays. An SPF is essential, but it only offers protection against sunburn (UVB rays). In order to protect your skin from UVA rays as well, your sunscreen product must contain at least one of the following active ingredients: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone (also known as methoxydibenzoylmethane), Mexoryl SX (ecamsule) or Tinosorb. All Paula’s Choice Day Creams with SPF protect against both UVB and UVA radiation.

There is no such thing as a total sunblock: it is impossible to protect your skin from 100% of the sun’s rays with a sunscreen product. Even with an SPF of 50 or higher, about 3 percent of the UV rays can penetrate the skin. So direct sunlight is always risky.

Applying your sunscreen product

Applying your SPF product correctly will help ensure you get the protection written on the bottle. Here are our tips for correct sunscreen application:

  • Apply your sunscreen product twenty minutes before going outside.
  • If you will be using more than one product containing a sun filter, the protection factor is not the same as the two SPF values added together, but you do get a bit more protection than with a single product.
  • Sunscreen products containing only titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide as the active ingredient will not irritate the skin, which makes them ideal if you have a sensitive or rosacea-prone skin.
  • Each body part that is exposed to the sun should be protected with a sunscreen. So don’t forget your hands, neck, ears and upper chest.

From when to apply your SPF to the amount you should be using, take a look at our how to use a sunscreen article for all the details you need to know.

How to enjoy the sun safely

Using sunscreen every day is essential all year round. Whether you’re inside or outside, and whether the sun is shining or it’s cloudy, your skin needs protection from harmful UV rays that are always present. It’s easy to forget to re-apply your sunscreen or not apply enough to begin with and end up with a sunburn. Even mild sunburn is bad news for your skin – and the more often it happens, the more long-term damage could occur to your skin.

At Paula’s Choice our goal is to help you have the best skin of your life, and being safe outdoors, rain or shine, is always at the top of our list. Read on to discover our top tips for staying safe.

Why do I get sunburnt?

There are several factors that contribute to the risk and severity of sunburn, including skin colour, the type of sunscreen you use, how much you apply, how often you reapply it, the time of day that you’re outside, whether you’re swimming or sweating and whether you’re sunbathing or staying in the shade. Even if you apply and reapply what you consider to be the right amount of sunscreen, it is still possible to get sunburnt, usually for one of the following reasons:

  • Only applying sunscreen once you get to your destination rather than applying it before you leave the house.
  • Not applying sunscreen correctly or understanding how much counts as a ‘liberal application’.
  • Relying solely on sunscreen to protect your skin. Sunglasses, UV-rated clothing, a hat and seeking shade are just as important as sunscreen.
  • Bathing or exercising in the sun and thinking that sunscreen is enough to protect you (it isn’t).

Enjoying the sun safely

While the easiest way to avoid sunburn and sun damage is to not go outside, that isn’t practical or fun! Here is our definitive list of how to protect your skin from the sun during the summer months when you are outdoors and more exposed to the sun.

  • Liberally apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or greater to all areas of exposed skin at least 20 minutes before heading outside. ‘Liberal’ means you can see a fairly thick layer of sunscreen, which you then massage into skin.
  • If you’re going to be swimming or sweating heavily, use a water-resistant sunscreen. You’ll still have to reapply it because sunscreens don’t last very long when you’re wet. Sunscreens labelled ‘water resistant’ will last 40 minutes when you’re wet.
  • If you’re going to be outdoors in direct sunlight, the recommendation is to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. We know that’s not always practical, but just do the best you can. Your skin will thank you for it!
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
  • Wear UV-rated clothing for long days out in the sun, especially at the beach. Wearing practically nothing (especially on a hot day) may be more stylish and sexy, but red, sunburned skin is never in Vogue.
  • Wear UV-rated sunglasses to shield the delicate skin around your eyes and the eyes themselves. Not wearing sunglasses can lead to long-term damage to your eyes.
  • Avoid being in the sun during the peak hours when UV light is most intense, usually between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
  • Stay in the shade whenever you can - sunbathing is never a good idea (although we know this is often the hardest advice to follow because being in the sun can feel so great).
  • The moment you see your skin turning pink, get inside as quickly as possible. Even if you have reapplied your sunscreen.

Finally, while prevention is better than cure, if you do accidentally experience sunburn, make sure that you give your skin the extra care that it needs by applying hydrating and soothing products.

Find out more about soothing sunburn here.

All skin types
All skin types
Combination skin, Oily skin

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