Feeling The Burn
When I was younger and hanging out with friends on the beach, applying suntan lotion was unthinkable. It was seen as ‘unmanly’ and effeminate. I have ginger hair, very pale skin and burn easily yet I refused to use sunscreen for fear of being ridiculed and standing out like a sore thumb! As a result I suffered terrible sunburn on numerous occasions. Thankfully, attitudes towards sun safety have changed considerably over the past few years but sadly there is still a belief that a ‘real’ man should grin and bear it. Over the past thirty years the world has woken up to all the negative implications of excessive sun exposure. A nut brown tan used to be deemed as the ideal and most desirable skin colour and the extent that people would go to to achieve this colour was extreme: lying in the baking sun for hours at a time covered in oil resembling meat on a barbecue! Until the late 1970’s it was thought that sunshine had only positive health benefits. However, we now know that too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancers as well as premature ageing: wrinkles, brown spots and uneven skin pigmentation.
Here’s my 5 top tips for sun safety
1. Sunshine is healthy for you only in moderation. It contains vitamin D which is essential for good health and exposing your body to short bursts of sunshine is highly beneficial. 15-20 minutes a day is plenty.
2. If you really want to spend more than a few minutes in the sun but your body hasn’t seen the light of day during the cold winter months, be very cautious about suddenly inflicting hours of scorching sunshine on it. Build up your sun exposure gradually to give your body time to adjust.
3. I’m not a fan of constantly slathering on large amounts of sunscreen. Often they are full of harsh and potentially harmful chemicals. Instead, either use an organic brand, use less regular sunscreen or find shady spot. We are designed to be in the sun but our ancestors didn’t lie in the sun for hours at a time!
4. The sun is hottest during 12-3pm so be particularly careful during these times.
5. Brown and black skin can also burn but because it doesn’t go red it’s sometimes difficult to spot. Although darker skin tones have built-in protection and are far better suited to sun exposure, caution is still necessary if you’ve not been in the sun for a while.
By all means enjoy the sun. It lifts the mood and is essential for life. The key is balance. Respect your body, protect your health and your skin will thank you for it.