How to protect your skin in this current heatwave

Posted by Dr Nishel Patel on 8th July 2018

Wow.. what a spell of great summer weather. The scorching temperatures have got us outside, playing sport, eating out and making the most of the long summer days. I do hope you are protecting your skin…

The main culprits of skin damage is Ultraviolet Light Radiation, UVR, this can be further broken down into UVA (which causes skin Ageing) and UVB (responsible for Burning).

The signs of ageing include wrinkles, sun spots, dry and coarse skin. I see this often in my Cosmetic Clinic. Often one of the first questions to my patients is to ask them about their sun exposure. The consequences of persistent burning include the formation of small skin cancers or even melanomas.


So how do you protect yourself and your family from the sun? Well it still comes down to basics of reducing our direct exposure to the powerful rays in the middle of the day, wearing a hat, wearing long sleeves and wearing sun screen. You need to be aware of your skin type, if you burn easily because your skin is fair then you will need to be extra cautious. Look up the Fitzpatrick scale of skin types to find out where you fit in.


What do you look for in a sunscreen?


Look for general protection against both UVA and UVB. No sunscreen can block all UVB rays however, in terms of percentages, a sunscreen with SPF 15 will filter out approximately 93% of the UVB rays you are exposed to, one with SPF 30 keeps out about 97% and an SPF 50 sunscreen block 98%.

These differences might seem small but over a lifetime, it all adds up and if you have a history of skin cancer or are extra sensitive to sunlight, every little bit of protection helps.


An SPF50 will give you 50 x the sun protection of what your skin naturally provides. This level of sunscreen allows a lower amount of damaging UVB rays to penetrate and damage your skin than lower SPF sunscreens. However, it’s important not to take that extra protection for granted. Remember to apply your SPF 50+ sunscreen as regularly as your SPF 30 or SPF 15 to ensure continuous protection throughout the day.


How to wear it ?


The next decision you need to make is what form of sunscreen (gel, spray, cream, oil, stick) and for what purpose (sport, sensitive skin, vegan). If you are going to either sweat a lot or get wet, a waterproof is advisable, similarly, if you are going to be sitting out in direct sunlight during peak hours of 11am to 4pm it is probably best to use a high factor cream or oil to give yourself maximum protection.

Rules of application for all of these are the same, including applying half an hour before entering the sun and topping up after two hours. Another point to note is sunscreen expires after three years, so don’t risk wearing ineffective lotion.


Types of sunscreen



There are three kinds of sunscreen  — mineral (sometimes called physical), chemical/synthetic and ones that combine both. Mineral means the natural active ingredients blocking UV rays are zinc oxide or titanium oxide and sit on top of the skin to reflect UV light away. Chemical normally involves a combination of two or more active ingredients. These absorb into the skin and convert the UV rays into non-damaging light and heat. People with skin conditions tend to prefer mineral sunscreens as they prove to be less of an irritant. Combination strive to offer a best of both. It’s important to note that there’s nothing better or worse about either mineral or chemical sunscreens, just what will work best on your skin.


So I do hope you enjoy the summer, be safe in the sun and importantly educate your children about the dangers of UV rays.