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Sun Protection Disasters That Will Leave You Red In The Face


A beautiful summer Sunday and the London Dermatologist is enjoying some downtime: watching England take on Pakistan at Lord’s Cricket ground. It’s the fourth day of a five-day test match, and there is plenty of time to people watch in between overs. And what struck me was the bizarre sun protection behaviour of my fellow spectators, who were, like me, sitting outside, from 11am to 6pm without shade, in the height of summer. Six dermatological sun protection disasters coming up…

You can get Sunburn on a Cloudy Day

The nice lady just in front of me, I couldn’t help but notice, sat for about 4 hours without putting on any sun block. Okay it was cloudy, but clouds only filter out about one quarter of the sun’s ultraviolet light rays- the ones that cause sunburn, skin aging and skin cancer. Then at about 3pm the clouds broke and the sun came out. The infrared rays, which don’t get through the clouds so well, made her feel warm and out came the sun cream. Too late. Damage sadly done.

Your SPF is much too low

Okay it’s not so bad as when I was a kid and when factor 4 was regarded as the norm, but now we know you should use factor 30 at least. Why? Because sun protection levels are measured in the lab at much thicker applications than people ever use. So when you put on your factor 15 as I saw cricket lovers doing and you rub it in to your skin, you in reality have about factor 2 or less. Burntastic. Use factor 30, 50 or 50+ and make sure it’s broad spectrum.

How should you apply sun block? Cover all areas.

The guy on my left was a good bloke, chatting away to a friend, discussing the poor shot selection of the England batsmen, supping on a pint of beer and eating Pringles. And then he applied some sun block… To his nose. That’s right. Just his nose. Eh? I spend my time as a dermatological surgeon removing skin cancers from ears, cheeks, eyelids, and lips (as well as noses). There’s nothing that makes me more conscious of the need to apply sunblock to the face carefully than this, and I make sure I cover all those little crevices like the inside of the ears and the bit between the nose and the cheek. And my Dad, who should definitely know better and who applied factor 50, showed me his sunburn on the inside of his arms the next morning, which he’d forgotten to cover but which if you are outside will catch the rays.

Kids need more protection from the sun- including the right hat.

A kid nearby was at the match with his dad. A great family outing. I can’t imagine my little ones sitting through hours of slow paced cricket just yet. This lad was wearing a hat, which is good, but it was a baseball cap. It’s before the age of 18 that we have to be really really careful to avoid sunburn, because we know that this increases the risk of skin cancer in later life more than adult sunburn. I think I would have chosen a wide-brimmed hat (like a classic cricket hat) which gives the face much more protection from sun from the side.

And the result. Pakistan won easily to take a one-nil lead. But I remain very cautiously optimistic- come on boys!

The London Dermatologist



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