The British Association of Dermatology runs Sun Awareness Week every year to raise awareness and concerns about skin cancer.

This year, The British Association of Dermatology’s Sun Awareness Week runs from 6th – 12th May. They run an overall campaign throughout April to September to help raise awareness for skin cancer, causes of it and how you can help yourself to prevent it. Their main aims include encouraging people to regularly self-check themselves for signs of skin cancer, teaching people about the dangers of sunburn and to discourage people from using sunbeds. We know that using sunscreen regularly has a huge impact on sun damage and protects us more than we think and we’ve spoken to  Shamir Patel from Chemist 4 U to get the lowdown on exactly how important SPF is.

What exactly is SPF?

“SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from the UV rays given off by sunlight. The numbers that follow an SPF show the number of times longer you can stay in the sun before the UV rays will penetrate your skin. For example, if your skin begins to burn after 5 minutes of sun exposure, an SPF 15 should mean you have an hour and 15 minutes before the UV rays seep through.”

How does it help our skin when exposed to sunlight?

“Sunlight in moderation is an excellent source of Vitamin D. A lack of Vitamin D can lead to deficiencies, largely in your bones – so it’s always a good idea to retain your Vitamin levels. However, it’s also well known that too much sun exposure can be damaging and cause a whole host of issues. It’s not known exactly how much time you need to spend in the sun to get what is classed as ‘enough’ vitamin D, but it is known that you can get a good dose from simply being exposed to low-level sun, especially in the summer before 11 am. It’s good to absorb some sunlight, but ideally, you should try and stay out of the sun when it’s at its highest point which is between 11 am and 3 pm, and you should always make sure you take precautions so you do not burn.”

How does sun damage affect our skin?

“Sun damage can cause premature ageing, issues with your skin’s condition and elasticity and the well known one in extreme cases – cancer. Detrimental sun damage can cause cancers due to the changes in cells the over-UV exposure. Asides from the effects to your skin, burning in the sun can also cause issues such as heat exhaustion, dizziness, nausea and headaches. “

Should you use SPF every day?

I would absolutely recommend wearing SPF every day, whatever the weather.

“Most makeup now contains a level of SPF for this reason. Your skin tone will play an important part in deciding which SPF to wear not only every day, but during times of increased sun exposure too. If you have naturally pale skin and freckles, for example, you should be wearing at least factor 30 SPF every day, and up to factor 50 SPF during times where you’ll be in direct sunlight.

It’s absolutely fundamental to ensure you’re wearing sun cream and even more so when you’re in direct heat during the warmer months. Going without protection will significantly increase your risk of burning which can put you at substantial risk of skin cancer and premature skin ageing. To get used to wearing sun protection daily, it’s worth choosing makeup products and moisturisers that contain SPF. Remember, you should always apply sun cream at least 30 minutes before heading outside, and should re-apply every 2 hours.”

Lots of people assume that if they’re inside all day that they don’t need to wear sun cream, is that true?

“Though it’s not commonly known, your skin should actually be protected against the sun on a day in, day out basis – even if you’re indoors all day. UV rays can also enter rooms and penetrate windows (even more so if your windows are open during the day), so don’t be fooled into thinking that if you’re inside for a large part of the day that you should be exempt from the rule of wearing SPF every day. Plus, it’s likely you’ll leave the house at some point and be exposed to UV rays, all of which can cause damage if you’re not properly protected.”

Does wearing sun cream hinder Vitamin D intake?

“It’s true that sunlight is good for you and your vitamin D intake (in moderation). However, while sun cream use does lower vitamin D absorption, it requires a vast amount to do so. Very few people put on enough sun cream to block all UV light. It is also for this reason that I would only suggest using a lower SPF, 15 for those with darker skin and around 30 SPF for paler skin, for everyday use. For sun cream to block out vitamin D altogether, you’d need a very high factor applied very regularly. Which is unlikely to be the case.”

This Sun Awareness Week, and every other week of the year, make sure you’re not overly exposing yourself to the sun. Take a look at our favourite SPF products to ensure that you’re giving your body the right protection that it needs.