As temperatures soar across parts of France, what better time than now to talk about the importance of sun protection? Especially as new research from London suggests people are not getting as much protection from suntan lotions as they could because they are applying them incorrectly. According to researchers from King’s College London, people simply aren’t putting enough suntan lotion on their bodies. The researchers say that SPF15 lotions should, in theory, provide adequate protection, but many people apply them too thinly, which is why, in reality, they need SPF 30 or 50 to be safe. SPF ratings are based on suntan lotion being applied correctly. A 2mg blob should be used to cover 1 sq cm of skin. So, the average person should use around six full teaspoons (36g) to cover their entire body. Extra care should also be taken when applying lotion to areas that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the ears, nose and neck. Furthermore, suntan lotion should be reapplied at least every two hours and immediately after swimming. This is because while many lotions claim to be water resistant, towel drying often removes large quantities. Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: "This research demonstrates why it's so important to choose an SPF of 30 or more. "It also shows why we shouldn't rely on sunscreen alone for sun protection, but we should also use clothing and shade."
A new drug developed by scientists that mimic sunlight could revolutionise the way in which people tan themselves. The drug tricks the skin into producing the brown form of the pigment melanin, with no damaging UV radiation involved. It’s hoped the drug – which can even work on redheads (who normally just burn when exposed to direct sunlight – could prevent skin cancer and perhaps even slow the appearance of ageing. Our skin gets tanned when it is exposed to UV light and becomes damaged. Our bodies then compensate by producing melanin, which acts as a natural sunblock. The drug, which was developed by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital, is rubbed into the skin to kick-start the melanin production process, effectively skipping the damage to the skin. Dr David Fisher, one of the researchers, told the BBC News website: "It has a potent darkening effect. "Under the microscope it's the real melanin, it really is activating the production of pigment in a UV-independent fashion." Dr Fisher also said that the team’s biggest motivation was not to create a new cosmetic, but instead to help protect people’s skin from skin cancer – the most common type of cancer. He went on to say that dark pigment is actually associated with a lower risk of all cancers – a fact that highlights just how ground-breaking the new drug could be in the future. More testing will now be conducted to fully check the drug’s safety, although the researchers say that so far there has been “no hint of problems.”
It’s one of the telltale signs that someone’s recently been on holiday, but according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK, there is no safe or healthy way to get a suntan from sunlight. NICE also said that having an existing tan provides little protection against harmful UV rays and advises adults to use at least 6-8 teaspoons of factor 15 sun cream per application. Many adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D and NICE says that these can be build up through exposure to sunlight. However, the benefits of increased levels of vitamin D need to be weighed up against the risks associated with skin cancer. The NICE guidelines specifically state that babies and children; people with fair skin or hair; people with lots of moles or freckles; and people with a family history of skin cancer should take extra care in the sun. Professor Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at NICE, said: "How much time we should spend in the sun depends on a number of factors including geographical location, time of day and year, weather conditions and natural skin colour. "People with lighter skin, people who work outside and those of us who enjoy holidays in sunny countries all have a higher risk of experiencing skin damage and developing skin cancer. "On the other hand, people who cover up for cultural reasons, are housebound or otherwise confined indoors for long periods of time are all at higher risk of low vitamin D levels." The full NICE guidelines can be found on the organisation’s website here.