Getting Away to Seek the Sun? Be Summer Savvy and Get Sun Smart!

In July 2018, 7.2 million of us sun-worshipping Brits made trips abroad to relax, unwind and seek out that elusive summer accessory – the tan. But is a “healthy” looking tan really doing us damage? And do any products that promise a quicker tan actually work?

When we lie on our beach loungers the sun triggers the skin’s protective mechanism. The cells produce a dark compound melanin to absorb this damaging radiation. But how does it damage us? Is it that bad? There are two kinds of radiation: UVA and UVB.  UVA is thought to be accountable for up to 80% of facial ageing! It damages elastin – the compound that keeps our skintight and plump. UVB causes damage to deeper layers of the skin. It’s the UVB that can result in sunburn – and increase our risk of skin cancer.  100,000 new skin cancer cases being diagnosed annually in the UK.  And it’s not just the summer sun, yes, the sun radiation is strong enough to damage skin all year round – we should all be taking steps to be more sun smart.

What is the best anti-ageing cream on the market? Sun cream!

Prevention is better than cure. By blocking damaging UVA and UVB from reaching your skin – sun cream can protect you against its ageing and cancer-causing effects. The Sun Protection Factor or SPF of a sun cream is a rating of the UVB protective properties. The British Association of Dermatologists recommends a minimum of SPF 30. Importantly, there is also a star rating identifying a sun cream’s UVA blocking properties. Look out for a 4 – 5-star rating as this is your go-to value.

Sun-savvy tip: the star rating is only as good as the SPF! – a five-star SPF 15 is poorer in UVA and UVB than a five-star SPF 30.

And what about products promising 8 hours of protection from a single application? Great! But you will need to ideally stand very still in a dry environment, avoid sweating, stay cool, and preferably avoid the pool! If you don’t there’s no guarantee these creams will stay in a sufficient layer to protect you. The British Association of Dermatologists recommend applying 30 minutes before entering the sun – and sticking to two hourly applications with post-pool top-ups.

So what is the elixir of eternal youth? Two hourly, 5 Star SPF 30 – and a hat. Easy!

Tanning pills? Save your money and hit the hotel buffet

What about products promising an improved, quicker tan? Tanning tablets are now readily available on the high street. They promise either improved tanning or a faster, darker tan.  Sounds great! A sun-free tan?

Tan optimizing/multivitamin tablets can contain a mixture of vitamins and minerals thought to help maintain healthy skin such as Zinc, selenium, Vitamin B’s and C. Many of these tablets also contain copper, claiming to improve and enhance the pigmentation in your skin. However, the NHS only recommends adults aged 19-64 take 1.2mg copper per day and a diet containing nuts or fish will cover this. Most multivitamins are no substitute for a healthy diet, and many of these tanning claims are not backed by scientific evidence.  If you would like advice on taking multi-vitamins, pop into your local Davidsons Chemists for free advice.

‘Tanning Tablets’ are those claiming to directly improve or tan your body and can contain a wide mixture of supplements.  Carotenoids are the most common additive. These are compounds are found in leafy green veg and yellow fruit.  If you eat the right vegetables, the carotenoids can cause a yellowing of the skin – a vegetable tan! In tanning tablets, the same carotenoids can be present in an untested concentration.  The safety of such high levels is not fully understood. In high levels, some ‘tanning’ compounds have been claimed to cause liver, skin damage and become deposited in the eyes.

There is some good news, however. Some foods are naturally high in carotenoids such as Beta-carotene found in carrots, sweet potatoes and peppers! There is evidence to suggest the diet-induced glow gained by eating these foods is hard-wired in our brains to be attractive. Get that healthy glow by being, well… healthy! Turn heads on the beach by stocking up on spinach, carrots, red peppers, mango, papaya and apricots.  It might even help you get that ‘beach ready body ?.

Be Summer Savvy!

If you are going abroad or staying in the UK, be sun smart:

  • Wear appropriate sun cream, if you’re not wearing waterproofs!
  • Keep your skin youthful by covering up and wearing a hat,
  • Protect your eyes with good quality sunglasses.
  • Limit your exposure to strong midday sun [10am – 4pm]
  • Ditch the tanning pills and their supplements
  • Stock up on the veggies at the hotel buffet.

Be summer savvy and stay healthy on and off the beach.


Your Davidsons Online Blogger

Remember! Your local Davidsons pharmacist can answer any of your Sun Protection related questions. Please seek the advice of your Pharmacist before taking any tan related tablets. Products sold online by non-pharmacy companies may not contain what is claimed on the label – and claims should be fact-checked by a healthcare professional.