Most people now appreciate the dangers of over-exposure to the sun and are taking a more sensible approach to prevent long-term skin damage. Sun rays from the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum are responsible for suntan and sunburn. The ultraviolet spectrum is subdivided into UVA and UVB regions.

UVB are the burning rays
The upper layers of the skin mainly absorb these short rays. They trigger the production of melanin, the pigment that produces a tan/deepening in colour of the skin. Too much can cause burning, freckling and thickening of the skin. UVB light is responsible for sunburn which looks red, feels tight, dry and sore. UVB radiation is well-known to cause damage to the DNA of skin cells. Skin cancers develop when this damage affects the DNA of genes that control growth and division of skin cells.
UVA are the ageing rays
These longer rays can penetrate deeply into the skin, can trigger skin allergies and can cause premature ageing. The UVA rays can also contribute to skin cancer formation. Fair-skinned people living near the equator are at the highest risk for developing sun-related cancers. Some people think about sun protection only when they spend a full day at the beach or pool. However sun exposure adds up day after day, and it happens whenever you are outdoors in the sun e.g. when you are gardening, riding a bike or going to and from your car. It is therefore very important to choose a sunscreen that is highly effective against the damage of UVA and UVB light. This is particularly important when choosing a sunscreen for children as damage to the skin in childhood can increase the risk of developing skin cancers later in life.

The majority of products available contain a combination of agents including phenozphenones, cinnamates and dibenzoylmethanes.
Understanding SPF ratings
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a metric for how long a product will protect your skin in the sun. If your skin begins to burn after 10 minutes in the sun, a sun protection factor of 10 will increase your protection time in the sun to 1hr 40mins.
i.e. 10 (burn time) X 10 (SPF) = 100mins = 1hr 40mins
E.g. 10 (burn time) X 30 (SPF) = 300mins = 5hrs
It is recommended however that you apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. It is also vital that the sunscreen product chosen has good protection against both UVA and UVB light
How to apply sunscreen properly
While sunscreen should not be your only source of protection, it does need to be applied correctly. Few of us apply it liberally or frequently enough. Applying too thin layer can actually half the protection you get, so instead of SPF 15, you have an SPF 7 or 8. To cover the average adult you need about 35ml of sunscreen and this should be applied 30 minutes before exposure to the sun to give maximum protection. While some sunscreens are waterproof, remember if you get out of the water and dry yourself with a towel, most of the product will be wiped off and will need to be reapplied.
Sun Care for Children
Children should be protected from the sun as much as possible, with SPF, hats, and sunglasses. Babies under 6 months should be kept out of the sun altogether, as their skin is not yet able to produce enough melanin to protect them from UV light.

Extra advice:
  • Never use lower than an SPF 30 on children.
  • Always cover children with a hat and t-shirt while they are in full sun.
  • Give them plenty of fluids to ensure that they do not run the risk of dehydrating.
  • Children need smaller versions of real, protective adult sunglasses – not toy sunglasses.
  • Never allow your child's skin to redden. This is the first sign of burning and will cause irreparable damage.
Helpful Tips from Mulligans Pharmacy: - Safe Sun Practise
  • Seek shade during the hottest part of the day - usually 11am to 3pm
  • Cover up! Wearing clothing can help protect skin from the sun's rays, but they are not enough on their own. Dark colours provide more protection than light colours by preventing more UV rays from reaching you skin.
  • Wear a hat. It helps protect sun sensitive areas such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays. Time spent in the sun without adequate eye protection increases the chances of developing eye disease. Sand and water can intensify the sun's rays.
  • Use lip salves with a high protection SPF to prevent burning and to avoid sun induced cold sores.
  • Don't forget to apply sunscreen to toes, back of neck and earlobes.
  • Sunscreens should always be stored in a cool, dark place. If on the beach, keep them out of direct sunlight. Sunscreens older than 12 months should be thrown out.
  • Remember some medications and skin treatments (retinol and acids) can cause the skin to become more sensitive to the sun. Ask the pharmacist for advice.
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Sunburn is basically a skin condition due to over-exposure of UV sunrays. A first degree burn is characterised by redness and pain, a second degree burn by redness, pain and water bubbles, and a third degree burn by all of the aforementioned symptoms along with white patches of skin.
Sunburn is basically a skin condition due to over-exposure of UV sunrays. A first degree burn is characterised by redness and pain, a second degree burn by redness, pain and water bubbles, and a third degree burn by all of the aforementioned symptoms along with white patches of skin.

Apart from the pain associated with the burn, symptoms can include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Dehydration
  • Blistering – May range from a very fine blister that is only found when you begin to "peel" to very large water-filled blisters with red, tender, raw skin underneath

Consult a doctor or call for medical assistance if there are signs of shock, heat exhaustion, dehydration, or other serious reactions. These signs include:
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Rapid pulse or rapid breathing
  • Extreme thirst, no urine output, or sunken eyes
  • Nausea, fever, chills or rash
  • Eyes hurt and are sensitive to light
  • Severe, painful blisters
For less severe sunburn, follow the guidelines below.
  • Taking either aspirin or ibuprofen, as soon as sunburn is noticed, can ease inflammation and control pain. For babies and children, infant paracetamol can help ease the pain and reduce swelling.
  • Taking a cool bath or shower, or place a wet, cold cloth on the burn for 10 to 15 minutes, several times a day.
  • Aloe Vera gel has an immediate cooling and calming effect on the skin. It is effective in easing pain and inflammation while also relieving dryness of the skin. It forms a protective layer that will seal valuable moisture into the skin, preventing dehydration and promoting faster healing. It can be reapplied as often as required. Do not use petroleum-based products such as Vaseline as they trap heat and make symptoms worse.
  • Lavender essential oil helps to soothe pain, promote new skin growth and heal first-degree burns. It also has a great calming effect. Add a few drops of lavender oil to a cool bath and soak. Lavender oil also works well when combined with Aloe Vera. A few drops of Lavender oil can be added to Aloe Vera gel. Be sure to read any directions or warnings that come with essential oils.
  • Cooling preparations such as calamine lotion are beneficial.
  • Antihistamines are effective only for relief from itching associated with a heat rash, an itchy skin condition caused by exposure to the sun's heat.
Moderately burned skin should heal within a week. If there is no improvement or symptoms worsen the patient should consult their doctor.
Visit your pharmacist or doctor:
  • If the skin is badly burnt or blistered
  • If the patient is very young or old
  • If the patient is vomiting or has a fever or headache
  • If there is any sign of infection such as weeping skin
  • If the patient suffers from any other skin condition
  • If the patient has noticed a change in the colour, shape or size of a mole

  • Stay out of the sun while you are healing.
  • Replenish lost fluids with water or an isotonic drink
  • Avoid bath salts and perfumes while skin is healing.
  • Avoid scrubbing or shaving the skin.
  • Try not to pick or peel skin that's beginning to flake; those dry patches protect forming skin from the environment.
  • Never pop fluid-filled blisters as this could lead to infection.
  • Don't use petroleum-based emollients (e.g. Vaseline) on the affected area, as they trap heat and sweat and can actually make things worse
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The information provided is intended solely as a guide. Please seek the advice of your pharmacist to determine whether a particular service, medication, or treatment programme will be of value to you. Always check the dosage directions carefully on all medicines. Never combine medicines without consulting your doctor or pharmacist. All health facts and information contained herein should not be a substitute for medical advice. The use of this site is subject to our Terms & Conditions.
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