With summer holidays coming up for a lot of people, many are already excited to throw some ice cubes into their favourite drinks and relax their tired gaze behind some stylish shades. However, whether you are abroad or staying at home, it is always a good idea to remember some basic tips to stay safe in the scorching summer heat.
According to Fondation Cancer, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in Luxembourg. Following a recent initiative by the Foundation to put up free sunscreen dispensers across the country, it might be a good idea to remind ourselves of some basic guidelines to make sure that we can enjoy summer AND protect our skin at the same time.
First of all, DO wear sunscreen and make sure to apply a generous amount. "A little goes a long way" may work for other stuff, but in the case of sunscreens, it is not a good rule to live by. Make sure to cover all areas exposed to sunlight and DON'T forget spots that are easily missed, e.g. the tops of your ears, the temples, or the back of your neck.
DO reapply sunscreen regularly throughout the day. While it is difficult to give generally valid advice, it is a good idea to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours. If you go for a swim or have otherwise come into contact with water, reapply immediately – yes, even if your sunscreen states it's "water resistant".
DON'T fall victim to misinformation. Unfortunately, there is a lot of false or misleading information out there – especially on the internet – regarding sunscreen and its proper use. Debunking all of them would go way beyond the scope of this article, but numerous medical professionals and scientists have already busted these myths. Make sure to always scrutinise and question information you find (again, particularly online) and if in doubt, DON'T be afraid to enquire with a dermatologist or your local pharmacist!
Somewhat in relation to the previous point: DON'T try and make your own sunscreen. Some of you may be bewildered by this, but there is a frightening amount of content out there that promotes "DIY sunscreen recipes". Do not let yourself be fooled by the cheery ukulele music in the background: Creating a sunscreen requires precise formulation and years of work from trained professionals. Mixing up some random ingredients in the same bowl you use for your morning muesli is in no way an adequate replacement for that.
DO use a high enough SPF. The UK's NHS recommends at least SPF 30 against UVB rays and at least a 4-star UVA protection. Overly simplified, UVB rays are what mainly causes your skin to burn and increase alongside the sun's intensity, while UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and can even affect you through cloud cover or glass. However, DO also remember that a higher SPF does not mean that you can use less sunscreen! If you really cannot cope with the sometimes heavy feel a lot of higher SPF sunscreens bring about, then go with SPF 30. Sunscreen only works properly if applied generously.
Having said all of that about sunscreens, you should still DO your best to avoid prolonged sun exposure and DON'T spend any more time in the sun than you would without an SPF on! Remember that factors like SPF are assessed under lab conditions with a very consistent output of UV rays, while the situation IRL is unfortunately a bit more complicated. In general, you should avoid direct sun exposure around midday, when the sun's intensity is at its highest.
DO remember to cover up as well. The benefit of clothing compared to SPFs is that you cannot underapply it. If you have thinning or balding hair, it is particularly important to wear a hat, but no matter what, your basic summer outfit should always include top, bottoms, a hat, and sunglasses. So, when you head out to that spicy summer barbecue or that sweet pool party, do it in style and protect your skin at the same time!