Does your sunscreen technique measure up?

The British public is confused about how and when to apply sunscreen, suggests a survey carried out by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) to mark this year’s Sun Awareness Week.

Eight out of 10 of us don’t apply sunscreen before going out in the sun and then shortly afterwards, and seven out of 10 don’t reapply sunscreen every two hours, as recommended.

“Sunscreens are an important part of good sun safety practices, though they must be applied properly for them to be effective,” advises Jonathan Major of the BAD. “Applying liberally half an hour before going out into the sun, and then again shortly after going outside, is vital to ensure that you are fully covered and that the sunscreen has had time to be absorbed into the skin.

“It should then be reapplied at least every two hours, as the protective filters can break down over time. It should also be reapplied after any activity where it might be accidentally removed, such as swimming. Water-resistant sunscreens are not friction-resistant, and therefore they can be accidentally removed if you towel dry after swimming or sweating.”

According to Major, the survey’s results show just how widely sunscreens are not being used properly by the British public. And while many people now realise there’s a link between sunburn and skin cancer, there is still a lack of awareness about the correct way to use sunscreen.

Skin cancer, says the BAD, is the most common cancer in the UK and rates have been climbing since the 1960s. Every year more than 250,000 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer – the most common type – are diagnosed, in addition to more than 13,000 new cases of melanoma, resulting in around 2,148 deaths annually.

To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, here are some sun protection tips from the BAD:

  • Spend time in the shade during the sunniest part of the day when the sun is at its strongest, which is usually between 11am and 3pm in the summer months.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure for babies and very young children.
  • When it is not possible to stay out of the sun, keeping yourself well covered, with a hat, T-shirt, and sunglasses can give you additional protection.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally to exposed areas of skin. Re-apply every two hours and straight after swimming or towelling in order to maintain protection.

Ask your local Careway pharmacy for advice on choosing a sunscreen product that would suit your skin type. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.