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How To Enjoy the Sun Safely


First of all we’ve got to get to know a little about UV radiation and look at why we like to go into the sun and why it is important to go into the sun.

UV Radiation – the essentials

What is UV radiation?

UV radiation is high energy electromagnetic radiation shorter in wavelength than visible light and just beneath blue in the visible spectrum.  It is not normally visible to the naked eye however it is absorbed by the eye.

Ultra Violet radiation is divided into 3 bands, UV-A, UV-B and UV-C.

  1. UV-C get’s absorbed in the atmosphere.
  2. UV-B will normally only penetrate into the top layer of skin.
  3. UV-A has less energy but penetrates deeper into the skin.

Why do we need it?

UV-B radiation is needed for the production of vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and a lack of the vitamin will cause rickets. Vitamin D assists the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D is also essential for a strong immune system.

UV radiation increases endorphins which is why most people feel good when in the sun.

UV-B radiation is responsible for stimulating the production of melanin, while UV-A radiation pigments the melanin. A suntan will provide a degree of protection against UV absorption.

Sunlight regulates serotonin and melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone responsible for stimulating the body’s mood, energy and sleep quality. It also plays an important role in countering infections, inflammation, cancer and autoimmunity.

Moderately high serotonin levels are associated with positive moods and a calm and focused outlook. Seasonal affective Disorder (SAD) is associated with low serotonin levels.

Why we have to be careful

  • The three main forms of skin cancer – melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – are largely attributed to excessive UV exposure.
  • UV-B radiation is primarily responsible for both basal and squamous cell carcinoma. UV-B is also the radiation most associated with sunburn.
  • UV-A radiation is now strongly associated with melanomas and is strongly suspected of increasing the cancer causing effects of UV-B.
  • Thread veins, uneven pigmentation, coarse leathery texture, actinic keratosis and solar lentigos are common signs of sun damage.
  • The UV radiation that accompanies strong sunlight can damage the eyes and wearing sunglasses is as important as skin sun protection.

Reducing the Risks

Sun Protection and Sun Protection Factors (SPF)

SPF are the initials of Sun Protection Factor and ‘Factor’ is the multiplier that you apply to your burn time to calculate the maximum period of time you can stay in the sun without risk of burning.

So a sunscreen with an SPF of 10 when applied to the person with 40 minutes burn time would allow that person to be in the sun (40×10) 400 minutes before burning.

To clarify the effect of using SPF sunscreens even further if a sunscreen of SPF50 was applied the person would be able to stay in the sun for (40×50) 2,000 minutes (that’s 35 hours or all day)

But, the exposure time is not increased by reapplying the sunscreen. This is important. If a person in with 40 minutes burn time used a SPF10 sunscreen after 400 minutes in the sun they would not be able to reapply the sunscreen and stay another 400 minutes in the sun.

The SPF gives no indication how long the sunscreen will remain active and it should be reapplied in accordance with supplied instructions. Generally speaking sunscreen should be reapplied if you have been swimming or sweating.

Normal SPF only provides protection against UV-B, the burning radiation. It does not indicate any protection against UV-A radiation.

Current thinking is that UV-A is at least as dangerous and because there is increasing evidence to associate it with melanomas probably more dangerous.

To be sure of some measure of protection against UV-A either a ‘full/broad spectrum’ sunscreen (i.e. Solar Moisturiser SPF30) or a sun block (ZinClear) should be used. 5 Star protection is also something worth remembering

UV Indexing

The actual amount of safe exposure depends on the strength of the UV radiation, and this will vary enormously dependant on the location, time of year and the amount of cloud cover.

To help you work out the dangers of UV a UV Index (also known as UVI) is published by national weather stations. The index indicates risk of damage to the skin from over exposure to the sun at specific locations and takes into account cloud cover and other factors.

The UV Index is available on www.metoffice.gov.uk

UV Index

0-2 Minimal Exposure Risk

3-4 Low Exposure Risk

5-6 Moderate Exposure Risk

7-9 High Exposure Risk

10+ Very High Exposure Risk

Then look at your Skin Type on this table…

Skin Type Burn Burn Time UVIndex Tan Characteristics
I Always 67 minutes Never Celtic/Nordic. Blue/Green eyes. Blond/red hair.
II Usually 100 minutes Sometimes Blond hair. Blue/Green eyes.
III Sometimes 200 minutes Usually White skin. Darker hair. Blue/brown eyes.
IV Rarely 300 minutes Always Brown Skin. Usually brown or black hair and brown eyes.
V Never 400 minutes Always Very Brown Skin. Black hair. Brown eyes.
VI Never 500 minutes Always Afro Caribbean/ Aboriginal. Dark brown skin. Dark brown eyes.

When calculating the burn time risk from UV radiation all the above factors should be taken into account.


a) A skin type II person  when the UV Index is 2 will have the following burn time:- UVI 2 , UVI 100 minutes / 2 = 50 minutes burn time.

b)A skin type I person when the UV Index is 5 will have the following burn time:- UVI 5 , UVI. 67 minutes / 5 = 13 minutes burn time.

And Finally

Moderate exposure to the sun is essential for a healthy life, however over exposure can have fatal consequences.

Being safe in the sun isn’t all about checking the UV Index and applying the appropriate sunscreen.






This article was written for you by Peter Beard. For nearly ten years Peter was the managing director of SkinGenesis. During that time he developed innovatory treatment programs to help men and women look and feel younger; these programs were among the first to include nutrition and lifestyle guidance to work in conjunction with the latest skincare technology. Peter is regular guest on radio and TV as a skin expert and was an expert contributor for the ‘Cosmetic Surgery & Aesthetics Magazine’.



For more wonderful information on skin and lifestyle advice we recommend you read his e-book “Immortality for Beginners” in which he explains the science of staying youthful in an interesting an amusing way.

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