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What Are You Putting on Your Summer Skin?

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We are well into the typical British summer, complete with glorious rain and the odd bout of sunshine. Whether you're planning on making the most of it at home or jetting off to sunnier climes, it is vital you think about your summer skin and how to protect it from the sun.

Of course, sunlight is good for us. We need it to produce 90% of our vitamin D. However, it also contains damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays, particularly UVA and UVB. Over exposure can cause premature skin ageing and wrinkling, brown spots, actinic keratoses (benign warty growths) and skin cancer.

Protecting your skin is therefore important - stay out of sunlight during the hottest periods (11 am - 3pm), wear a well-brimmed hat and tightly woven clothing (if you can see light through it then UV can get through). Use a sunscreen with SPF factor of at least 15 (30 if you have a pale complexion or sensitive skin), and re-apply it every two to three hours or after swimming.

When it comes to choosing sunscreen we need to know about the chemicals, used as fragrances and preservatives, in some of the creams and gels out there. If you have sensitive skin or suffer from conditions such as eczema, you'll find that sunscreens can make your condition worse. The advice is to avoid products with fragrances or certain preservatives (such as parabens). Always test any new sunscreen first before applying it to the whole of your body. Most sunscreens do contain preservatives but one particular chemical found in many, Methyldibromoglutaronitrile, can cause allergic reactions such as swelling, itching and acute dermatitis. If you're unsure or have any doubts, talk to your local pharmacist who will be able to advise you further.

A recent survey of 5,000 adults by healthcare brand - Care, found 69% have suffered from sunburn or prickly heat. If you're one of the unlucky ones, here are some top tips on making sure these common sun ailments don't ruin your summer:

Sunburn: Happens when the skin is over exposed to the sun and suffers a form of radiation burn. The skin becomes red, warm to the touch, can be painful and peel or blister. The key here is to moisturise the skin. Anti-inflammatory pain killers such as ibuprofen can ease any pain and reduce the inflammation. In severe cases make sure you seek medical advice.

Prickly heat: Occurs when the sweat glands become blocked. Sufferers get a red and bumpy rash, which causes an intense itch. Unlike sunburn the answer is not to smoother yourself in various creams, as this will only block your pores. It is treated by avoiding excessive sweating and cooling the skin. Cool baths / showers and staying indoors with air conditioning can help.

The message this summer is to enjoy the sun (no matter how brief), stay protected and know what you are putting on your skin.

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