Safety in the Sun- Understanding UV

Posted on Aug 2 2017 - 9:00am by Guest writer
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Summer is here! And with many of us venturing abroad or taking a few days off to relax, it’s important we know the best ways to keep our skin safe. A small amount of sun is good for your health, but too much sunlight can cause damage to your skin.  Too much exposure can make your skin age quicker, cause wrinkles and increase your risk of skin cancer.

As well as using sunscreen and taking regular breaks out of the sun, you can also use the UV index to judge the risk of damage to your skin.  With a little help from the Dermatology team at Bupa UK, we’ll talk you through exactly what the index is, and how you can use it to stay safe this summer.

What is the UV index?

The UV index is a scale that shows the expected strength of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun at different times of the day. This can help you prepare for when there’s a higher risk of harm to your skin. Most of us tend to adjust our outfits or plans after checking the temperature and forecast, and the UV index works the same way.

What does the UV index mean?

The index ranges from 1-11, and the higher the number, the less time it takes for your skin to burn.

If you’re going abroad on a summer holiday, it’s likely that the UV levels will be higher than those in the UK. For example, Tenerife and Lanzarote are expected to reach level 11 between June and August. So if you’re travelling there for your holidays, be sure to take extra precaution and make sure your skin is protected.

If you’re staying in the UK, the UV level is expected to be between 5 and 6.  This still means there’s a moderate risk of harming your skin so you should still use sunscreen regularly and wear protective clothing, even if it appears cloudy.

When the UV index is 3 or more, there is still a risk of burning and damaging your skin.

By checking out the expected level of UV beforehand, you can take necessary precautions to help protect your skin from any potential damage from the sun.

UV Map

On average, when is UV strongest?

Although UV levels vary throughout the year, they are present all year round. They tend to be higher in summer; on cloudless days; and in warmer places that are closer to the equator. In these instances, it’s important you make sure you’re protecting your skin to avoid burning. UV can penetrate through the clouds, so even when the sun isn’t fully out, it can still cause damage.

There are two main types of UV: UVA and UVB. UVA rays reach deeper into the skin and can make your skin age quicker. Even if it’s cloudy, the intensity of UVA rays doesn’t change. Unlike UVA, UVB has varying levels of intensity at different times of the day. Both can cause skin cancer.

The index takes both of these types of UV into consideration, as too much exposure of either can cause serious damage to your skin.

Is there any link between temperature and UV levels?

No – there is no link. The UV level is likely to be higher in summer, but this is due to the angle of the sun in the sky. The level can change throughout the day and is affected by lots of different factors, but not temperature. What does affect it is where you are in the world, the time of year and different weather factors, such as how much cloud cover there is.

When should I protect my skin from UV?

The effect of sun on your skin will depend on your skin type. Those with fairer skin who tend to burn easily should take extra care when out in the sun. If you have naturally darker skin you’re unlikely to burn as easily. You need to find the right level of protection for you.

The UV index is similar. If you have fair skin that doesn’t tan and burns easily, your risk of burning will be low until level 3. If your skin is darker and tends to tan, your risk of burning will be low until level 6.

How can I use the UV index?

You can check the UV index for where you are, whether abroad or at home, and use the rating to help protect yourself. It’s particularly useful for checking the UV levels if you’ve got a holiday coming up, as you’re likely to spend more time outside enjoying the sun. You should check it at the start of your day, and make sure your skin has the right level of protection. It’s important to keep applying sunscreen that’s suitable and take regular breaks from the sun.

We’d like to thank the team at Bupa for helping us with this. If you are worried about anything skin-related, it’s important to get it checked out. A Dermatologist can help diagnose your condition and recommend suitable treatment.

safety in the sun infographic

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