/ Travel & Leisure

Why are Brits risking a tan without sun cream?

Woman applying sun cream on beach

Almost half of us got sunburnt this summer (is it really over already?) but what’s most troubling is that many of us would chance it again next year. So why are we ditching sun cream for a short-lived tan?

What risks will you take for a tan? In a survey by Cancer Research UK, 46% of people said they’d got burnt this year, with a third admitting they wanted to get brown.

It’s even more worrying when many of those who got burnt confessed that they’d take the risk again next year. And even if they weren’t out to get brown, many avoided sun cream as they didn’t think the sun was powerful enough to burn them. Yes, I know it’s not always boiling in the UK, but that mid-day sun is surprisingly strong.

Slap on the sun cream

All this despite cases of malignant melanomas having increased faster than any other type of cancer in the last 25 years. Getting sunburnt can not only increase this risk, but can also age our skin prematurely.

Is the need for a tan really worth avoiding sun cream and getting sunburnt? Plus, you can be safe and still get a tan. So, here’s our advice for when you’re sun seeking next year:

  • Use the right amount of factor 15+ sun cream – try the ‘two finger rule’ – squeeze cream along the length of your first two fingers and use this much on each body area.
  • Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm.
  • Aim to cover up with t-shirt, hat and sunglasses (with a 100% UV protection sticker).
  • ‘Water resistant’ doesn’t mean waterproof, so reapply sun cream after swimming.
  • Remember to take extra care with young children and babies.
  • You can find more tips from Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart advice.

Are you safe when you’re out in the sun, or do you risk getting burnt for that ‘impressive’ tan?

Marcus says:
6 September 2010

I won’t wear suncream because of the huge list of unpleasant ingredients in the lotions. I believe that some of the ingredients are just as likely to cause cancer as the sun itself.

“Adverse health effects may be associated with some synthetic compounds in sunscreens.[41] In 2007 two studies by the CDC highlighted concerns about the sunscreen chemical oxybenzone (benzophenone-3). The first detected the chemicals in greater than 95% of 2000 Americans tested, while the second found that mothers with high levels of oxybenzone in their bodies were more likely to give birth to underweight baby girls.[42]”

[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunscreen#Potential_health_risks ]

I’d much rather stay in the shade and be “pale and interesting” instead… 🙂

Sophie Gilbert says:
15 September 2010

First of all, thank you, Patrick, for raising this issue.

There are several points about this, not necessarily in order of importance.

A suncream is not a sunblock, in spite of sometimes being named that way. The only sunblock there is is the shade. Putting on suncream won’t protect you completely and won’t prevent tanning.

There is no such thing as a healthy tan.

The sun in Britain may not be as strong as in the Mediterranean, but it is still strong enough to be dangerous and should not be underestimated.

As long as it is unfortunately more fashionable to be tanned rather than pale and interesting, we will have a problem.

You can take the horses to the water, but you can’t make them drink. Some people mistake giving sound advice for nannying and therefore ignore the advice at their peril.

The Australians have got it right, “slip, slap, slop”, teeshirt, hat, cream. Don’t be sorry, be safe, and fashion be darned.

…Except, reports now are that many people – especially children – are becoming deficient in vitamin D, which can most naturally be derived from sunlight. While I am not against taking sensible precautions against sunburn (staying in the shade and not too long in the sun) neither do I support this mentality of permanently keeping ourselves devoid of direct sunlight by whatever means at all times. In the same way as the body needs to sample germs occasionally in order to build up immunity against them, so it is the same with the skin against sunlight – just don’t overdo it!.

I believe that the main problem that we have is too little sun, not too much.

Going madly into the sun for a couple of weeks and hiding from it for the other 50 weeks each year is bound to cause problems.

I believe that we would be better off if we are to adopt a “little and often” approach to the sun, never risking getting burned, and at the same time ensuring that we get sun on a regular basis. Not easy in this country, I go to a solarium once a week and use the minimum number of minutes.