In the run up to summer, new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has emerged, stating that ‘there is no safe or healthy way to get a tan from sunlight’. NICE added that even if someone has an existing sun tan, this provides little protection from the sun.
When exposed to sunlight, be it in the height of summer or the middle of winter, it is recommended to use at least factor 15 sun cream, with adults encouraged to use 6-8 teaspoons (35ml) per application.
According to NICE, many adults in the UK have low levels of vitamin D. It is true that sunlight can provide this however it has to be balanced with the risks of skin cancer.
The guidelines also state that it is not possible to get enough vitamin D by sitting next to a closed window on a sunny day, or from sunlight between the wintery months of October and March in the UK.
With these conflicting views it is difficult to agree on a specific time that individuals should be exposed to the sun. NICE have therefore recommended the following in terms of wide-ranging guidance:
- People expose their arms and legs to the sun for short periods in order to build up vitamin D
- Babies and children, those with fair skin or hair, people with lots of moles or freckles and those with a family history of skin cancer should take extra care in the sun
- Higher factor sun creams – such as factor 30 – may offer better protection but do “not necessarily mean people can spend more time in the sun without the risk of burning”
- Applying sunscreen too thinly reduces the amount of protection it gives
- Sunscreens should be re-applied after being in the water, after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off
- Cream should also be applied twice – once half an hour before going out and again before going in the sun – if people are going out long enough to risk burning
- Babies under six months of age should be kept out of direct strong sunlight and children need sun protection between March and October
Professor Gillian Leng, director of health and social care at NICE, said: “How much time we should spend in the sun depends on a number of factors including geographical location, time of day and year, weather conditions and natural skin colour.”