Although you might be forgiven for thinking that Britain is in the middle of monsoon season, it is actually Sun Awareness Week.
Sun Awareness Week is part of a campaign run by the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), to encourage people to self-examine for skin cancer and to be aware of the dangers of sunburn and sunbeds.
A recent survey by Macmillian Cancer Research showed that 22% do not wear any suncream to protect their skin from UV rays when they are on holiday abroad. A worrying amount of people believe that getting sunburn gives you a better tan (it doesn’t!)
Step 1: Check Yourself
The best thing you can do to keep your skin looking beautiful is check yourself out. In the UK, over 100,000 people a year are newly diagnosed with skin cancer and Malignant Melanoma (the most deadly form of skin cancer) kills over 2,000 people a year in the UK – that makes it the fastest rising common cancer.
The ABCD-Easy guide will help you to recognise Malignant Melanoma, but there are other forms of skin cancer so if you notice ANY change you should consult your GP.
Asymmetry – the two halves of the area may differ in shape
Border – the edges of the area may be irregular or blurred, and sometimes show notches
Colour – this may be uneven. Different shades of black, brown and pink may be seen
Diameter – most melanomas are at least 6mm in diameter. Report any change in size, shape or diameter to your doctor
Expert – if in doubt, check it out! If your GP is concerned about your skin, make sure you see a Consultant Dermatologist, the most expert person to diagnose a skin cancer. Your GP can refer you via the NHS
Step 2: Protect Yourself
BAD recommend that everyone, regardless of skin type, wear a minimum of SPF 30. Hands up, how many of you ever wear SPF 30?
The SPF of your suncream decreases with age, so buy a new bottle every year even if you still have some left in the bottle. Boots, Superdrug and other high street shops always have special offers on sunscreen, so there are no excuses!
Macmillian recommend reapplying sunblock 30 minutes before you go into the sun and then again every hour, but sometimes – if you are running a marathon for example – this just isn’t possible. Choose a high factor sunscreen and reapply whenever you get the chance – I always wear SPF 50.
Skincare, sun protection and running
Runners, especially distance runners, spend a lot of time training outside. All those hours of training might be having positive effects on your body and health, but could also be causing lasting damage to your skin.
To limit the damage try to train before 10am or after 4pm when the sun is less intense.
Pick a high SPF sunscreen – I always use Factor 50. I have had a few problems with the effects of greasy sunblock on sweaty skin during exercise. After a lot of trial and error, I can recommend Caudalié Soleil Divin Anti-Aging Sunscreen SFP 50 and Piz Buin Face Cream SPF 50 as being perfect facial sunscreen to wear during exercise. And for the body, I like Piz Buin SPF 50 and Soltan Moisturising Suncare Lotion SPF 50.
Be naked when you apply your sunscreen – you don’t want to miss bits and end up with tanlines in the shape of your running vest. Give it time to sink in to your skin and then apply a second coat for maximum protection.
Wear a hat or visor to keep the sun off your face – they are also handy for hiding from race photographers when you are feeling too hot and bothered for your close up!
Get some UV-blocking sunglasses. In the next few weeks I will be posting about the importance of protecting your eyes from sun damage – my dad has a condition called macular degeneration which results in a permanent loss of central vision. One of the causes of macular degeneration is exposure to blue light.
When you are racing, make sure that you reapply sunscreen before you run and leave the bottle in your race bag with your long sleeve top and trousers to cover up with after the race. If friends or family are coming down to support you, ask them to meet you around the half way point with some sunscreen wipes (such as Supergoop SPF30+ Sunscreen Wipes with Zinc) so that you can reapply on the go with minimum mess.