If you have been a sun worshipper all your life, now that you’re in your fifties you have to be more mindful than ever of the sun’s rays, even if you previously ignored all the good advice. It doesn’t matter if you’re soaking up the sun in Somerset, bathing in Barbados or surfing in the Solomons: the sun can be just as dangerous in the UK if you brave it without adequate protection.
Overexposure to sunlight results in wrinkles, sunspots and skin cancer. It’s the cause of 90 per cent of the symptoms of premature skin ageing.
Before you know it, you’ll be looking like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz
Sunscreen is the most effective skincare product to prevent the effects of UVA and UVB, but most people do not use it correctly and it is widely agreed by experts that more explicit instructions are needed about which factor to use and how to apply it.
There’s a school of thought now that because few people apply sunscreen regularly enough, a minimum of SPF30 (sun protection factor 30) should be recommended. There’s another argument that we should always wear sun protection, even in winter, and if we do that, SPF15 is adequate.
Then there’s the Vitamin D lobby, which rightly says that we have to counterbalance the necessity of sun protection against the need to get enough Vitamin D, which we get from sunlight and protects us against a myriad of illnesses, from cancer to rickets to depression.
Who knew it could be so complicated?!
Skin and sun
Cancer research statistics reveal that 46 per cent of Britons suffer sunburn each summer. Of those polled, 40 per cent admit that they get burnt every year. Burning is the number one risk factor for melanoma.
Your skin can be sun damaged even if your desk is by a window, or when you are driving, so don’t forget to protect yourself even if you are not on the beach.
Next, build up skin colour over time to avoid burning, by using SPF50 and gradually reducing. And wear sunscreen even if you are in the shade of a parasol; 50 per cent of UV rays can get under the umbrella. They can be reflected off sand, too.
And remember: too much sun thickens your top layer of skin, making it coarse. Who wants to look like Keith Richards?
Hair and sun
Too much chlorine, salt water and the sun can bleach and dry hair. Before you know it, you’ll be looking like the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Use an extra-gentle shampoo to cleanse your hair, and moisturise it by leaving in conditioner overnight or applying a drenching masque. Protect your hair in the sunshine by wearing a sun hat or wrapping it under a scarf.
Eyes and sun
Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts have been linked to UV damage, so invest in quality sunglasses. The bigger the better – and thankfully big lenses are in. Make sure the lenses are bona fide sun-protective rather than merely tinted. The pupil dilates even behind a dark lens, meaning more UV can reach the back of the eye than normal.
Our eight best sunscreens
Zveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil, £21.50
A lightweight, water-resistant UV mist that forms an invisible screen to protect hair from sun exposure, colour fading, damage and dryness. Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil.
Aveda After-Sun Hair Treatment Masque, £19
This replenishes hair’s protein balance, moisturises, and protects against free radicals and the damaging effects of sunlight. Use in conjunction with their Hair & Body Cleanser, £16.50. Aveda After Sun Hair Treatment Masque.
Clarins UV Plus Day Screen High Protection SPF40 , £32
With antioxidants, protection against infrared, UVA and UVB, and 100 per cent mineral screen. It has an ultra-protective layer that helps avoid ageing and dark spots while blocking pollution and free radicals. Clarins UV Plus Day Screen High Protection SPF50.
Clinique After Sun Rescue with Aloe, £18
Helps minimise peeling and contains aloe gel, used for centuries to calm, cool and soothe skin. Oil-free, acnegenic, and suitable for face and body. Clinique After Sun Rescue with Aloe.
Decléor Protective Anti-Wrinkle Cream for the Face, £22
Contains UVA/UVB filters plus a DNA Protection Complex. Tahiti Vanilla and Rose Essential Oil help prevent premature ageing by boosting skin’s natural defences, Jasmine Extract protects the skin cells’ DNA and an anti-ageing complex aims to combat the signs of ageing and reduce wrinkles and fine lines. Decléor Protective Anti-Wrinkle Cream.
Sisley Sunleÿa Age Minimising Sun Protection, £138
Contains mineral and botanical ingredients to neutralise free radicals and curb the oxidising reactions that contribute to skin’s ageing. Its exclusive formula is designed to protect the skin right down to helping prevent degeneration at a cellular level. (Let’s hope so, at that price!). Sisley Sunleÿa Age Minimising Sun Protection.
Soltan Sensitive Hypoallergenic Suncare Lotion, SPF30, £6
This is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, dermatologically tested and contains a patented antioxidant complex to help protect against long-term skin damage. It protects against prickly sun allergy and vulnerable skin sensitivity. Soltan Sensitive Hypoallergenic Suncare Lotion.
Shiseido Wetforce Expert Sun Aging Protection Lotion, £30
A high performance sunscreen which enjoys a performance boost when exposed to perspiration or water. The nourishing and lightweight formula leaves no trace of stickiness with an instant invisible finish. Shiseido Wetforce Expert Sun Aging Protection Lotion.