Dr John Ferguson shares his Top Tips For Sun Protection

Dr John Ferguson shares his Top Tips For Sun Protection

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sun protection - The basics

Always remember that successfully protecting yourself from the sun is more about your behaviour than it is about how good your sunscreen is. 

Good sun protection habits include:

1. Avoidance of direct sun exposure between 11 AM and 3 PM
2. Sitting in the shade,
3. Wearing protective clothing (tighter weaves and darker colours give greater protection),
4. Wearing broad-brimmed hats and eye protection. 

Nevertheless, regular sunscreen use has been shown to reduce the incidence of sun damage, non-melanoma type and melanoma skin cancers in at-risk individuals.

Why is all this photoprotection necessary?

The reason for being careful in the sun is ultraviolet light. This is light which exists just beyond the blue stripe of the rainbow. Ultraviolet light causes DNA mutations in our skin cells, This leads to burning and tanning in the short term and photoaging, sun damage and skin cancer in the longer term.   Ultraviolet is a particular problem in the middle of the day when “Ultraviolet B”, (the wavelengths of light most responsible for burning our skin and causing skin cancer), penetrate the atmosphere. “Ultraviolet A” wavelengths, (which contribute to skin cancer and skin ageing), pass through the atmosphere all day. Ultraviolet C is highly carcinogenic but thankfully is filtered out by the ozone layer.

Does my Skin tone affect how I should behave in the sun?

  1. If you have pale skin, red or blonde hair, lots of moles and freckles you need to be extra careful and should consider wearing sunscreen all year round!  Sunbathing will normally end badly!
  2. If you have olive or Asian skin you still need to pay attention all year round but you are less likely to get burnt and your risk of skin cancer is a bit lower.
  3. If you have dark brown skin you are much less at risk of burning and skin cancer (although neither is impossible). When on holiday in a hot country you should adopt good sun protection behaviour.

Remember ‘Photoaging’ affects all people, regardless of their skin type. If you want to continue to look your best into middle and old age you have a great reason to wear sunscreen. It might save you some money on Botox!

What about Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is made in our skin in the presence of sunlight. Some people worry that if you wear sunscreen your vitamin d production might be impaired. In practice this is not an issue. In hot weather, you should get enough vitamin d even if you are wearing sunscreen from exposing your arms and face for 10- 20 minutes every day. In winter if you work indoors you may well be at risk of getting a low vitamin d. If you do have low vitamin d it is easy to replace with supplements which are easily available from pharmacies and heath food shops as tablets or sprays.

My top 6 Sunscreens

Always go for a Sunscreen which has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 to 50 and a 5-star UVA protection rating (some brands indicate UVA protection with a UVA symbol with a circle around it).  The SPF indicates the sunscreen’s protective value against UVB and the star rating indicates its value against UVA. Because most of us don’t manage to apply the sunscreen as instructed we won’t actually get the advertised SPF, in fact, we are more likely to get between 1 quarter and third of the SPF advertised. For this reason, I always advise patients to purchase higher factor sunscreens regardless of skin tone. 

  1. Anthelios XLThis range from La Roche Posay has great UVB and UVA protection and offers tinted sunscreens too. It is hypoallergenic and formulated to be light and well absorbed.
  2. Sunsense Ultra produced by Ego pharmaceuticals.  The sunsense ultra range offers affordable broad-spectrum protection for the whole family.
  3. Sunsense Sensitive – This hypoallergenic product is good for people who have sensitive skin or eczema. It is less likely to cause allergy or irritation than other sunscreen but can leave skin looking pale or if your skin is darker even grey.
  4. Heliocare Ultra gel - This melt in product fromHeliocare is great if you hate oily, greasy sunscreen or have darker skin and don’t want to lose your natural skin tone.
  5. Actinica Daylong Sunscreen from Galderma is specially formulated to last for several hours on the skin. It is designed to be used in the morning, every day by patients at high risk of skin cancer or with widespread sun damage.
  6. Altruist – This sunscreen is developed by a UK dermatologist. It has excellent UVA and UVB protection and every sale puts 10 pence towards protecting children with albinism in Tanzania.

How much should I put on? 

One teaspoonful for the face should be enough and if you want to cover the body too, around a full shot glass of sunscreen should do that. When out in sunny weather you should repeat the application around every 2 hours. Its harder to do than it sounds…


To make an appointment with Dr John Ferguson please call the team on 0808 250 6828