Tanning in a heatwave: How to stay safe in the sun

Kettlemag, Beauty, Tanning, Summer, Sun, Renate O'Connor
Written by Renate O'Connor

In the UK it’s safe to say we’re never satisfied. We moan when it’s cold, we moan when it’s hot. So whilst we face the hottest few days we’ve seen in a decade, the moaning tweets and Facebook statuses have come as no surprise to me. What never ceases to amaze me though, is the pictures people upload of their sunburn. Are we supposed to be impressed by your red patches?

Now I’m well aware that sometimes the odd burn can creeps up out of nowhere – this is the UK after all. We’re not really used to anything over 20 degrees, let alone 30. So when the chance to tan comes along, we can be a bit irresponsible. We all know the risks that come with sun overexposure. So before you roll your eyes and move on to something else, I’m not about to lecture you all about skin cancer.

But what about the other effects the odd burn lead to…


Renate O'Connor, Kettle Mag, Sunburn

There’s nothing worse than a peeling scalp – it’s like dandruff gone wild! The main result of sunburn, besides the sore skin that can when its at its worst, be too painful to touch, put clothes on or even make sleeping difficult (seriously, just wear sunscreen!) is of course, skin peeling. This is basically the old dead skin that you’ve fried, flaking off to make way for a new healthier version. 

Now besides the obvious annoyance of your skin peeling meaning that the new tan you’ve spent trying to develop is no more, this kind of shedding can also lead to infection and scarring if not treated properly. The first thing you should do is jump in a cold bath or shower. This will cool down the skin, which will be keeping in a lot of unwanted extra heat. Water over the skin can also help reduce itchiness. 

The next thing to do is make you get a good deep moisturiser, which will relieve the skin and help reduce the chance of scars. Nivea’s Refreshingly Soft is great for this, as its kind to the skin but also thick enough to really soothe thirsty skin. Available right now at £4.29 for 200ml from Boots, a tub tends to go a long way, so make sure you grab one.

Speaking of thirsty skin, make sure you drink plenty of water! You’re bound to be dehydrated if you’re peeling or just in general on a hot day. The more hydrated your body is, the better your skin will feel and look.

Premature ageing

Renate O'Connor, Kettle Mag, Tanning in a heatwave: Staying safe in the sun, Image:

It’s not just the on-the-surface changes your skin can experience after a day in the sun that leave you at risk. Even if you only think you’ve been mildly burnt, or maybe you’ve just noticed a few extra freckles – your skin is still likely to have absorbed too many UVA and UVB rays. It’s this kind of absorption that leads to mutations (the C word) which are completely invisible to the naked eye. UVA rays also majorly speed up the ageing process of the skin, essentially speeding up how quickly and more likely you are to have wrinkles! 

The best way to keep your face protected whilst still wearing make-up (a layer of foundation is not enough cover) is to use a BB cream as a base. These creams are specially formulated with hyaluronic acid and antioxidants to regenerate your skin and more importantly, many have their own SPF protection to combat UVA/B rays. I like to use Rimmel London’s BB Cream Beauty Balm SPF 25, which is available at Boots for £6.99 per 30ml.

So what exactly are UVA and UVB rays?

Ultraviolet rays are to put it simply, radiation from the sun. UVA rays are long-wave solar waves that can deeply penetrate the skin. It’s these kinds of rays that are considered the biggest cause of wrinkling and changes in the texture of your skin. These kinds of rays can affect you even on cloudy days, so it’s important to be prepared! 

UVB rays are short-wave solar waves and are much more likely than UVA to cause sunburn. They are also the chief culprit in developing skin cancer.

Sunscreen vs Sunblock

Renate O'Connor, Kettle Mag, Tanning in a heatwave: Staying safe in the sun, Image:

The best way to prevent any of this kind of damage is of course, to not get burnt in the first place.

Using a sunscreen/sunblock, wearing suitable clothing, popping into the shade and keeping out of the sun at peak midday times are the best ways to do this. But when it comes to choosing the right lotion, this is where people tend to struggle. The old myth that sunblock prevents you from tanning is just that – a myth. Yes, it may slow down the tanning process, but you can still get a wonderful natural glow from using it. The terms lotion and block are pretty much interchangeable these days anyways, with many products actually being a mixture of the two.

The first thing to look at when choosing your sunscreen (I’m sticking with that term for now) is of course, the SPF rating. This rating shows how much protection the product will give you against UVB rays. The higher the SPF in theory, the longer you can stay out in the sun for with maximum protection from burning. 

The next and equally as important rating to look for is the number of stars the product has. These can be found usually right next to the SPF rating on the back of the bottle. These stars tell you how good it is at blocking out UVA rays. Back in 1992 Boots developed this rating system, so a sunscreen which filters out as much UVA as it does UVB gets a maximum of 4 stars. If it filters out only 75% it gets 3 stars and so on… you get the picture.

Renate O'Connor, Kettle Mag, Tanning in a heatwave: Staying safe in the sun, Image:

Personally I always go for Ambre Solaire’s SPF 30 (4 stars) Protection Lotion, available from Boots at £6.50 for 200ml. This is mainly because its the one my Mum always buys, so it reminds me of summer holidays as a kid and how exciting it’d be when it was hot enough to be moaned at for not wearing it. I also have really REALLY fair skin and find this is perfect for people like me, who are destined to burn. (P.s. It’s currently 2 for £11 on selected Ambre Solaire products at Boots, so you can stock up!) 

If you’re not fair skinned there’s of course no need to go for such a high SPF, but to benefit your skin I would never go lower than 15. PIZ BUIN 1 Day Long Lotion SPF15 is available at Tesco for £6 per 100ml and it smells absolutely divine.

A good value for money lotion can be found in Solait’s Sun Protection Lotion SPF30 400ml bottles, which are now better than half price at £4.50 in selected Superdrug stores. They also have discounted delivery options at the moment, with free Next Day Delivery to Store and Free Standard Delivery available on orders over £25, so its well worth having a look.

And one final note: Steer clear of oils! They do not protect you from the sun – you’re not a Christmas turkey, don’t grease yourself up for a roasting!