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Summer Health: 10 steps to a safer sun-tan.

MOST of us love a suntan, but that "healthy" glow could be a sign that you've done your body irreperable harm.

Despite all the advice about safe tanning in recent years, skin cancer rates in the UK are still on the increase and it is now the country's most common cancer.

And if that doesn't put you off soaking up the sun, take heed of the fact that 90 per cent of the wrinkles we develop are due to exposure to the sun while only 10 per cent are due to ageing. A tan is a sign of skin damage. But if the pale and interesting look isn't for you, there are steps that can be taken to keeping safer in the sun.

It's important to remember that sunlight is made up of two types of ultraviolet rays. UVA causes skin ageing, as it penetrates deep into the skin. UVB is absorbed into the upper layers of the skin, leading to sunburn and skin cancer.

It's vital to choose a sunscreen that has defence against both UVA and UVB rays. Look for a lotion that shows its UVA content by a star rating. The more stars, the higher the protection against looking like a prune in later years.

Although sunscreen won't stop you getting a tan, it will take a little longer. But you will be getting a glow that is not just golden but healthy too.

Even in this country, experts recommend that you use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 rising to at least 20 for children and anyone with fair skin who burns easily.

Don't think that just applying suncream once a day will protect you. Take care to apply it every one or two hours, and immediately after swimming. Smooth the cream over your body so it forms a protective layer rather than rubbing it into your skin. Although suncreams are not cheap, think of the money you spend as an investment in your skin for later years.

Pay particular attention to the bits of your body that catch the sun easily - your face, neck, shoulders, tops of ears. There is no need to use a separate sunscreen for the face, although you may want to use one that has extra moisturiser.

Build up your sun exposure gradually.

If you want to use a self-tanning cream, remember to check that it also contains a sunscreen. See our list for the best of the bunch.

Try to stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm when it is strongest. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves and stay in the shade at these times.

Extra care should be taken with children. Let them smell the sunscreen before you buy so they won't refuse to be covered with it later and use a milk-style sun formula so you see where you're applying it. Babies under six months should never be exposed to the sun.

Remember that you can still burn on a cloudy and windy day, in the water, and even when in the shade. Sunlight can reflect off water, snow or sand. Always wear sunscreen, even when you are in the shade.

There is no such thing as a total sunblock. In Australia, where sun care is almost a national obsession, anything over factor 30 is banned, as experts argue there is little difference when you get past this level.

AFTER a day of soaking up the rays, always use an after-sun lotion to help keep your skin cool and moisturised.

If you've overdone it, a cool bath may help mild sunburn. Pour in several tablespoonfuls of baking soda or cider vinegar to relieve the pain and itching.

Also try a few drops of camomile oil - available from health food shops - in the bath or a bowl of water, soak a flannel or some cotton wool, and apply to affected areas.

If the sunburn is more severe, lavender oil applied neat or diluted in sweet almond oil can have a healing affect.

Vitamin E creams are also great for aiding skin healing, while taking extra vitamin C can also boost the healing process.

If your skin breaks out in prickly heat, antihistamine creams may help.

A natural alternative is a cream containing aloe vera, or aloe vera gels, which should help to calm and smooth the skin.

Keep it in the fridge for extra coolness.
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Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 29, 2000
Previous Article:Summer Health: Take a tip from Pats; FAKING IT.
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