On a Hot day

What do you want to do?

Sun safety facts

Myth-busting facts to help you stay safe

NIVEA SUN and Cancer Research UK have compiled a list of myth-busting facts to encourage people to enjoy the sun safely.

Myth-busting facts

"We all need to spend a long time in the sun to help us keep healthy" - FALSE

FACT: We all need some sunshine to make vitamin D which is needed to build and maintain strong bones. However, it is not necessary to deliberately sunbathe in order to make adequate amounts. Enjoying the sun safely while taking care not to burn should help most people get a good balance. You should not have to redden or burn your skin to make enough vitamin D.

Some people are more likely to have low vitamin D levels. These people include those with naturally brown or black skin, people who wear clothing that fully covers them and pregnant women. The government recommends that these people take a supplement of 10μg (400IU) a day.

"You can't get sun burnt in the UK" - FALSE

FACT: Most people think about sunburn as something that happens on holiday or in hot, sunny places. But more than half of people suffering sunburn are burnt here in the UK. And many cases occur when people are out and about, rather than deliberately 'sunbathing'. You may be outdoors watching sport, doing the gardening, walking around town or just sitting in the park - when the sun is strong it's important to protect your skin from sunburn.

"Fake tans protect against UV rays from the sun" - FALSE

FACT: Fake tan changes the colour of your skin and gives you a tanned look. While some fake tan products do contain added sunscreen, these will only give protection for a few hours after you put the fake tan on. The protection won't last as long as the change in your skin colour does and it doesn't give you anywhere near the amount of protection from the sun that we recommend. People who use fake tan need to continue to protect themselves in strong sun and take care not to burn. You should never use fake tans as an excuse to stay out longer in the sun.

"Sunscreen is all I need to protect skin from sunburn when the sun is strong" - FALSE

Sunscreen ( factor 15 or higher as recommended by Cancer Research UK) should be the last line of defence to help protect skin from sunburn and shouldn't be the only thing you rely on to avoid sunburn. It's really important to use shade and clothing too. Factor 15 or higher sunscreen can help protect parts of the body you can't cover with clothes, but no sunscreen, whatever its SPF or star rating, can offer 100 per cent protection from UV rays. And to get the level of protection written on the bottle it's important to apply enough (about an ice-cream scoopful to cover your whole body if wearing a swimsuit) and reapply regularly to account for bits you might have missed with your first application, or where sunscreen has rubbed off.

"My skin always goes pink in the sun - it's not sunburn, just part of the tanning process" - FALSE

FACT: Your skin does not have to be red-raw, peeling or blistering to be sun burnt, it could just be lightly pink. Any amount of sunburn is a clear sign that ultraviolet (UV) radiation has damaged the DNA in your skin cells. This damage can build up over time and lead to skin cancer.

When UV radiation damages the DNA in your skin cells, your body tries to repair the damage. The blood vessels in the local area swell, allowing blood to rush into it. This is why sunburn looks red. Blood inside your body is also hot, which is why it feels like sunburns give off heat. The wider blood vessels allow the cells of your immune system to travel to the site of the damage. They also release chemicals which trigger inflammation - which is why sunburn can be swollen and painful. So sunburn is a sign that your body is trying to repair the damage that it has suffered.

"I won't burn if I use sunscreen" - FALSE

FACT: Cancer Research UK recommends you use sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 and a high star rating. But no sunscreen, no matter how high the factor, can provide 100 per cent protection. Sunscreens can be useful for protecting your skin from the sun's rays. However, they will not protect you completely from sun damage on their own. And most people don't apply enough sunscreen to give the level of protection offered on the bottle anyway. When you're in strong sun, use an ice cream scoop of sunscreen to cover the body when wearing a swimsuit. This is why Cancer Research UK recommends using sunscreen of factor 15 or higher together with shade or clothing to avoid getting sun burnt. Many people burn because they think they can stay out longer in the sun if they're wearing sunscreen. You should never use sunscreen in order to spend longer in the sun.

Sunscreen is not as effective at preventing sunburn as reducing your time in the summer sunshine between 11am-3pm, seeking shade or wearing a hat and t-shirt in strong sun.

You can't get sunburn if it's cloudy - FALSE

FACT: Clouds don't offer much UV protection on days when the sun is strong. . Even on overcast skies, 30-40 per cent of UV will still penetrate through cloud cover. If cloud cover is light or only partial, UV penetration can remain very high. For example, if half the sky is covered in clouds, 80 per cent of UV still shines through. So you may still need to protect your skin from sunburn on cloudy days.

Tanned people are better looking - FALSE

FACT: Some people might feel that a tan makes them look healthier or more attractive, but over time skin that is regularly exposed to the sun will become more wrinkled, saggy, leathery and blotchy. Overexposure to the sun (or using a sunbed) prematurely ages the skin and the damage to your DNA, that you can't see happening, puts you at increased risk of developing skin cancer.

If you're in the water, you're protected from the sun - FALSE

FACT: You can still get sun burnt if you're under water. When swimming or snorkelling in the sun, it's best to wear clothing that covers your arms, back and upper thighs and wear waterproof sunscreen on all exposed areas. Remember to reapply sunscreen regularly. Even sunscreens labelled 'waterproof' can easily be rubbed off by towel drying.

Read more sun safety information from Cancer Research UK, learn more about sun burn and watch Nicola Roberts' top tips on enjoy the sun safely.


The Met Office is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More information

RNLI Lifeguard on beach Ten top tips for a safe summer at the seaside

Ten top tips for a safe summer at the seaside.

Lido Lazing on a sunny afternoon

Ideas for a lazy sunny afternoon

Photography_sunny Staying safe in the sun

Top tips to help you stay safe in the sun.

Latest blog post

Spring has arrived...

  • 28 Mar 2014
Read more