The Harley Medical Group

The Most Asked Sun Damage Questions Answered

Whilst summer may almost be over, it’s still important to prioritise sun care in your skincare routine to adequately protect your skin.

We understand that, on returning from summer holidays, it can be easy to skip the SPF in your daily routine in favour of tan maintainers, however SPF is in fact required all year round, even in the UK.

Below, we answer the most Googled questions and myths as well as those commonly posed by our patients with regards to sun damage, to ensure there’s no confusion around sun protection so you don’t have to rely on Dr. Google.


MYTH: One application of sunscreen lasts all day

FALSE! There seems to be some confusion around how often you should apply sunscreen, especially as the names of some products suggest once a day is enough. That’s not the case. No matter what sunscreen you’re using, even if it says applying once a day is enough, it’s not. Our specialists advise “applying every four hours and if you're going in water, apply every two hours,” to ensure your skin is properly protected.

MYTH: Tanning is necessary for Vitamin D

FALSE! Not tanning. Sun exposure is necessary for Vitamin D. Everyone is different in regard to the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D but we do recommend being out in the sun for short periods but with the appropriate sun protection on.

MYTH: Winter sun exposure is not dangerous

FALSE! Many believe that during the winter months they can skip the SPF but this isn’t the case. The winter sun is still strong enough to cause damage so it’s still essential to wear SPF all year round as exposure to the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. This is not limited to when you’re sunbathing; you expose yourself to the sun each time you do any outdoor activities, including gardening, walking, sports, or even a long drive in the car. The sun can cause problems all year round, not just in the summer so protect your skin every day.

MYTH: If your cosmetics contain SPF, you do not need sunscreen

FALSE! Just because your cosmetics contain SPF doesn’t mean your skin is adequately protected. Whilst it may provide some protection, it should be just one part of your sun protection arsenal. We suggest using a separate SPF as well and to make sure to always check your cosmetics ingredients to ensure they contain a safe level of SPF (minimum 30). If not, then an additional SPF is a must, and as such we would advise clients to wear sun protection underneath their cosmetics.

MYTH: Clothing protects your skin from the sun

TRUE! Long sleeves and hats are the best way to protect your arms and face. We would recommend cotton clothing as it's light and breathable, perfect for those hot days. Remember to wear sunscreen as well.

MYTH: As long as you don’t burn, tanning is safe

FALSE! There is no such thing as a safe, healthy tan. The increase in skin pigment, called Melanin, which causes the tan colour change in your skin is a sign of damage. Our experts explain that whilst “sun damage cannot be removed; the appearance can be reduced and be managed long-term through TCA peels and bespoke skincare maintenance packages.”

MYTH: 80% of sun damage occurs before the age of 18

FALSE! In fact, less than 25% of sun damage occurs before the age of 18, with 10% more accruing every 10 years after that. Make sure to protect your skin each day from the sun’s harmful UV rays by wearing an SPF 30 or above. It’s also worth adding that using sunscreen doesn’t mean you can spend longer in the sun. We recommend limiting the time you spend in the sun.

MYTH: People with darker skin don't need to worry about using sunscreen

FALSE! No matter what your skin tone, all skin types are at risk of skin cancer and sun damage. Everyone should be wearing sun protection in the form of a broad-spectrum SPF (minimum 30), to ensure their skin is protected from harmful UV rays.



Question: Are moles sun damage?

YES & NO!, not all moles are sun damage, but sun exposure can cause moles or existing moles to change and become Dysplastic, the potential to change, which will need to be closely monitored by a Dermatologist.

QUESTION: If the sun has set, do you need to wear sun protection?

YES! It is widely believed that if the sun isn’t out then you don’t need to wear sun protection. This isn’t the case. Even when the sun has set there are still harmful UVA and UVB rays in the sky so remember to wear sunscreen. We suggest a minimum SPF 30 which is ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘multi-spectrum’ to ensure your skin is protected from both UVA and UVB rays.

QUESTION: Can you burn through clouds?

YES! When it’s cloudy, people tend to be a lot more relaxed when it comes to sun protection and while it may seem that on a cool, overcast day it’s no big deal skipping the SPF step in your skincare routine, the sun is often strong enough in the UK to penetrate through the clouds.

QUESTION: Is tanning in a bed worse than the sun?

YES! Sunbeds and lamps can actually be more dangerous than natural sunlight because they use a concentrated source of UV radiation. If you want to protect your skin from skin cancers and sun damage, we suggest avoiding tanning beds altogether.

QUESTION: Can the soles of your feet burn?

YES! Make sure to use sun protection if the soles of your feet are exposed to the sun. Also, pay attention to ears as these are often overlooked when applying sunscreen.

QUESTION: Does using a 30 SPF sunscreen prevent tanning?

NO! Sunscreen is designed to filter UV rays and prevent sunburn but will not prevent a tan.

QUESTION: Do I need to wear sunscreen on a plane?

YES! You may think you don’t need to apply sun protection until you’ve made it to your holiday destination, but sunscreen should still be applied before as UVA rays can penetrate window glass on planes meaning skin is exposed. We recommend that everyone should be using an SPF30 or above daily to protect their skin from UV damage.

QUESTION: Can you tan through glass?

YES! Sunlight streaming through a window can still expose the skin to harmful rays which tan and freckle the skin as ordinary glass does not filter out the UVA rays.

QUESTION: Can your scalp burn?

YES! Whether you have hair on your head not, your scalp can still burn, especially if you’re bald. Make sure you’re sun safe by wearing a hat if you have hair and of course, use sunscreen on your skin including your scalp if you’re bald.

QUESTION: Are scars more susceptible to sunburn/cancer?

YES! Always cover scars with SPF. Fresh scars are highly vulnerable to sun and can easily burn. The combination of healing tissue and sun exposure can lead to Post-Inflammatory hyperpigmentation causing the scar and surrounding skin to change colour.

Everyone should be using an SPF 30 or above to protect themselves against the effects of the sun. Although sun damage cannot be removed, the appearance can be reduced and be managed long-term through TCA peels and bespoke skincare maintenance packages. Often more than one type of treatment is required to reduce the different signs of ageing, and it’s essential to ensure ongoing care of the skin by:

  • Regular contact with your skin specialist to help monitor the skin health
  • Adequate sun protection
  • Effective bespoke skincare maintenance packages
  • Treatments, where beneficial

If you’re concerned about sun damage, book your free consultation here and speak to one of our experts about treatments that may be beneficial.

Posted July 18, 2020
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