Sunbathing feels so good. The way it kisses your skin, warming you to your bones, helping you unwind – it’s such a beautiful feeling. But it’s hard to relax when you’re worrying about how UV radiation might damage your skin.
As we get older, the subject of sun damage feels more relevant. We may be able to see sun damage on our skin such as changes in pigmentation and drier, less elastic skin. On top of this, dropping levels of oestrogen during perimenopause and menopause make our skin more sensitive to the sun.
Mood boosting benefits
We all know what a difference a bit of sunshine makes to our moods. Why is this? For a start, our main natural source of vitamin D is through the sun. Vitamin D supports immunity, bone strength and brain function. The sun also boosts levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin and it helps regulate our circadian rhythms meaning better sleep.
As we spend time in the sun, our skin changes to protect itself from the sun. If you’ve got light skin, you might notice this as tanning – where your body produces more melanin, which oxides and darkens your skin tone. Having a tan became fashionable for white people in the western world in the 1920s; in the more distant history, having paler skin was a sign that you could afford to employ people to do outdoor work for you, so being pale was more fashionable.
But melanin comes in two forms. If you have very light skin and red hair tones, you may well produce the second form, called pheomelanin, which turns your skin red and doesn’t protect you from the sun’s UV rays.
If you have darker skin, then you already have more melanin. But you are still vulnerable to sun damage. “Both clinical and experimental data have reported sun-induced effects on black skin. Black skin can warm, burn and peel when exposed to the sun. Exposure to the sun can also cause hyperpigmentation and photoageing manifestations,” according to Dr Damilola Fajuyigbe and Dr Michèle Verschoore.
What about the menopause?
Have you found that the way your skin responds to the sun has changed since menopause? You’re not alone. Lots of women in perimenopause and menopause report that they burn more easily than before. There’s also a link between how our bodies synthesise melanin (make and regulate it) and oestrogen, meaning that brown spots caused by sun damage will start to appear during and after menopause.
But the menopause also has another interesting reaction to UV-radiation that affects our heath in a negative way. New studies by epidemiologist Kai Triebner found that postmenopausal women most exposed to sunlight had lower levels of oestrogen, leading to health problems.
"UV-radiation might affect when in life you reach menopause,” he told the University of Bergen. “But it might also be plausible that UV-radiation has a beneficial effect on the hormone balance before menopause. As researchers we have only ‘dipped our toe in the water’. There is still much to investigate."
How to enjoy the sun safely
Whatever your skin tone, whatever your age, it’s important to get some sun exposure. But the most important thing, is that you give yourself time to relax and enjoy being outdoors without having to worry.
So, you’re taking your new D&B on holiday and you’re looking forward to spending time in the sun. How can you do it safely?
1. Wear sunscreen
It’s so brilliantly simple, but sunscreen is your best friend when you’re outdoors. It’s worth wearing it every day, even when it’s overcast, especially on your face. And don’t forget to reapply it every two hours and after you get out of the water.
We love: Holland & Barrett’s guide to SPF (Sun Protection Factor) according to your skin tone and hours spent in the sun. They even tell you how to apply it for effective protection.
2. Love the shade
Take regular breaks from the sun by sitting in the shade, especially during the hottest part of the day. A good rule is that when your shadow is shorter than your height, it’s time to sit in the shade.
3. Protect yourself in the water
A great waterproof SPF cream is a good idea when you’re swimming, surfing or paddling because the water reflects the sun’s light. It’s important to pick an ocean-friendly brand that want damage the water quality. Even better, pick a swimsuit with UV protection such as our Long Sleeve Swimsuit.
4. Wear a hat
A wide-brimmed hat not only protects your face from the sun, it also protects your scalp where you can’t apply sun cream.
We love: Le Hat’s packable hats – they don’t squish out of shape in your suitcase, meaning they still look great when you arrive at your destination. Plus, they’re sustainably made.
5. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of fluids while you’re in the sun will help protect you from heat exhaustion. Being well-hydrated also gives your skin a little more bounce-back-ability against drying out in the sun.
We love: The Big Ocean Bottle because it keeps a whole litre of water cold, comes with a 10-year repair guarantee and buying it helps fund the removal of plastic waste from our oceans.