Sunshine ahead, summer days, holiday fun is just around the corner! You’re probably looking forward to your favourite warm-weather activities – cycling, picnics, even eating al fresco – but let’s not forget suncare! Skin cancer cases continue to rise in Scotland in both men and women (Public Health Scotland 2020) but this can be prevented by protecting our skin from dangerous UV exposures. 

We asked Professor Colin Fleming, consultant dermatologist at Ninewells hospital and Medical School to answer some of the myths around sun protection.

My children tan really quickly – does that mean they have natural protection? Should we still use SPF 50 on them? 

A tan might provide only very slight protection against ultraviolet light, so a high factor sunscreen is still desirable. 

Most days in a Scottish summer are pretty cloudy (and there is a chilly wind) – do we really need to wear sun cream? 

Scotland has high levels of UV light during the summer months – which will penetrate through clouds and is not related to the temperature.

Let’s face it, sun cream can be expensive- what should we look for in terms of value for money?

Many supermarkets offer good quality low cost sunscreens. This charity also has been set up to provide the same

Fake tan hides a lot of white skin, is it also good for UV protection? 

It is not designed to protect the skin – the UV light can still get through!

Once my skin tans, do I still need to use sun cream? 

Indeed – the protection is minimal (see question 1)

How important is it to wear sunglasses – 

UV light is an important cause of cataracts so wearing UV protective sunglasses is important 

You have to burn in order to tan, is that true? 

False and dangerous – avoid any sort of burning at any lifestage. Burning seems to be a very important cause of melanoma, the commonest life-threatening form of skin cancer

Can we use natural sunblockers (like avocado oil or almond oil) and do they work as well as creams? 

There is too little evidence to recommend these – best to apply safe and proven sunscreens

Does wearing foundation prevent your face from burning?  

Depends what type and how much.  Read the labels carefully look for a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to protect against UVB and at least 4-star UVA protection.

Can you still get burnt from the evening sun?

There is much less risk of sunburn at the beginning and the end of the day.

It’s also important to ensure that you apply enough suncream. Roughly, adults should aim to apply around two teaspoons of sunscreen for sufficient protection of their head, arms and neck and two tablespoons if they are covering their entire body while wearing a swimming costume. 

As well as suncream don’t forget sunglasses, a wide brimmed hat and taking the time to cover up -or seek shade when the sun is at its highest. If you have moles, use a SPF of at least 30 to protect yourself as well as going into the shade and covering up.

If you’d like to know more about sun safety, NHS Live Well  has more tips and advice for protecting yourself