Staying Safe in the Sun: Expert Advice from Professor Caitriona Ryan

As the summer sun graces us with its presence, many are looking forward to beach getaways and sunny holidays. Professor Caitriona Ryan, renowned consultant dermatologist, offers invaluable insights on how to protect our skin from harmful UV rays with Pat Kenny on Newstalk.


The Importance of Sunscreen


Sunscreen is critical in our daily routines, especially for those with fair skin types, common in Ireland. We recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Contrary to popular belief, SPF 50 does not provide double the protection of SPF 30. Instead, it extends the time you can spend in the sun without burning. However, this doesn’t negate the need for reapplication. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, regardless of its SPF rating, and after swimming or sweating. Here at the Institute of Dermatologists we recommend using sunscreen by EltaMD. For further advice on choosing an SPF, check out Professor Niki Ralph's feature with A dermatologist's guide to sunscreen.


Special Considerations for Children and Babies


For infants under six months, we advise against sun exposure altogether. For older children, use a mineral-based sunscreen containing zinc, which acts as physical barrier to UV rays without causing chemical reactions on the skin. Additionally, UV-protective clothing is best to simplify sun protection for active kids.


The Misconception About Vitamin D


A common myth is that sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production. Sufficient vitamin D can still be synthesised even with sunscreen use. During winter, when UV levels are low, we recommend supplements to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.


Sun Safety at Home and Abroad


While many people are diligent about sun protection abroad, they often neglect it at home. Sunburn can also happen in Ireland, even on overcast days. There is a heightened risk of skin damage from sun exposure during childhood, so be vigilant in sun protection for children.


Long-Term Skin Health


Sun exposure causes cumulative damage over time, increasing the risk of various skin cancers. Different types of skin cancer can be linked to both past sunburns and ongoing exposure. Therefore, consistent use of sunscreen and protective clothing is essential for long-term skin health.


Hydration and Heat Protection


Staying hydrated is crucial to prevent heat-related illnesses. Avoid peak sun hours and drinking plenty of water, especially in hot climates. Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of sunburn and dehydration, so it’s important to balance sun protection with hydration.


The Risks of Lime Juice and Mosquito Bites


Avoid using lime juice near the pool, as it can cause severe skin reactions when exposed to sunlight! For those prone to mosquito bites, using repellents containing DEET and wearing light-coloured clothing will help to minimise exposure.


FAQs: Practical Tips for Sun Protection


  • If you want to achieve a sunkissed glow then opt for a false tan instead.
  • Be mindful of exfoliating treatments before sun exposure (covering and protecting treated skin is essential).


Professor Caitriona Ryan’s expert advice underscores the importance of proactive sun protection to maintain healthy skin. Whether at home or on holiday, consistent use of high-SPF sunscreen, UV-protective clothing, and proper hydration can help prevent sunburn and long-term skin damage. As summer approaches, let’s take these steps to enjoy the sun safely.