The sun and skin health

It’s very important to ensure that your skin isn’t exposed to the sun for long periods, as this can lead to sunburn and make you more susceptible to skin cancer. Anyone can develop skin cancer, so it’s important to protect yourself whatever your skin type.

Protecting your skin

  • Use sunscreen of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 with four or five stars. Apply it generously and top up regularly if you’re going to be outside for a while. The sunscreen’s star rating shows its ability to protect your skin from damage and premature ageing.
  • Apply sunscreen to any uncovered parts of your body. A hat will protect your head, face, ears and eyes.
  • Choose sunglasses that have a CE mark, UV400 label or a statement that they offer 100 per cent UV (ultraviolet) protection.
  • When the weather is hot, your skin may also feel drier than usual. Using moisturiser can help keep your skin healthy.
  • If you have moles or brown patches on your skin, they usually remain harmless. But if they bleed, or change size, shape or colour, show them to your GP without delay. For more information on checking moles, visit the Cancer Research UK SunSmart website.

Sun exposure and vitamin D

Although it’s important to protect your skin, some direct exposure to the sun is essential for the production of vitamin D.

Don’t let your skin burn, but try to go outside once or twice every day without sunscreen for around 10 minutes from May to September. The more of your skin that is exposed, the better your chance of making enough vitamin D.

There are some food sources of vitamin D – salmon, sardines and other oily fish, eggs and fortified spreads – but sunshine is the major source.

The Government recommends vitamin D supplements for some groups of the population, including people aged 65 and over.

If you think you could be at risk of not getting enough vitamin D, particularly if you are housebound or cover your skin for cultural reasons, raise this with your GP. Always speak to your GP before starting to take a vitamin supplement or over-the-counter medicine on a daily basis.

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