So, we have just come off our 3 week hosepipe ban here in N. Ireland! During that time we have had to stop washing our cars, filling pools and sprinkling gardens, which to be honest, we very rarely have to do on this emerald isle. This was our first hosepipe ban since 1995 (23 years ago!) and we were the initial place in the UK to have a ban imposed in the summer months of 2018. We aren't used to having the recent scorching weather anywhere in the UK, but in Ireland, with our reputation of it is always raining, it comes as a particular shock!
It has been an incredible period of weather. Before this summer, the highest temperature ever recorded in Northern Ireland was 30.8C in 1976, and in the last heatwave we came very close to that again (30.5C). Temperatures elsewhere in the UK have been even greater (38.5C), with forecasters predicting they could climb yet again still.
With this in mind, we need to manage the implications of this increased sunshine and potential exposure to UV damage. Skin cancer kills more than 2,000 people a year in the UK, (PhotoChemistry and PhotoBiology Journal) and scientists are telling us that we simply aren't getting enough protection from our suncream because we aren't applying it effectively. We now know that rubbing sunscreen into the skin reduces its effectiveness to the point that it may not even provide protection. But even more of an issue is that we simply don't put enough of the stuff on in the first place.
But there is no need to get out your parasols just yet, as Professor Antony Young from King's College London has highlighted an easy way of ensuring we are getting protection from suncream, now dubbed as the Teaspoon Method. Prof Young tells us that sun worshippers need to apply at least half a teaspoon of suncream to each arm, the face and the neck and we need to uses a full teaspoon for each leg and again for the front of our bodies and another for the back. The research goes on to suggest that we should apply suncream at least 3 times a day if we intend to be soaking up the rays from dawn til dusk, which let's face it, is far more often than most of us do. If you do the maths, it means that the 100ml bottle that we buy for a week's holiday in the sunshine will only last 1 day for the average adult in their bikini or trunks! Oh and Prof Young also states that we should use at least a factor 30 sunscreen... so put that factor 15 back on the shelf.
Applied properly like this, his research shows that sunburn is reduces by almost half and skin damage was reduced by nearly eight times compared to controlled experiments where sunbathers wore no sun protection. Above all, he stresses the importance of communicating the message of just how easy it is to avoid irreparable and permanent damage by using the Teaspoon Method. So, whilst a spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, a spoonful of suncream is all you need this summer.