5 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Preventing Sun Damage

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
5 things you probably don't know about preventing sun damage.

Photo Credit: deviantart.com

We usually equate sunshine with positivity. Strolls in the park, barefoot at the beach, great gardening and an overall jolly boost to your mood. Happy, fun, delightful slices of life, right?

However, you could be staring down the barrel of some serious physical harm if you’re negligent in protecting yourself from the sun and its powerful rays.

Tell me something I don’t know, I hear you say. Well, okay then.

Below I’ve listed five things you probably don’t know about preventing sun damage. Prepare to be surprised!

1.You should always wear sunscreen (even when it’s overcast)

It’s not always sunny, especially here in the UK. However, one fact many people tend to overlook is that you don’t particularly need the sun to show its face to receive the damaging UV rays. On cloudy days, UV exposure can still be high. It is therefore possible to experience the damaging effects of the sun on cool, cloudy days. As such, you should include sunscreen on top of your daily facial care routine.

It’s a simple skin-saving remedy that should be included in your no-matter-what bucket, like brushing your teeth. Sunscreen has been proven as the best protection from the sun’s damaging rays – even when the sun isn’t showing its face.

2. Natural sunscreen is a fine replacement for the chemical stuff

Natural sunscreens are often referred to as “mineral” or “natural” sunscreens. These are actually physical sun blockers, versus being chemically absorbed into your skin cells.

They may leave a whitish residue on your skin, but there have been wonderful measures made to make them more cosmetically acceptable. Because they are not absorbed and dissolved into your skin, they will last longer.

As far as the first ingredient, you’re going to want to see zinc oxide or titanium oxide listed in these natural sunscreens. Omit any with fragrance. There’s never a reason to have a fragrance in any natural product. These can cause allergic reactions, the last thing you want to have happen on the very surface you are trying to protect.

Reapply that physical block every two hours.

3. There is no point of no return with sun damage

Remember  when you were a young, sun worshiping 16 year old?

Protecting yourself in the present can actually help save further damage. Enzymes in our body that head up the internal repair clinic are always engaged in loosening up the done damage.

You can help them with a steady diligent slathering of sunscreen every time you’re outdoors. Don’t discount this process. Trust in the magic of your internal intelligence to better you from the inside out.

4. Sunscreen doesn’t (have to) cause our vitamin D deficiency

Sunscreen blocks the ability for our body to make Vitamin D from the sun. However, a deeper truth is that we only need about 10 minutes a day in the sun to get some decent levels of Vitamin D. And although our bodies are actually built better for receiving the D through the skin, we can get it from food too. So don’t ignore the D in foods.

There are some very good food sources of Vitamin D – be mindful of fish, milk, eggs, ricotta cheese, beef liver and mushrooms to deliver that D to you.

5. Sun damage to the eyes is a serious issue

As many of us take good, clear vision for granted, there’s a whole category of damage your eyes will receive from too much sun.

Those of us with lighter eyes – blues, greens and grays – are more susceptible. Darker eyes are more naturally protected from perilous UV light. Many times, those with the lighter eyes cannot even bear to be outdoors without sunglasses. You want to make sure of two things in choosing your shades:

  1. That they block 98-99% of both UV and UVB rays.
  2. That they are polarised.

Polarised glasses actually neutralise the glare coming from the light. We can experience this as an annoying and sometimes dangerous intensity of light coming at us. The special filter in polarised lenses blocks this crazy intensity and tones it down for a more pleasing and safe seeing. Wrap around shades are even better as they cut the UV light from all angles. Make sure you go to your ophthalmologist or optometrist to get a full eye exam that includes dilating your pupils. Your specialist can look much deeper for clues of eye damage from the sun.

Long term damage can result in cataracts, corneal sunburns, and growths unbeknownst to you. Many times these disturbances don’t show up until people are in their late 50’s. Prevent harm to your precious eyes. Choose the right shades and see your eye professional regularly.

Now you have a plan. Use it!

If you’re like most people you like to get a little sun. Its warmth and light can both relax us and boost our spirits. But the benefits come with a dangerous tradeoff.

Did you know that over the last thirty years, rates of malignant melanoma in Great Britain have risen faster than any of the current top ten cancers?

Malignant melanoma is the more serious type of skin cancer and one that can spread to other body parts if not treated early. As you see the proof is in the protection. No matter what, remember your sunscreen daily.

Take measures to be mindful of the serious care of  your skin, your eyes, and past damages. If the sun doesn’t shine much get your Vitamin D from healthy food sources or consider supplementation. Be smart about your venturing into the sun (and clouds).

If you were surprised by any of our tips, please pass this onto anyone who might appreciate it as well. Let us know what you’re thinking in the comments below!

Every other Thursday we share our research and actionable advice to help you and those you care about. If you enjoyed this, join our FREE updates.


  • Karen mcCaffrey

    Reply Reply July 3, 2014

    Very good article, it reinforces the need to use sun screen. I have a pretty olive complexion and tend to think ” I’ should be ok” but I’ve been reading more and more articles and realise I had been pretty naive. Good article to remind people, I also cover my children’s faces.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 3, 2014

      Thanks for your feedback, Karen! The truth is that sunlight damages DNA, although our bodies are pretty effective at repairing it, you may want to give it a helping hand! :-)

      It’s a wise decision to protect your children’s faces — eye damage is also something we need to be mindful of!

  • Diane Corriette

    Reply Reply July 3, 2014

    Useful article with some great tips. Is that true for everyone? That we need to wear sunscreen even when its cloudy? Just wondering.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 3, 2014

      Diane, glad you found the tips useful! Photo-damage is true for all of us, regardless of our skin colour. I wear my daily moisturiser when it’s cloudy, most have some form of SPF / UV protection. But if you spend a few hours outdoors, especially during summer, you definitely need something stronger :-)

  • Libby

    Reply Reply July 3, 2014

    excellent tips here. I am rather fair complexion and do know about wearing sunscreen even when it is cloudy.
    thank you for the reminder! I choose the physical blockers rather than the chemical ones.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 3, 2014

      Libby, glad you found the tips useful. Thanks for sharing! :-)

    • Sarah Eddie

      Reply Reply July 3, 2014

      Libby, same here. I get terrible skin rashes when under direct sunlight. Really painful! I’ll look into the physical blockers that you use, I didn’t know there was a difference, thanks!

      Alex, I was waiting for your post since Monday when you told us about the Monday and Thursday blogs, I love it, I love everything that The Health Sciences Academy does, I am so happy I’ve found you. Can’t wait to see what else I’ll learn on Monday, thank you, thank you, thank you!

      And I’m def. sharing this with my best friend, who wears baby oil, which magnifies the UV rays x 10000000 OMG. She won’t listen to me, but she’ll def. listen to you!!

      Thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu


      • Alex

        Reply Reply July 3, 2014

        Not a bad idea, Sarah! Glad that you’re enjoying your time with us :-)

  • Carlie PT & Bootcamp

    Reply Reply July 3, 2014


    What an eye opener. I teach bootcamp daily, primarily outdoors, and to be honest I never paid attention to this. Thinking that the damage becomes more evident later in life is scary!!!

    I’ll also investigate sports shades, I see runners wearing them all the time.

    I’m sharing this with my bootcamp students too, it’s important that we as fitness professionals take the lead on these issues.


    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 3, 2014

      Carlie, excellent initiative!

  • Olga

    Reply Reply July 3, 2014

    Hi Alex!

    Thank you for developing these topics which help educating people.
    Especially, I liked an idea about putting information from research field: it makes a whole lot more valuable.

    Many thanks!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 3, 2014

      Olga, glad that I could help! More science and tips coming your way every Monday and Thursday :-)

  • Marina PT

    Reply Reply July 5, 2014

    This is true, especially #1. I’m recovering from a terrible sunburn on the beach… in a cloudy day! How is that even possible?? I have a suspicion that the H2O in the clouds somehow magnifies the UV rays, like a magnifying glass. Thanks for the link in #4, I’ll make sure to include these foods in my diet.

  • Alex

    Reply Reply August 17, 2014

    Fascinating footage on how your skin looks without UV filter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9BqrSAHbTc

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