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Health & Fitness

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Winter sun

The days seem to fade quickly, rain lashes against the window pane, the central heating warms the cockles and a rich beef stew bubbles away in the oven, sending wafts of contentment throughout the house. We look up into the sky and white crispy flakes flutter down from the heavens. Definitely a snow dome moment, but the only thing likely to be shaking us at this time of the year is the stark fact that Christmas is just around the corner.

Now this may not seem like the ideal time to reach for the sun cream as we are hardly going to end up with an all over tan when we go outside, all wrapped up, but before you pack away the sun lotion, you may be surprised to discover some eyebrow raising facts about the sun. Alarmingly enough that orange disc can cause just as much damage when Jack Frost is nipping at our toes as it can when we are basking in scorching heat . If we expose our bodies to just fifteen minutes of unprotected winter sunshine per day, we run a high risk of skin damage. I used to take a quick five minute sprint to the newsagents every morning but after a while I noticed that I was starting to develop brown spots, a clear indication that my skin was being attacked by the sun.

During the colder months we cover every inch of our bodies in warm clothes to keep out the chill. Without knowing it we also protect our skin from the harsh effects of the sun. The face is the only part of us which remains completely exposed to those harmful rays.  Protect your looks with an SPF of at least 15 to guard against fine lines, broken veins and wrinkles, all signs of ageing. Naturally, our faces are an important feature but during wintertime, reluctance to wear a balaclava (can’t think why) means that it is susceptible to a sun positioned very close to the earth, which can cause damage to the complexion.

Looking on the bright side (to pardon the pun), autumn and winter is definitely the time to start thinking about those skiing trips. After deliberating over which country to spend a week or two on the piste in, take some time to think about winter sun protection.Whilst it would seem that windburn would be our number one worry, sunburn is more likely to cause the most damage. For every 10,000 feet a skier ascends above sea-leve, the risk of UV damage is doubled. Normal sunscreen can be worn away by harsh winds and freezing snow, so it is important to invest in a SPF of at least 30, in fact, the higher the better. Apply thirty minutes before taking to the snow and do not be tempted to leave the lotion at home on cloudy days as 80% of the sun will continue to penetrate through thick cloud. Use at least one teaspoon on your skin and don’t forget to coat the ears, lips neck and under the chin. Play it safe by smearing cream on every part of your body which will be exposed to the great outdoors; top up every two hours and smear on a generous slick of lip balm. Choose one which has a sun protection factor of at least 15 as the lips are the first part of the face to become burned and chapped by the sun.

When the windows at home are closed tight and the fire has been nicely stoked, we start to peel off those layers which made the transition from indoors to outdoors much easier and we probably rely more on the car during the colder months. For some reason the bicycle seems to have lost its appeal when the rain is battering against the bedroom window. But are we safe inside the confinement of our four wheeled friend? In a word, no. During the winter, UV rays penetrate the earth from a different angle and drivers in the UK complain of skin irritation due to strong sun damaging the skin on the right side of their face. Those who have an office desk situated next to the window also experience the same problem.

Each and every one of us has spots, moles and freckles which are unique to us and they are usually harmless. We rarely feel concern for those little blemishes which are scattered across the bod and come in all shapes and sizes. On average, a person has around twenty-five freckles. Moles are brown raised protrusions which develop when skin cells cluster together rather than spread out flat and a melanoma forms when the clustering is erratic and creates a lumpy tumour. If we apply sunscreen every single day for 365 days of the year we reduce the risk of those red or brown encrusted eruptions becoming cancerous.

Is beauty really skin deep? The longer we are exposed to the sun, the more we burn our bodies, but what, actually, is sunburn? That brown coating on the skin which we call a ‘tan’. Whilst the glossy magazines portray bronzed women as sun -kissed beauties, the medical professional can see a tan as evidence that the skin has become damaged by the sun. Melanin is formed in the cells, equipping us with a unique skin tone and it becomes stimulated by solar heat which causes it to deepen in density and thus add browner hues to the flesh turning it from ghostly white to rich golden bronze. The longer we drench the skin in sun rays, the more bronzed the skin becomes and ultimately, the browner the skin, the more vulnerable it is to skin cancer. Yes, most women apply sunscreen but this is useless if the product does not safeguard against UVA and UVB rays. Without protection from both, they are basically applying little more than a fairy dust coating of protection, which the sun can easily penetrate through.

Protect yourself and your family this winter by investing in a high factor sun lotion. Look for a product which feels good on the skin. If it is greasy or heavy, you are less likely to use it. Find a cream which appeals to you, even if it means having to spend a little more. Look for something which is noncomedogenic and you will not have to worry about clogging the pores and increasing the likelihood of spots.

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