Beauty · Lifestyle · Travel

Sun Awareness Week: How To Protect Yourself In The Sun

Sun awareness week starts on Monday, so I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about how to protect yourself in the sun. This year, like previous years, the British Association Of Dermatologists (BAD) are kicking off their summer-long sun awareness campaign. Beginning with the sun awareness week, their aim is to get people talking about the importance of looking after your skin in the sun. I haven’t been asked by anybody to talk about this, however its a topic extremely close to my heart. Here’s why…

woman in yellow bikini holding white plastic spray bottle for Sun Awareness Week: How to protect yourself in the sun
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

My Story

Growing up, I’ve been lucky enough to go on some amazing holidays abroad. From Malta and Greece to Egypt, I have enjoyed the sunshine and spent hours in the pool. Knowing the dangers of the sun, my parents always made sure I wore sunscreen and was in the shade at the hottest parts of the day.

Naturally, as I became an adult, it was down to me to put sunscreen on. This is where my story really begins. It’s 2012, I’m 18 years old and we have just arrived in Tenerife for a family holiday. There’s a heatwave, temperatures are above 40 degrees. The first few days, I’m applying my sunscreen every few hours. I want to go home with a tan so I’ve chosen factor 30. We go to Jungle Park for the day and I forget to reapply in the afternoon. By the time I get back to the hotel, I’m burnt. But that’s ok, a shower and some Aftersun cream and I’ll be fine.

The next day is a pool day. A typical 18 year old, you’ll find me sipping cocktails by the pool. One too many cocktails and I fall asleep for a couple hours. When I wake up, I’m really burnt! I head inside and tell myself I’ll have to be careful for the next few days. By the next morning, my skin is already peeling. The damage is done. It might sound a bit gross, but I’m one of those pickers. I can’t stand having flaky skin hanging off. So I just keep picking and by the evening, I’ve made my skin even more sore.

The next day we are up early for a daytrip. I apply sunscreen, which stings like hell on my sore skin. We head out and have a great day. That night, I find it difficult to sleep. I feel sick, hot and cold and have a headache from hell. I knew the signs – I was suffering from heat stroke. It was a rough night and by the morning, I was hanging. It’s our last full day before our flight tonight so it’s another pool day. I decide I’m definitely going to sit in the shade today. Sitting under a parasol, my exhaustion takes over and I’m soon asleep again. Several hours pass by before I wake up to find that I’m no longer in the shade. Worse still but I’ve burnt again. I go inside straight away, apply lots of cream and pack to return home.

You might think that is the end of my story however it doesn’t stop there. The flight home was awful. I felt like I was on fire the whole time and I couldn’t bare anything touching my chest. This was the area most affected by the burns. I’d already severally burnt it once, then peeled the skin and burnt it again. The flight home made me dehydrated, no matter how much water I drank. It meant that my skin my drying out too. By the time I got home, my chest was so sore and tight, that it actually made breathing difficult.

In total, it took two months and medical intervention for my chest to heal. I’ll use the term “heal” loosely, but I’ll explain why in a moment. Firstly though, I want to express that those two months were hell. I had cream that I had to apply EVERY hour, just to keep the skin loose enough so I could breath. My skin was so itchy and it actually started turning black like wood burning on a fire. The worst thing for me though was the smell. It’s like nothing I had smelt before and hopefully, I never will again. Because that smell was burnt, rotting flesh.

When I mentioned above that it healed, that wasn’t completely true. It got better, but my chest will never be the same as it once was. The damage has been done. My chest is now incredibly sensitive. If I touch it after using hand sanitiser or any other product, it feels like I’m instantly burning. It looks like it too because a rash will quickly form. As new skin grew back, so did moles. LOTS of them. I’m ashamed of how my chest now looks. It’s a constant reminder of how it was preventable…

sea person beach vacation for sun awareness week: how to protect yourself in the sun
Photo by Gagan Cambow on

How To Protect Yourself In The Sun

  • The absolute mimimum SPF you should be using is factor 30, however 50 is best
  • Any sunscreen you use should also have a minimum of 4 starts UVA protection. One with UVB protection too is better
  • When grabbing your sunscreen at home, check that it is still in date
  • Sunscreen should be used everyday, even when it’s cloudy
  • Cover up with suitable clothing and wear a hat and sunglasses if you can
  • Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day. This can vary from country to country so always double check
  • Never fall asleep in the sun and always keep hydrated
  • If you are with family or friends, check on each other and make sure they have remembered their sunscreen

Final Thoughts

I hope my story has opened your eyes to just how quickly a situation can change. It’s something I will always regret. Going forward, I can only hope that my story will be a stark reminder to you to make sure you protect yourself in the sun.

BAD has lot’s of helpful advice on their website including a sunscreen fact sheet and how and why its important to check your moles regularly. There’s also information on what some of the signs of skin cancer are. Sun Awareness Week is all about educating ourselves on how to protect yourself in the sun. I hope you have found this post helpful and I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.

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15 thoughts on “Sun Awareness Week: How To Protect Yourself In The Sun

  1. These are some good tips. It is so important to take care of your skin in the sunshine. Thank you for sharing your experience.


  2. Your story had me on edge, I hope that you are doing much better. This is an informative post. I live in the tropics and I can tell you that I’m afraid of the sun. I don’t stay too long in it.

  3. It must have been terrifying for you. Thanks for sharing your experience. I wish I’d been a lot better about using SP50. Now I am paying the price with pigmentation that I probably developed in my teens.

  4. It must have been so scary for you not to be able to breathe properly because your chest had burnt that much from being out the Sun for those elongated periods. SPF is so important to wear all year round, not just in the Summer! Thank you so much for sharing your story lovely x

    Lucy |

  5. What a horrible experience for you; I actually cringed when reading it!
    I once burnt my legs because I thought I didn’t need any sunscreen because it was cloudy. It just shows how easy it is for the sun to really damage your skin. Thanks for raising awareness.

  6. I’m sorry about your story! Growing up, my skin broke out a lot and I dint know much about sunscreen. Now I apply it as often as I can and try to protect my skin from the sun. I live in South Africa and it gets hot sometimes.

  7. Fab tips! I’m so sorry to hear about what happened to you, that sounds so painful. I always make sure to wear factor 50 suncream however checking it’s still in date is definitely a habit I need to form. Thank you so much for sharing x

  8. Here in Australia, we are very aware of the damage the sun can do. There is nothing under SPF50 and rightly so. I stay out of the sun as far as possible.

  9. Thank you for sharing, your story I have got burnt before aswell, it does hurt. I do put on sun screen when it’s warm and wear face cream with SPF all the time, as I do a lot of walking in the countryside so it can be easy to get burnt on my face 🙂

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