For 30 years, the orthodoxy across northern Europe has been that sun exposure is bad for health. For almost 20 years, official UK policy – cheered on by dermatologists, cancer charities and beauty editors — has been to caution against sun exposure by covering up with lightweight clothing and/or high-SPF suncream and a hat.
The consequent, near-ubiquitous sun-phobia in the UK, seems to be based on a misguided deduction that if sunburn and overexposure are bad for you, then absolutely no sun exposure must be really good for you.
Er, not true. Because, according to America’s Vitamin D Council which has been looking, since its inception in 2003, at the link between vitamin D deficiency and disease, without adequate exposure to sunlight we are at greater risk of a whole slew of diseases including, ironically, some cancers.
To make sense of the conflicting advice it is probably best to adopt the old adage: all things in moderation.
When abroad in summer, get your fix of sun before 10 am and after 5pm; between those times wear high SPF suncreams and/or lightweight clothing and put yourself under an umbrella, or go native with a long lunch, a glass of ice-cold rosé and a siesta.
Use at least SPF 30 on your face at all times in hot sun, and SPF 40 if you really want to avoid resembling a leather handbag in the future. Best are Clinique SPF40 Face Cream, £16. As you don't need me to tell you (but I will anyway), if you want a tan fast, don’t risk burning — fake it. There are truly brilliant fake tanners on the market which do not turn you orange, including the new UTan range from bra entrepreneur Michelle Mone’s Ultimo brand.
When you apply suncream, ideally do so in your room, naked, before putting on a bikini or swimsuit. That way you stand less chance of un-creamed bits being exposed when your bikini straps move or slip. And if there’s a cooling breeze, be particularly careful: you won’t notice your skin is burning.