From UV dresses to high-tech sensors: How to stay safe in the sun

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Sun cream is not the only way to protect against sunburn and the risk of skin cancer.

Here, Dr John Ashworth, a consultant dermatologist with dermatologist.co.uk, gives his verdict on a range of the latest sun protection products. We then rated them.

BACKBLISS LOTION APPLICATOR

A gadget that allows you to apply sun cream to awkward-to-reach spots on your body

A gadget that allows you to apply sun cream to awkward-to-reach spots on your body

£14.95, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: A gadget that allows you to apply sun cream to awkward-to-reach spots on your body. The long, curved stick gently bends, matching the contours of the back, with an attached sponge pad that absorbs only a minimal amount of the cream so there’s no wastage.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Back applicators are a brilliant idea, because this is an area many people miss. This is a particularly good one: I also recommend it for those patients who need to apply prescription creams to their backs, for eczema for example.’ 

8/10

HAPPYSUN APP

This app uses real-time satellite information about the strength of the sun to give you advice on sun exposure

This app uses real-time satellite information about the strength of the sun to give you advice on sun exposure

Free on iPhone and Android

CLAIM: This app uses real-time satellite information about the strength of the sun to give you advice on sun exposure. Key in your skin type, location and what sunscreen factor you have and it will advise you how long you can stay out and how much sunscreen to apply.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This appears slick, with the impression of being linked in to “satellite-based” technology. However, I don’t see any evidence it actually uses satellites, only weather-related information. It could also give a false sense of security.

‘You could just set an alarm on your phone to remind you to protect yourself after a certain time in the sun.’ 

4/10

COMPACT SUN PROTECTIVE UMBRELLA

his umbrella blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays and comes in two sizes — 21in or 23in

his umbrella blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays and comes in two sizes — 21in or 23in

£30, solbari.co.uk

CLAIM: This umbrella blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays and comes in two sizes — 21in or 23in. The fabric is thicker than a normal umbrella so as to better block out light.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Using umbrellas to block harmful rays is great in theory, as most sunshine comes from above — though you could just use a standard umbrella.

‘However, around 30 to 50 per cent of UV light is reflected off bright surfaces — such as sea water, sand or white-washed buildings — at different angles, meaning rays could bounce under the umbrella. So it’s important still to wear sunscreen.’ 

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8/10

MYSMARTBUY STATIC CLING WINDOW COVER

A roll of ‘cling screen’ to cut to size and attach to your car’s windows. It’s said to shield eyes from the sun’s blinding glare

A roll of ‘cling screen’ to cut to size and attach to your car’s windows. It’s said to shield eyes from the sun’s blinding glare

£10.95, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: A roll of ‘cling screen’ to cut to size and attach to your car’s windows. It’s said to shield eyes from the sun’s blinding glare, but its sun protection factor (SPF) value is not specified.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘A U.S. study in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology in 2016 showed that some driver’s side windows are only 70 per cent protective against UVA light (one of two types of ultraviolet light).

‘This can damage the eyes —chronic sunlight exposure has been linked to cataracts — and the deeper layers of skin, which can lead to cancer, so this film might be helpful in blocking these rays, particularly for people who drive for long periods.

‘However, it’s difficult to get skin damage through a windscreen, as glass is already blocking most of the UV rays.

‘This product may be more useful for someone who has a photosensitive skin problem, such as porphyria, triggered by exposure to sunlight.’ 

6/10

ASPEN SPORTS SUNGLASSES

These offer UVA and UVB protection and have removable rubber side protectors to block out sun, wind and snow

These offer UVA and UVB protection and have removable rubber side protectors to block out sun, wind and snow

£28, rapideyewear.co.uk

CLAIM: These offer UVA and UVB protection and have removable rubber side protectors to block out sun, wind and snow.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘UV protective glasses are important, as we see more and more patients with a form of cancer known as basal cell carcinoma occurring on the eyelids.

‘Surgery in this area is very tricky and can be disfiguring, so having sunglasses such as this pair — with their wraparound design — will give even better protection.’ 

9/10

THE ORCHID PATTERNED UV PROTECTION DRESS

Made from a cotton-viscose blend and treated with a UPF 50+ chemical (the SPF equivalent for fabrics)

Made from a cotton-viscose blend and treated with a UPF 50+ chemical (the SPF equivalent for fabrics)

£19.99, mountain warehouse.com

CLAIM: Made from a cotton-viscose blend and treated with a UPF 50+ chemical (the SPF equivalent for fabrics), this dress is said to protect from the sun, while allowing perspiration to pass through, keeping you cool.

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EXPERT VERDICT: ‘I query whether this will protect more than the average item of clothing — just because fibres are “treated” with a chemical that gives sun protection doesn’t mean the entire garment offers the same protection.

‘It’s not clear if the chemical would be rinsed away in a washing machine, either. It would be helpful to see a clear comparison of the dress’s sun protection compared with, say, an average T-shirt.

‘Ordinary clothes protect from UV rays so long as the fabric isn’t wet or over-perforated.’ 

5/10

THE FLAP HAT

This broad-brimmed hat and neck flap are made from a fabric that has a ‘unique multi-filament fibre’

This broad-brimmed hat and neck flap are made from a fabric that has a ‘unique multi-filament fibre’

Around £22, sunprotection.com.au

CLAIM: This broad-brimmed hat and neck flap are made from a fabric that has a ‘unique multi-filament fibre’, giving a silky texture and allowing the breeze to penetrate, while blocking 98 per cent of harmful UV rays, says the maker.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘This is a particularly great design, as the ears and neck are areas we often forget when applying sun cream.

‘Hats through which you cannot see the sun when held up to the sky mean they are thick enough to block out its rays — particularly important around the scalp, upper ears and back of the neck, which are easily damaged.’ 

9/10

CALYPSO ONCE A DAY SACHETS

Each sachet contains 35ml SPF20 sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays

Each sachet contains 35ml SPF20 sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays

Box of 24, £23.99, calypsosun.com

CLAIM: Each sachet contains 35ml SPF20 sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays. The maker claims that, applied correctly, each sachet is sufficient for all- day face and body protection for an adult.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Bottles of sunscreen can be bulky and messy, so sachets are a great idea, especially if you are camping or at a festival.

‘The 35ml in each sachet is the amount we recommend for the whole body of an adult in order to give the SPF quoted on the tube.

‘If you’re sweaty, you may need more. I’d also be concerned about people applying the right amount in each area. I would suggest you reapply at least twice a day.’ 

6/10

ARALIA MULTI COOLNET UV+ HEADBAND

£10.75, buffwear.co.uk

CLAIM: A polyester headband, to be worn under a cycling helmet, giving UPF 50+ sun protection.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Simple and inexpensive, this is useful for all outdoor activities. Cycling helmets have perforations to prevent you getting sweaty, which is why wearing the headband underneath will give necessary extra protection.

‘It is also easy to manipulate the band into different shapes to cover the back of the neck.’ 

9/10

SUNFRIEND PERSONAL MONITOR

A watch-like daily UV monitor that aims to optimise sun exposure

A watch-like daily UV monitor that aims to optimise sun exposure

£14.99, amazon.co.uk

CLAIM: A watch-like daily UV monitor that aims to optimise sun exposure, to ensure the wearer gets enough vitamin D (formed by sunlight on the skin).

Turn the device on, set your skin sensitivity, and SunFriend will flash when you’ve reached your safe daily limit of UV exposure and sufficient sunlight for a daily vitamin D dose.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘I doubt that this would be very accurate at predicting when your skin will start to burn, as this varies widely, even among those of similar complexions. It could give a false sense of security.’ 

3/10

. . . AND FOR HOT DOGS, A PET-COOLING VEST

You douse this vest in water before putting it on your pet, then regularly sprinkle water on

You douse this vest in water before putting it on your pet, then regularly sprinkle water on 

GY Cooling Breathable Outdoor Pet Sun Protection Vest, £81.35, nux2.co.uk

CLAIM: You douse this vest in water before putting it on your pet, then regularly sprinkle water on it. This will keep them cool and reflect some of the sun’s rays.

EXPERT VERDICT: ‘Dogs can suffer in hot weather and even die,’ says Daniella Dos Santos, a vet and junior vice president of the British Veterinary Association. ‘When a dog comes in with heat stroke, we douse it in cold water. We don’t put wet towels on it, as this could trap evaporating heat — and that would be my concern with this coat.

‘There are more efficient ways of ensuring a dog doesn’t overheat, such as not walking it in the heat of the day and giving a constant supply of drinking water.

‘It is also a good idea to use sunscreen on a white dog’s face and ears. Buy one specifically for dogs: don’t use human ones.’ 

4/10

 



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