My Skin Cancer Scare & Recommended Sun Creams for the Family

The sun is shining, the weather is sweet.... actually it’s roasting and I never thought I’d seriously ever have to consider having A/C installed at home, but here I am too hot to sleep, considering exactly that!

I’m not moaning though, I’m just getting carried away expecting the British weather to stay like this long enough for me to get AC, pah! I absolutely love this time of year everything just feels tinged with optimism, the long, bright sunny evenings that stay bright well past 10pm. You get to enjoy so much of the day and can pack in so much that you just cant on rainy days. I love eating dinner al-fresco in the garden, sitting outside watching the sun set behind the Welsh hills, BBQs galore and jugs of homemade Pimm’s, lawn games and getting the paddling pool out for Ella… even the dog gets in on the action running round chasing the kids.

My absolute favourite game to play with the them when the sun’s out is such an old school hack - the one where you attach the hose pipe to the kid’s slide, add a bit of washing up liquid and watch them launch themselves down it. Warning to parents - do not try it after a bottle of wine, no matter how invincible, athletic and bouncy you may think you feel, the reality is a lot harder on landing! The bruised butt the next day told the real story… that’s what you get for being a Peter Pan kid that will never grow up! (Nb: obvs this isn’t a game for during a hose-pipe ban!)

All the gorgeous sunny summer days aside, I literally feel like every year I head out in search of the perfect sun cream - one that actually lasts and stays on, or one that isn’t so thick it makes you look more Geisha than gorgeous, or one that isn’t so oily it drips in to your eyes! Its especially difficult to find one for the kids because they’re so active and as any parent will attest, trying to slather sun cream on any child is a mission impossible. You end up with more on you than on them! I don’t know what it is about kids, but as soon as they have to stand still for more than a minute they become so impatient, the amount of times I have to chase my youngest two round the garden with cream on my hands is endless. I would love to find one that’s easy to apply, and reapply and that will last in the water.


Are sunscreens and sun creams the same thing?

Then there’s the whole is a ’sun screen’ the same as a ’sun cream’? No is the short answer! There are so many different terms used when it comes to skin protection - from Sunscreen, sunblock, sun cream to suntan lotion, they are all products that protect the skin from UVA and UVB rays. The difference between a UVA & UVB is: UVA is linked to premature ageing and UVB is the main cause of sunburn - and both have been linked with skin cancer. Sunscreens are the most commonly used cream, they filter the suns UV rays but let some in. The higher the factor, the longer you can stay in the sun before the skin starts to tan or burn. Sunblock is totally different, this ‘blocks’ by reflecting the suns rays from the skin and literally blocking the rays stopping them penetrating the skin. Then there is SPF, which is short for 'sun protection factor’ which means how long the cream will protect you from the UVB rays.

Sun creams and sunblocks should be applied at least 30 minutes before entering the sun, allowing it to be absorbed deeply in to the skin - but be careful, this will not last you the whole day. It is important to remember to reapply the same amount every 2 hours or sooner if needed. There are creams out there that state they are once a day sun creams, I have tried one brand in the past, and as someone with very fair skin I can tell you now that it did not work for me. It was a long time ago on holiday with my family and I burnt to a crisp. But then again if you are jumping in and out of a pool, or swimming, sweating, etc then you will have lost the cream so of course it will need to be reapplied. That being said, if it’s being advertised as a product that only needs one application, you’re going to believe that! I personally think those types of creams are more inclined to work if putting on your face in the morning and if you are not in constant direct sunlight. More of an everyday cream for yourself and the kids if off to school or work. But the title can be misleading. Interestingly, in Australia, where they have the highest skin cancer rates, these ‘apply once a day’ sun creams are banned. I’d recommend airing to the side of caution and just always regularly reapply.

Skin Scares

I have very fair skin and I always try my best to protect it properly and use the appropriate sun protection. In fact, the skin on my face doesn’t seem to react very well to the sun, it burns far too easily so I will always wear factor 30 and then sun block on my T-zone. But that’s not to say I have never burnt the skin on my face before, especially as a child when I spent a lot of time in the swimming pool.

A few years back I had a raised red, slightly scaly bit of skin come up on the side of my face, just below my temple. At first I thought it may be a spot, then after a while I thought I might have burnt my face with the curling tong as it got quite dry and sore. It stayed there for about 4 weeks then disappeared. Then a few months later I went away on a sunny holiday and it came back again, that’s when I started to get concerned. I went to see my doctor and he referred me to a dermatologist. Once I was there they looked at my skin very closely with a magnifying camera and took some pictures. I was told that I had severe skin damage and that continued sun exposure on my face could result in skin cancer.

I was so shocked. I looked at the pictures that he showed me and you could see where my skin cells had had way too much sun exposure and the cell was starting to change shape. You could see the freckles on my skin, but then there were patches of darker pigmentation that kind of spread outwards. Both of the times that the red mark came up on my face I hadn’t burnt, my face had just been exposed to the sun. I asked what could I do to prevent it getting any worse and he told me total sun block on my face and to keep my face in the shade or wear a hat. Since then I have been very vigilant with my face care routine.

I wear a moisturiser with an SPF 30 in it, and when I’m on holiday I try to only have the sun on my face for short amounts of time. It’s made me even more conscious as a mother about how much sun my children have and how I need to protect their skin for when they are older. Back in the 80’s we thought nothing of whacking factor 4 or 6 on us from the first day of holiday, that’s just how it was back then. I’d never dream of letting the kids go out in the sun with such low protection on their skin. Now it’s prevention all the way! Prevention guidelines from state the following -

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10am and 4pm.
  • Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-rimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB)sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or more every day.
  • For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant sunscreen with and SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun.
  • Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of 6 months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See you doctor every year for a professional skin examination.

Sun Cream Reviews

Garnier Amber Solaire Dry Mist SPF 30 & 50

This is a great spray for active families, especially children who hate having creams put on them. I found the spray the fastest to apply but it dried pretty quickly on the skin so you have to use quite a bit to cover the body. Very little mess, non oily. Also suitable for sensitive skin.


Nivea Sun Protect and Bronze SPF 30

This is your typical sun cream, a thick cream that spreads rather nicely across the skin. Not too greasy. I found the ‘protect & bronze’ part quite misleading as it has contains no self tan. Great if you have a bit of time to apply in the mornings, and also good for dry skin.


Hawaiian Tropics Island Sport SPF 30

Loved this! So easy to spray, dried instantly, perfect for the kids and so easy just to pull out your bag and top up all the time. No stickiness on the skin, so if on the beach the sand won’t be sticking to you.

VERDICT: 10/10

Soleil Plaisir SPF 50 / Darphin Soleil Plaisir SPF 50

This comes in a small tube and is quite expensive, around £35, but for me, with such sensitive skin on my face and shoulders it was worth the investment. It kept my skin from burning, it covered quite thickly but absorbed quickly and I noticed my face was a lot browner that usual after using it although it does not have any false tan in it.


Malibu SPF 30

I love the smell of this but I find the cream quite thin and runny so if you put a fair bit in your hands it’s dripping through your fingers before you’ve even got to your arms or legs. I also found I was reapplying a lot more with this so its staying power wasn’t as good. Good value for money at £3.99 but I was using twice as much.



1 Comment

  1. July 26, 2018 / 5:16 pm

    This was very helpful, thank you. I’m glad you are okay!

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