Despite numerous sun safety awareness campaigns the majority of us are still pretty clueless when it comes to protecting ourselves from the harmful rays of the hot summer sun. Burnt feet, peeling noses, prickly heat and sunstroke are just some of the common complaints that can occur if we don't apply sunscreen or if we expose ourselves to the sun for too long. All too often we British are a sorry sight on holiday: staying out and roasting ourselves while all our sun safe foreign counterparts take respite in the shade. The real worry however is the long-term damage that over exposure to the sun can cause. Skin cancer, also known as malignant melanoma, is now the second most diagnosed form of cancer in the 20-34 year age group. This worrying fact means that it is now, more than ever, absolutely essential that we start to take our sun protection and tanning totally seriously.

UVB and UVA are the very harmful rays emitted by the sun which are responsible for causing all manner of harm. UVA rays can cause premature ageing while UVB rays burn. But it doesn't have to be like this. We can, if we are careful and sensible, achieve a gently sunkissed sexy tan that's safe. Just remember the following golden rules and then read on to find out how you can become a savvy sun seeker:

Five Golden Rules
1) Always apply a broad-spectrum high Sun Protection Factor (SPF) cream of at least 15. Make sure the suncream you are using is suitable for your skin type. If you have moles or large freckles talk to a skincare expert before buying your cream or exposing your skin to the sun. An SPF15 for example will reduce the amount of burning rays that get into the skin by 15 times while a factor 6 would only reduce the amount 6 times.

2) Apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you step into the sun. Remember to reapply every two hours (sometimes more if you're in a very hot climate). Always put more cream on after sports activities and swimming - even if yours says it is water-resistant. Never believe products that say they boast day-long protection. They don't. Re-apply, re-apply, re-apply should be your beach mantra.

3) Don't use last year's sun creams because if they've been exposed to the heat their chemicals will have been down graded and therefore they'll be less effective.

4) If you don't want to end up roasting yourself stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm - remember only 'mad dogs and English men' do this.

5) Always wear something on your head to stop your scalp from burning and being struck down by sunstroke and ensure that your shades boast proper UV protection as the sun's Ultra Violet rays can also cause serious damage to your eyes.

Body Heat
Before going on holiday try and make sure you choose the best possible sunscreen for your skin type. According to Boots, there are six types ranging from very white to black. Skin type 1 has very white skin, green or blue eyes and red or blonde hair, while skin type 3 is slightly brown, has hazel or blue eyes and fair or brown hair and tans moderately. If you're really fair then you'll need an SPF of at least 35 but if your skin is more olive then you'll need a cream boasting an SPF of at least 15. If you're still not sure which category you fall into pop along to your nearest Boots and speak to one of their special Suncare Consultants who will be able to help you select the right product for wherever you are going in the world. Once you know which SPF you need, remember to ensure that your product has UVA protection. Check the back of the bottle for the star rating which goes from one to five stars. A five star product is the best and offers between 90% to 100% UVA to UVB protection, the highest available in the UK. Always use oil-free textures as they're better at resisting strong summer sun heat and apply generously absolutely everywhere. The most common spots to miss are ears, feet, upper back and between the upper arms and décolletage.

Best buys: Estee Lauder Sun Performance SPF 30 £18 - great results and Also has special anti-ageing properties to protect skin from the ravages of the sun. Clinique UV Response SPF 50 Body Cream (£13.50) - probably one of the most effective sun-shielding creams around. You can also see when you've missed a bit.
Budget buys: Marks and Spencer Sun Formula SPF 50 £8 - great for sensitive and pale skin. Nivea Moisturising Sun Spray SPF 30 £13.99 - easy to apply and smells fresh.

Face Facts
Wherever possible try and use a special suncare product for your face as it will usually boast anti-ageing properties as well as protect your skin. Never supplement it for a daily moisturiser with an in-built SPF. It won't shield the sun as effectively because its primary role is to condition your skin and its SPF is usually no more than 20. Ideally you should use a minimum of 30 on your face otherwise you might as well welcome wrinkles with open arms.

Best buys: Biotherm Aquateinté £18 ñ non-greasy and good for an all-over tan. Clarins Sun Wrinkle Control Cream £15.50 SPF 15 -contains damage defying plant extracts.
Budget buys: L'Oréal Paris Solar Expertise Milk SPF 15 £10.50 ñ goes on easily and is non-oily. Boots No 7 Engerising Facial Suncare SPF 25 £9.50 - very light and perfect for protecting the skin's delicate epidermis from wrinkles.

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