Being a little bit ginger, and a little bit pale, I am a little bit at the mercy of the sun. That also means I am at the mercy of the sunscreen manufacturers…over the years I have tried them all…sprays, gels, creams, mineral, natural, chemical, physical.
Each one has its own worry, and I worry about what I am applying equally as much as I worry about sun damage.
Now I have a little one to look after too I need to make the safest most informed choice I can for him in the Californian sunshine. Baby friendly sunscreen, a whole new world of worry!
So here are a few things to think about when choosing a sunsceen.
Chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin. They are designed to absorb UVA or UVB rays. They have stability issues on exposure to sunlight, and the chemicals used may also disrupt the body’s hormone system.
Physical/mineral sunscreens act as a total barrier sitting on top of the skin. They are designed to reflect both UVA and UVB rays. They are made with zinc and titanium in micronized form, tiny tiny nano sized particles!
Nearly one-quarter of all sunscreens contain Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A. It is added to act as an anti-oxidant to slow skin ageing. However studies show that it may actually speed the development of skin tumours when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight. It can make skin photosensitive and more susceptible to sun rays and may also break down leaving free radicals on the skin which we were trying to avoid in the first place. Crikey!
The most common sunscreens available contain a cocktail of chemical filters. These products can include a combination up to six of these active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Many of these chemicals cause allergic reactions, they are toxic to reproductive systems and they affect normal cell development.
A note for breastfeeding mums:
A 2010 study by Margaret Schlumpf of the University of Zurich found at least one sunscreen chemical in 85 percent of milk samples. Four of the chemicals detected are commonly used in sunscreens.
Most zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based sunscreens contain nano-particles…particles that are one twentieth the width of a human hair. These aim of the nano-particle is to reduce the chalky white residue that these sunscreens used to leave on the skin. To reduce photo-activity, these nano particles need to be coated in inert chemicals. There is a small risk that if inhaled, the particles could damage internal organs, but there have been no reported cases of this happening and it is less of a risk once in lotion or cream form.
The SPF 100 con:
When correctly applied, SPF 50 sunscreen blocks 98 percent of sunburn rays. SPF 100 blocks 99 percent.
High-SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals. These ingredients may penetrate the skin and pose health risks such as tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. Some may trigger allergic skin reactions.
So…if these high-SPF products were better at reducing skin damage and skin cancer risk, that extra chemical exposure might be justified, but as the increase in protection is negligible, choosing a sunscreen with a lower concentration of active ingredients – SPF 30 instead of SPF 70, for example, seems a sensible choice.
A super high SPF may also convince us that we are safe to stay in the sun for much longer than we should be.
For me personally, I will be going down the rout of a natural, zinc based sunscreen. I definitely don’t like the idea of slathering potentially toxic and damaging chemicals all over the little guy. For that matter, I don’t like the idea of any of my family relying on chemical sunscreens at all. It is time to give the mineral sunscreens another try. I will be heading to a shop to sample the following, Green People, Liz Earle and Aubrey Organics, all of which have some good reviews.
We all need some sun in our lives!
Don’t forget that the sun is not all bad…its vital in helping the body to produce vitamin D,which in turn helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which in turn gives us nice strong bones.
The NHS advise the following:
Short daily periods of sun exposure without sunscreen during the summer months (April to October) are enough for most people to make enough vitamin D. Evidence suggests that the most effective time of day for vitamin D production is between 11am and 3pm.
A short period in the sun means a matter of minutes – about 10 to 15 minutes for most people – and is less than the time it takes you to start going red or to burn. The larger the area of your skin that is exposed to sunlight, the more chance there is of making enough vitamin D before you start to burn.
Things to avoid:
Spray Sunscreens make it too easy to miss a spot or apply too little
Super-High SPFs have high chemical concentrations, protect well against UVB but less so against UVA
Oxybenzone penetrates the skin, is a hormone disruptor
Loose Powder Sunscreens respiratory irritant, no guarantee how much coverage you are getting
Retinyl Palmitate a form of vitamin A, breaks down in sunlight and accelerates sun damage
Combined Sunscreen/Bug Repellents increases absorption of repellents into the skin
Sunscreen Towelettes easy to under apply SPFs
Tanning Oils just BAD! Your poor crispy skin!
Hopefully this has taken some of the confusion out of sunscreens for you and your family. There are many unique properties that the different brands offer, but making a more natural choice seems like a step in the right direction.
- Some advice to bear in mind when selecting sunscreen: (organicready.org)
- Sunscreen tips for summer (wgno.com)
- Get Ready For The Sun & Summer With The Best Sunscreen You Can Pick Up! (thenew1037.cbslocal.com)