Stay sun smart this summer with natural sunscreen.  

Sunscreens are an essential part of sun safety, but did you know some sunscreens have the potential to be harmful? Therefore it’s important to know what is in your sunscreen by reading the ingredients carefully, finding out more if necessary and making an informed choice for you and your family.

WHY USE NATURAL SUNSCREEN?

Our skin is our largest organ and what we put on it and how we protect it is crucial. Sunscreens protect the skin from burning by either absorbing the harmful rays or reflecting them from the skin. Many mainstream sun protection products use chemicals to prevent harmful UVA and UVB rays from penetrating the skin. Most natural sunscreens create a natural mineral barrier on the skin to minimise the impact of UV light penetration. Anything we put on our skin has the potential to be absorbed and potentially risk the health of our bodies, therefore it’s important to know what these ingredients are and what effects they may have.

WHAT IS BROAD SPECTRUM AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Broad spectrum refers to the range of UV protection the sunscreen offers and includes protection against UV-B as well as UV-A.  All sunscreens protect against UV-B rays which cause sunburn however not all protect again UV-A which causes premature ageing of the skin. Recent studies have shown that UV-A radiation plays a large role in causing gene mutations that can lead to skin cancer.  

WHAT DOES SPF MEAN?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF numbers are an approximate indication of how much protection the product will provide your skin.  Skin starts to burn after 5 to 10 minutes in the sun. Sunscreen extends that time by a multiple of the SPF e.g if we use an average time of 8 minutes to burn without sunscreen then: SPF30 sunscreens will protect for 30 x 8 minutes or 240 minutes (4 hours) or

SPF15 sunscreens will protect for 15 x 8 minutes or 120 minutes (2 hours).

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO AVOID CHEMICAL UV-ABSORBERS?

Some UV-absorbing chemicals used in sunscreens can be a health risk. Some chemicals cause skin sensitivity and others produce free radicals when exposed to UV light, promote the skin absorption of other chemicals or act as endocrine disruptors. Research has shown these are a few ingredients to avoid: Titanium Dioxide which can cause DNA damage; Octyl-methoxycinnamate (used in 80-90% of sunscreens) which produces free radicals and have shown estrogenic effects, making cancer cells grow more rapidly and triggered developmental abnormalities; and Benzophenone-3/Oxybenzone which inactivates antioxidant systems in the skin (the skin’s natural protection system) and allows chemical absorption through the skin surface. Find out more at www.nano.foe.org.au or www.soleoorganics.com

WHAT ARE NANOPARTICALS AND WHY SHOULD THEY BE AVOIDED?

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are common sunscreen ingredients that reflect UV light. When these are left as large particle sizes, it leaves a white film on the skin. So to avoid this, the particles are ground down to an extremely small ‘nano’ size, where they become clear.  However, these nanoparticles can cause health problems when inhaled, eaten or absorbed through the skin. Research has shown that nanoparticles can produce free radicals and damage DNA, especially when exposed to UV light. So rather than offering sun protection, they can actually result in serious damage. Currently, NZ regulation does not require companies to label nano-ingredients, therefore to be safe, choose a sunscreen that is specifically labelled ‘nano’ free.

OTHER TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE IN THE SUN

  • Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going out in the sun so that is reaches each layer of the skin, providing maximum protection.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after swimming, towel drying or perspiring.
  • Keep covered with protective clothing, hats and eyewear.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, or if possible, stay out of the sun from 11-4pm when the sun is most intense.
  • Stay hydrated, especially in hot weather.  
  • If you do get burnt, apply aloe vera gel and continue to drink plenty of water.