Naturally Safe in the Sun

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? It’s important to read the ingredient list carefully. Then find out more if necessary so you can make 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 applied to the skin has the potential to be absorbed and potentially risk our health. It’s important to know what 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. What is the difference between UV-B an UV-A rays?  All sunscreens protect against UV-B rays which cause sunburn. However, not all protect again UV-A rays which causes premature ageing of the skin. Recent studies have shown that UV-A radiation can play a role in gene mutations, which 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. It takes an average time of 8 minutes to burn without sunscreen. So an SPF30 sunscreen will protect for 30 x 8 minutes or 240 minutes (4 hours). A SPF15 sunscreens will protect for 15 x 8 minutes or 120 minutes (2 hours).

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. Look for 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. This allows the sunscreen to reaches each layer of the skin and provide 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 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.

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