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Getting set for summer?
Already starting to think about stocking up on sun protection for you and your family?
I’d love you to read this post about sun protection and think about maybe changing the products you use.
Firstly to make sure you are doing the best thing you can to protect your skin and the skin of your family – I’ve added a quick primer at the end of the post on applying sun screen the right way.
But also so you can help protect marine life.
Yes, that’s right.
To help protect marine life.
Read on to find out more…
Marine life and coral needs our help
So, I’m guessing you regularly slather sun protection on yourself and your family?
Which you are doing to to ensure safety in the sun.
But do you know that if you choose more ‘user-friendly’ chemical based sun protection, you are contributing to damage being done to coral and marine life?
Octinoxate and oxybenzone, two chemicals commonly used in sun creams, have been linked to coral bleaching and damage to marine life.
In 2018 the State of Hawaii has become the first place to ban the use of both chemicals.
This moves comes following a 2015 report that links both octinoxate and oxybenzone to coral bleaching and damage to marine life when they are washed off of our skin and into the sea.
There is an estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen ending up in the sea every year.
So you can imagine just how much damage this wreaks on marine life and coral.
The ban has led to calls for sun protection manufacturers to find alternatives to the chemicals they currently use to protect skin from UVA.
In much the same vein as the ban on microbeads that came into effect in the UK in 2018, perhaps we all now need to focus on making the switch from chemical to mineral sun protection cream.
What is chemical sun protection?
Chemical sunscreens such as octinoxate, oxybenzone, octisalate and avobenzone work by deactivating harmful UV rays.
Chemical sun protection chemicals have become popular not only for their effectiveness, but because they are fast absorbing and are clear in colour – so don’t leave a horrid white film on often already pale skin.
And mineral sun protection?
Mineral sun protection, often using titanium dioxide and zinc dioxide, works by reflecting UV rays.
Unfortunately, to date, the minerals tend to be stickier and leave a chalky, white film on the skin.
Highly unappealing – particularly to the likes of me, with my already pale skin.
But things are changing….
New mineral protection formulations
Now there is an increased concern around the use of chemical sun protection and its effects on coral and marine life, the beauty industry is working on more sophisticated sun protection formulations.
The big focus is on formulations that contain smaller particles that don’t leave a residue.
French beauty brand Avène is one brand that has created a mineral sun protection cream that gives great protection as well as looking and feeling good on the skin.
There are other brands out there as well.
Epionce Ultra Shield Lotion SPF 50 is a water-resistant, paraben-free sun protection cream.
But my go-to brand for mineral sun protection is Sun Sense.
Sun Sense is an Australian company, which I think gives it super credentials, as the Australians are way ahead of us on protecting skin from the sun.
I first discovered Sun Sense when M was a baby. It was the only non-gunky sun protection that didn’t cost a total fortune and didn’t just create a big mess.
These days I go for big bottles of Sun Sense Ultra SPF 50 , I tend to buy it from Amazon, but I also look out for special offers at chemists and department stores – John Lewis is my top tip for UK readers .
Sun Sense Ultra 50 | Amazon
Stay protected in a safe way for you and your family
Whilst we’re on the subject of protecting our skin from the sun… are you one of the 80% of us don’t apply sun protection properly?
I know I am.
I get lazy, I make excuses, I get tired of the feeling of an extra product on my skin.
I’m much better when it comes to looking after M’s skin.
But I could do better all round.
So this potential ban of chemical sun protection serves as a wake up call to us about what we are doing to our skin, the skin of our children and to our planet.
The right way to protect skin from the sun
1. Know what you’re protecting your skin from
You need to protect skin from UV rays.
UV rays are what cause skin damage and both are linked to skin cancer.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are responsible for skin reddening and sunburn.
UVB is also the main cause for skin cancer .
Plus UVB causes premature ageing.
These rays vary in strength depending on location, the time of day and the time of year.
Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays are the rays that penetrate deeper into skin and are responsible for tanning.
UVA rays also cause premature ageing – lines, wrinkles etc.
These rays are fairly consistent all year round and at any time of the day.
2. Buy the right kind of sun protection
Other than making a commitment to buy mineral sunscreens over chemical sunscreens…
You should look for a broad spectrum sun protection, one that protects you against both UVA and UVB rays.
3. Choose an appropriate SPF for your skin type
SPF relates to the amount of protection you will get from UVB rays.
It can be as little as SPF2 and go right up to SPF100+.
The higher the SPF number, the stronger the protection.
In short, the SPF tells you how much longer your skin will take to go red in reaction to UVB rays, compared to if you weren’t using any SPF.
So, if you have skin like mine, that will burn in around 5 minutes (lucky, lucky you!), then an SPF50 will protect you 50 times that five minutes. So it will give you around 4 hours in the sun before you start looking like a lobster.
4. Make sure there is UVA protection too
Alongside an SPF rating, sunscreens are also rated for their level of UVA protection.
If you’re within the EU (European Union), look out for ‘UVA’ inside a circle.
This is confirmation that the UVA protection in the product is at least one third of its SPF value, which means the product reaches minimum EU recommendations.
When you see “UVA” inside a circle, it’s confirming the UVA protection you’ve bought is at least one third of the SPF value and therefore meets EU recommendations.
A number of products also display a star rating or display it instead.
The star rating goes from 1 star to five stars, the more stars, the more protection.
The star system actually requires a higher minimum level of protection that the EU recommendations
5. Make sure to use enough sun screen each time you apply it
There is a good rule of thumb you can remember…
Use the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of sun protection per body part that is going to be exposed to the sun.
Simply put, if you don’t use enough, your level of protection is reduced.
6. Apply BEFORE you go outside
Always apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside.
You should also top up just before you go out.
7. Make sure to reapply regularly
You should reapply sun protection every two hours that you are in the sunshine.
You should also reapply sun protection immediately after you’ve been swimming – even if the protection is water-proof or resistant.
You should also make sure to reapply if you’ve been sweating.
8. Special tips for babies and kids
The advice is that babies under six months old should be kept out of direct and strong sunlight altogether.
Keep them in the shade and make sure they have a hat on and long-sleeved clothing.
Over six months, still take care to cover up the skin of older babies and children.
Keep them out of the sun altogether from 11am until 3pm.
Use a minimum of SPF30 on their skin.
I hope that this posts serves as useful both for ensuring that your skin and the skin of your family is kept safe from the harmful rays of the sun this summer.
I also hope you’ll have a think about making the switch to mineral sun protection over chemical protection.
This post is part of my Green Living series, which focuses on how we can all live in a more environmentally friendly way. I’ve also recently launched a Zero Waste series within this series of posts, focusing specifically on how we can all move towards living a zero waste lifestyle.