Sunshine filled days, soaking up the crucial Vitamin D, but keeping everyone's skin safe whilst enjoying the outdoors requires some thought, and knowing the simple difference between sunscreens and how they work.
The government guidelines on the importance of Vitamin D, supplementing, and skin exposure to sunlight can be read in full, they state that "10-15 minutes (for light skinned individuals) between 11am - 3pm from March to October, and less than the time it takes to turn red" is adequate exposure to ensure Vitamin D production.
After that we need to make sure we protect our skin from the UV A + B rays that can cause damage, particularly for young skins.
The myriad of sun creams on offer can be impossible to navigate, with so many unknown ingredients and a need to effectively protect ourselves and our children as so critical. So which to use, what to look out for and what to avoid?
It is, happily, simpler than it looks. There are two mechanisms for preventing the UV rays from damaging us. Chemical and Mineral.
- A chemical combination of active ingredients that absorb the UVA and B on the skin surface, by converting them to heat.
- The mineral options that are a physical protection by blocking the rays. Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide.
"Chemical sunscreens acts like a sponge while the physical sunscreens acts like a wall,” says New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Tabasum Mir.
The minerals Zinc oxide and Titanium Dioxide are the necessary ingredients included in sunscreen as the barrier, but some sunscreens use a combination of these and other chemicals, that may have unwanted side effects on the wearer as well as the world around.
For all sensitive skins, mineral options are recommended to prevent reactions.
Growing up I suffered badly from prickly heat, and I have since discovered that the very action of the chemicals absorbing the UV was heating up the surface layer of skin and creating this reaction. Since using mineral SPF any heat rash or bumps are gone.
The EWG's 2020 report on sunscreen cited only zinc and titanium as ingredients that are both safe and effective in sun protection.
The ingredients used to create the chemical protection from UV rays are often cited as "potentially harmful" with tests on the safety of many found to be allergenic, hormone disrupters, and readily absorbed into the blood stream such as oxybenzone, which is highlighted below.
CHEMICALS AND CORAL REEF
Another reason if you need one to think about the ingredients in your skincare, is the damage some of these suncream chemicals can inflict on marine life, coral reefs, from oxybenzone to the nano-titanium dioxide as well.
Using a chemical suncream requires you to put it on up approx 30 minutes before sun exposure in order for it to be effective, whereas mineral sunscreen, as a barrier, is effective immediately, a huge plus for me when covering three small, reluctant children.
NANO vs NON NANO
As the mineral sunscreen market gained momentum in recent years (having been ousted from popularity in the 70s by the chemical versions ironically considered progress) consumers wanted less whiteness, so brands created zinc and titanium formulas with smaller particles, the "nano" particles. However, there is concern that these particles are small enough to be absorbed, and therefore pose another potential threat.
TOP OF THE POPS
I discovered mineral sunscreens when looking into them for my children 13 years ago, and since using only physical sun blocks, of various brands and types, I have road tested many and these are the ones that past the test of being easy to rub in, good coverage, nice texture without creating a chalky child.
My favourite from a New York brand I love, Zinc based, non-nano, that works, rubs in and doesn't chalk you up:
Green People are a great organic skincare brand and this is a decent SPF.
The same make with their 'summer scent' which I know lots prefer to plain.
And a spray version for speed and accuracy (the inhalation worries on sprays I've looked into - I spray into my hand and then apply or enforce closed mouths on everyone).
For all over, another non-nano that doesn't streak and chalk and is my favourite all rounder.
My all time top skincare product. This is worth the investment, it is my daytime moisturiser, light enough for hot days but full of nourishment, has a lovely tint that is enough coverage to feel sparkly, and has the SPF to keep you protected.
A perfect handbag handy tube for the extra sensitive.
To save your face from any sun, cover up and naturally glow and tan with these lovely drops that you can mix with your face oil or moisturiser to gradually build up:
LIPS, STICKS & BLOCKS
Keep this in my handbag for cheekbones, ridges of noses, and anywhere that might need extra coverage, with a beautiful skin toned sheer finish it's a cover up in one.
Nourishing and hydrating are so important after exposure to the sunshine, not just to soothe overdone skin. These are my favourites for replenishing what you need to.
A non sticky Aloe gel that is soothing and hydrating:
INGREDIENTS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
Oxybenzone, as shown here to be the most highly absorbed in tot he blood stream, has been flagged by many studies as posing the greatest risks, which has been found by the American Association of Pediatrics to pose a hormonal risk to children, as well as being harmful to sea life and coral.