Calculating your sun protection period

Posted on: 9th June, 2017

Category: Health

Contributor: Hannah Dare

What an amazing start to our summer this year – a sizzling heat wave in May! I thought this month I would take a look at the difference between natural and chemical sunscreens, because I think it’s good to be informed about what you are putting on your skin and the skin of your precious children. Cheap sunscreen may mean you don’t burn in the short term, but it’s long-term good health we are interested in and the cocktail of chemicals they contain are very concerning.

I also came across a handy way of calculating how long you can stay in the sun both with and without sunscreen depending on the factor you have chosen.

I have one child with sensitive white skin and one who tans, and I take care of them accordingly. I personally like to make sure they get some sunshine without sunscreen, to make sure their vitamin D level stays adequate, because we all know now that if we slip slap slop too much we end up with vitamin D deficiency, which can lead to all manner of problems. In an ideal world, the best way to avoid sunburn is to cover up, wear hats/long sleeves, and be respectful of your skin and how much sunshine you can tolerate. However, if you are planning a family day at the beach you will need a good sunscreen to make sure no one burns.

Generally, high factor suncreams mean lots of chemicals so I tend to avoid them.

Lavera, a company who make a good range of natural skincare products, have some interesting information about the damage caused by chemical sunscreens on their blog:  ‘scientific studies by Switzerland’s of Pharmacology and Toxicology, conducted in 2001, proved a link between synthetic sunscreens and hormonal disturbances in the body. The chemical compounds in synthetic sunscreens have been found to accumulate in body fats and in breast milk, and, by mimicking the effects of estrogen, can induce undesirable hormonal changes’.

Because of information like this I always chose a natural sunscreen. This generally means a cream that uses safe, natural minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect the sun’s rays from your skin. Natural sunscreens use mainly mineral blockers, which means, as the strength goes up, the cream gets quite white, because they are using small particles to deflect the sun’s rays. One of the many benefits to using a cream like this is you don’t have to wait for it to start working – natural sunscreens using mineral blockers are effective immediately, which is great for unpredictable Irish weather!

There are a few good natural sunscreen ranges available; in Organico we particularly like Green People, Lavera and Organyii.

Green People are a UK-based company and they use natural ingredients in their sunscreens, including Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide, both naturally derived minerals, which reflect harmful UV rays away from the skin. They also use cinnamic acid esters (natural plant acids), which absorb UV rays to reduce their impact on the skin. Other key ingredients include Edelweiss, a plant with natural UV protective properties, as well as antioxidant-rich Green Tea and Rosemary to reduce free radical damage caused by sunlight.

Lavera are a German company who developed a natural, mineral-based sun protection product back in 1990; it was one of the first mineral sunblocks to ever hit the market. Since then, the brand – with its many years of expertise in mineral-based sun protection – has stood for products with effective, nourishing formulas. They have a guide to help you work out how long you can stay in the sun safely both with and without sunscreen.

According to Lavera, our skin has its own natural protective barrier against the sun that lasts for varying periods, depending on skin type. During this time, we can be out in the sun without any damage to our skin such as a sunburn. In the latitude where we live, skin types can be broken down into four categories. Each skin type can be out in the sun for a certain period without damage. The following formula can help you figure out how to responsibly manage your exposure to the sun:

Skin’s natural protection time x sun protection factor equals the Amount of time you can spend in the sun.

Skin type 1

Generally has very pale skin with freckles, usually blue eyes and reddish or light blond hair. Sunburn usually sets in for people with this skin type after just five to 10 minutes in the midday sun.

Time in Sun Approx. 10 min. x SPF 20 = 200 min. = 3 hours and 20 minutes that can be spent in the sun. The skins own protective barrier is used up for the day. For this reason, even if you use some form of sun protection, you should still avoid prolonged exposure to the sun if you want to have healthy skin. Also you should reapply sunscreen after being in the water or sweating a lot.

Skin type 2

Can tan moderately, but has light skin and grey, green or blue eyes with blond or dark blond hair. People with this skin type begin to develop a sunburn after approximately 10 to 20 minutes if they are not accustomed to being in the sun.

Time in Sun Approx 20 min. X SPF 20 = 400 minutes = 6 Hours 66 Minutes

Skin type 3

Tans progressively, usually has light blond or light brown hair and grey or brown eyes. People with this skin type can stay in the sun for approximately 30 minutes before sunburn sets in.

Time in Sun Approx 30 min. X SPF 20 = 600 minutes = 10 Hours

Skin type 4

Naturally tan skin that generally protects from sunburn; usually has dark hair and brown eyes. Tans very quickly. When sunbathing, skin begins to turn red after approximately 40 minutes at the earliest.

Time in Sun Approx 40 min. X SPF 20 = 800 minutes = over 12 hours (we should be so lucky!)

As you can see, if you aren’t skin type 1 you are pretty well protected with factor 20 and don’t really need the higher factors unless you are going sailing or something similar where the reflection from the water messes with these calculations.

If you do get too much sun, Aloe Vera is the most natural choice; you can add it to a bath, as well as using it as an aftersun. The real plant is the best, but most good Health Stores have Aloe Gel for sale – I would always look for a pure Aloe Gel with 99.9 per cent Aloe gel rather than a gel that has had lots of additives, as some brands can be mainly water and chemicals rather than pure aloe. A nice After Sun is also a good idea – the natural ones contain healing plant extracts to speed up recovery.

Finally, if you are outside a lot and are applying layer upon layer of suncream, make sure to do a deep cleanse every few days as your pores can easily become clogged, which can lead to complications like rashes and irritation. For your face, a gentle scrub is perfect for this, for example Dr Hauschka’s Cleansing Cream, which is made from ground almonds and when mixed with a little water forms a soft paste that will gently de-clog your pores and leave your skin radiant and grime-free. And for your body, a good all body scrub is the new Trilogy Exfoliating Body Balm – use it in the bath or shower to get rid of dirt and sun cream and give your skin a silky glow. All you will need to finish is a little body oil – and luckily there’s a great Trilogy Offer on in Organico at the moment – if you buy any two products you get a free full size Pure Plant Body Oil, which comes in a really handy pump bottle and provides all over nourishment with rosehip, sweet almond and apricot oils.

Organico Shop, Cafe and Bakery is open from Monday to Saturday from 9am – 6.15pm. Find us on Facebook (Organico Bantry) or online at www.organico.ie. Call us on (027) 51391. Email info@organico.ie. Or better still visit us on Glengarriff Road, Bantry. See you soon!

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