Safe Sunscreen and Sun Protection : Your Questions Answered

Hi Sweet Friends,

I love summer. Bare feet. Swimming holes. Veggie gardening. And the soul-warming sun. In my earlier days, I had a dangerous love affair with those radiant rays. Sunscreen? Yeah, right. Nothing was going to stand between me, my baby oil, a Body Glove surfer bikini and a golden tan (or rather, a lobster-red sunburn!).
Today, I’m much wiser, but not just about the importance of wearing sunscreen. I’m also aware that we all need to be savvy consumers when choosing a non-toxic brand of sunscreen.

When it comes to sun exposure and protection, there are a lot of questions to answer. How much sun-basking is too much? Are there benefits to not wearing sunscreen sometimes? What kind of protection does sunscreen provide? How do I choose the safest and most effective brand? And what ingredients should I avoid?

Hold onto your sun hats, folks. It’s time to answer these questions and many more.

What are the pros and cons of sun exposure?
Pro: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential hormone for healthy bones, immune function and blood cell formation. Luckily, your body produces vitamin D every time you step into the sunlight. Easy, right? Just keep in mind that you don’t need much unprotected sun exposure to meet your needs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 5-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure a few times a week is all that’s required to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. Use the tips at the end of this blog to protect your skin the rest of the time.

Cons: Skin Damage & Skin Cancer
Ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) are the two types of sun rays that travel through the earth’s atmosphere and shine directly on your purdy skin. We just learned that a little unprotected fun in the sun is good for you, but what about longer stretches of time? UVA and UVB rays are responsible for the golden tan so many people try to attain each year. You might think that this sun-kissed tone is healthy. Think again. When your skin darkens, it’s actually a warning sign that your body is trying to prevent further DNA damage. This is just one example of the ways UVA and UVB impact your health. Let’s explore the difference between the two, so that we know why it’s important to protect our skin from both.

UVA rays penetrate beneath the top layer of your skin. They’re mostly to blame for wrinkles, leathery skin, sagging and sun spots. These stealth ninjas can bust through clouds on a gloomy day, seep through your car windows, and they can even sneak through some clothing. Although UVA rays are less likely to give you a sunburn, they’re still linked to increasing your risk of skin cancer because they can damage your basal and squamous skin cells.

UVB rays impact the top layer of your skin. They’re the main contributor to skin cancer and your worst enemy when it comes to sunburns. UVB rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm, especially during the summer months. Clearly UVA and UVB rays are nothing to take lightly.

How well does sunscreen protect your skin?
If you’re relying on that bottle of sunscreen to protect you from all the risks of sun exposure, you’re not seeing the big picture. Sun protection is two-fold. Safe sunscreen plus safe sun habits. Sunscreen isn’t a magic bullet and when you throw human error into the mix, its effectiveness gets even more dicey. It’s still very important, but slathering some on once a day doesn’t give you a free pass.

What do the letters and numbers mean on sunscreen bottles?
Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
SPF only protects you from sunburn (UVB rays). When you see the SPF number on a bottle, think of it as a measure of time. The math is pretty simple. If your skin would typically burn after 10 minutes in the sun, a sunscreen with SPF 15 should allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer (150 minutes) before your skin would start to burn. But that number doesn’t take your activities into account. Sweating, swimming and other physical exercise can lower the effectiveness of your sunscreen’s SPF, which means you may need to apply it more often.
Why use a SPF15 rather than SPF 30 or SPF 50?
SPF15 has far less a chemical load (sunscreening chemicals) than the 'higher' SPFs
SPF15 gives virtually the same amount of sun protection as 'higher' SPFs right up to the 2 hour time limit when all sunscreens must be reapplied.


How to have a healthy relationship with the sun
Now that you’re a sun aficionado, here are five steps to creating a comprehensive sun protection plan without sacrificing the benefits and joy those radical rays offer us each day.
1. Get your D. Spend 5-15 minutes in the sun (sans sunscreen) a few times per week to meet your vitamin D needs.
2. Buy safer sunscreen, look for broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) coverage and a SPF of at least 15. 
3. Use sunscreen responsibly. Apply the recommended amount (usually about 1 shot glass) 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply according to the SPF or even more often if you are sweating or swimming.
4. Cover up! The best protection from the sun is complete protection. Hats, clothing, a shady tree or an umbrella are some of the easiest ways to help prevent sun damage.
5. Always be prepared. Carry sun protection and sunscreen with you at all times. You never know when you or your children will need it.
Now, go have a blast this summer — just be smart about it!
By Kris Carr - Cancer Surviver

Should I Wear Sunscreen In Winter?

Not only sun but also our skin follows the season. In summer, skin is tanned, in winter it is usually more pale and dry than compared to summer time. Therefore you also have to adapt your caring routine to season.

First of all, skin in winter needs care: cold air and also heating in rooms stresses and dries out skin. But also, depending on your outdoor activity and surroundings, sun protection might be necessary: winter skin is more sensitive to sun than tanned summer skin. This is due to the fact that the skin is not used anymore to UV radiation and melanin concentration is reduced. Melanin is the skin´s own pigment and responsible for the pigmentation (tan) of skin. The tan is built in response to UV light to protect the skin cells against damaging UV radiation. UVA radiation is the major trigger of skin ageing and UVB radiation causes sunburn. Due to less UV radiation in winter time, skin produces less melanin and consequently, the skin is not only less tanned, but also more sensitive to UV radiation when it comes to a day with a lot of sunshine.

Winter skin is more sensitive to sun than tanned summer skin.

This is especially true when we think of skiing holidays in the mountains. UV radiation is strong in mountains as snow and ice reflect UV radiation, so that intensity can be increased by 80-90 per cent. Additionally, intensity increases with height. In total sun stress in winter in mountains becomes comparable to a summer day at the beach. This is why your skin is very prone to sunburn when you do skiing. Even on a cloudy day, the UV intensity might be enough to damage your skin and you should think about your winter sun protection.

Sun stress in winter in the mountains becomes comparable to a summer day at the beach.

For winter sunshine (especially if you’re skiing), we recommend the following:

Apply sunscreen on all exposed areas such as face, hands and especially nose and ears. If you do a walk on a cloudy day, even then sunscreen might be necessary if you are in a snowy landscape.

The higher you are the more protected you need to be as UV intensity increases with height.

Protect your eyes, not only does skin need protection but eyes too are sensitive to UV radiation and need protection. Snow reflects the bright light and fog scatters light at its fine water drops. Your sunglasses should deliver UVA and UVB protection and are essential when you go skiing. Like skin, eyes do not forget too much sun.

Care for your lips Especially in winter, our sensitive lips dry out easily. As lips are not able to produce melanin, they can´t protect themselves against sun. Therefore, you should apply a caring lip product with high sun protection. This also helps to avoid cold sore infection which is triggered by the first strong UV radiation in the year.

Lips are not able to produce melanin so they cannot protect themselves against sun.

After a day in the winter sun, your skin needs regeneration as cold temperatures and heating dry out skin. A rich caring cream not only replenishes moisture, it also prevents dehydration due its content of nourishing oils.
Our Almond & Calendula Body Butter is great after sun exposure, containing ingredients which are regenerating, healing and soothing so perfectly suitable for sensitive skin.

Sun protection should be a habitual part of the daily routine and ideally it should be practiced all year round.

Sunlight contains a spectrum of wavelengths, including visible and invisible light. Ultraviolet light forms part of the invisible spectrum of which, UVA and UVB reach the earth surface. UVA forms the majority of UV light and contributes to skin ageing and the development of skin cancer as it penetrates deeper into the skin (the main UV rays emitted by sunbeds). It has a consistent intensity throughout the day, all year round and can penetrate through cloud and glass.

UVA light and contributes to skin ageing and is present all year round and can penetrate through cloud and glass – it doesn’t even show up as sunburn.

UVB light is more intense and leads to the redness and sunburn that is indicative of some degree of DNA damage which in turn can potentially lead to genetic mutations and skin cancers. Its highest intensity is between 10am-4pm April-October. UV light also reduces the immunity in the skin and this can explain why, for example, some are prone to getting cold sores on sun exposure.

Therefore during winter, sun protection should still be practiced as clouds do not stop the penetration of UV light. You might get caught out on breezy ‘bright days’ when it doesn’t feel particularly warm but the UV index is still high and can still lead to skin damage.

The harmful effects of UV rays are cumulative and their longterm and irreversible effects might not be appreciated until many years later. These include increased skin ageing with reduced elasticity and wrinkle formation. It often leads to uneven pigmentation and lentigos (sun spots) as well as dark pigmentation over the forehead and cheeks (melasma). It can also lead to more visible ‘pores’ and can aggravate conditions such as rosacea. With significant sun damage premalignant crusty lesions (known as actinic keratosis) and atypical moles can appear that can potentially progress to skin cancers.
By Dr. Frank Schwanke

The Basics of Sun Safety for Kids

Just one blistering sunburn in childhood can double your little one's lifetime risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Young, sensitive skin is especially vulnerable to damaging rays, so protect your child by being sun-care savvy.
Childhood and adolescence are critical periods during which exposure to UV radiation is more likely to contribute to skin cancer in later life.
Parents have an important role to ensure their children establish healthy sun protection habits during the early years. Research into the effectiveness of role modelling shows us that adopting sun protective behaviours yourself means your children will be more likely to do the same.
Infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun. Their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. An infant's skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives colour to skin, hair and eyes and provides some sun protection. Therefore, babies are especially susceptible to the sun's damaging effects.
Seek shade. UV rays are strongest and most harmful during midday, so it’s best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, seek shade under a tree, an umbrella, or a pop-up tent. Use these options to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it’s happened.
Cover up. When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.

Get a hat. Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and give great protection. Baseball caps are popular among kids, but they don’t protect their ears and neck. If your child chooses a cap, be sure to protect exposed areas with sunscreen.
Wear sunglasses. They protect your child’s eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.

Apply sunscreen. Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB protection, for the best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don’t forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet.
Take sunscreen with you to reapply during the day, especially after your child swims or exercises. This applies to waterproof and water-resistant products as well.

Keep in mind, sunscreen is not meant to allow kids to spend more time in the sun than they would otherwise. Try combining sunscreen with other options to prevent UV damage.

Turning pink? Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your child’s skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning. To prevent further burning, get your child out of the sun.

Tan? There’s no other way to say it—tanned skin is damaged skin. Any change in the color of your child’s skin after time outside—whether sunburn or suntan—indicates damage from UV rays.

Cool and cloudy? Children still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them—and sometimes only slightly.



Research Shows Sun Damage is Much More Harmful to Children

It's summertime again. In addition to all the fun, you also have to remember safety, sunburns in particular. 
We all know a sunburn is pretty much where your skin gets all nice and red when you stay in the sun too long. But what exactly is a sunburn? Well, it's actually your skin reacting to ultraviolet rays of the sun. People get burned many times and don't seem to learn sometimes that they need to wear sunscreen. Unfortunately, the symptoms of a sunburn didn't really begin until about two to four hours after the sun damage has already been done. Minor sunburn is actually a first-degree burn. It just turns your skin pink or red. But prolonged sun exposure can actually cause a second-degree burn. That's when you get the blisters on your skin and you get the skin peeling and it looks all gross for a couple weeks.

A sunburn never really causes a third-degree burn or scarring, but you really don't even want the second-degree burns. Because the more sunburns you have, especially as a child, increases your risk of skin cancer in the damaged area. Kids don't get skin cancer that much unless they're using tanning beds. But the damage that causes skin cancer in adults starts in childhood.

What happens if your child happens to get a sunburn? The first thing they're going to complain about is it hurts. The pain from the sunburn will probably last about 48 hours. You can put the Aloe Vera on it really helps cool down the burn and it actually moisturizes the skin. Our Almond & Calendula Body Butter is great after sun exposure, containing ingredients which are regenerating, healing and soothing so perfectly suitable for sensitive skin.
Taking a cool bath will also help. Showers are usually too painful if your sunburns is really bad, so a bath is better. Your child should also drink extra water to replace the fluid lost in the swelling of sunburn skin. That will also prevent dehydration and dizziness.

If your child has a second-degree sunburn, the peeling usually starts in about a week. You can just put some good moisturizing cream on the peeling parts. If your child does blister with that second-degree sunburn, trim off the dead skin around the broken blisters with small scissors then apply antibiotic ointment to it. Do that about twice a day for three days. Now, if your child has blisters, do not pop them. Your blisters are actually protecting the new skin that forms underneath the blister. So keep that blister intact if you can.

Don't put any sort of butter on a sunburn. That's really kind of painful and it doesn't really help. Definitely, don't buy those first aid creams or sprays for sunburn. They contain benzocaine. That's related to the medicine that the dentist injects into your gums when you're having a tooth worked on. It can actually cause allergic rashes.

You know what to do if your child gets a sunburn, but how can you prevent a sunburn from starting in the first place? The first thing you need to do is put on a good sunscreen 30 minutes before your child is going to be outdoors. It takes that long for the sunscreen to really start working. Also, don't forget to protect your face. Wear a hat with a brim on it. Be a good example, use sunscreen yourself.

Some kids are more at risk of sunburns than others. About 15% of Caucasian children will have skin that never tans, only burns. Those kids need to be extra careful with the sun. They usually will have blond hair, blue or green eyes, freckles. Be very careful with them. For babies, the skin of babies is thinner than the skin of older children and more sensitive to the sun. In fact, for babies under six months old, their skin isn't even fully developed yet, so sunscreen is not really safe for them. Babies under six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight.

What about tanning? Teenagers want that Bain de Soleil tan. It's not really cool to go into a tanning booth. You think the suns rays cause cancer? Tanning booths even more so. If your child really wants a sun tan, go use the spray tans, not the tanning beds. The spray tans have come a long way. They don't have the streaks that they used to. They really are more beneficial for you than being out in ultraviolet light.

Avoid exposure to the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. because that's when the suns rays are most intense. Don't let those overcast days fool you. Over 70% of the suns rays still get through the clouds and 30% of the suns rays can also penetrate loosely woven fabrics like T-shirts. They do make some shirts, especially like, swim shirts, sport shirts that actually are more tightly woven and they actually do provide UV protection.

Be especially careful about exposure to the sun at high altitudes because the sun exposure increases 4% for every 1000 feet of elevation above sea level. Don't forget your eyes, nose and lips. Protect your child's eyes from the sun with that hat that I mentioned. Don't forget sunglasses and use a lip balm that contains sunscreen.

Again, if your child is going to avoid a sunburn this year, you want to make sure you apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before they go out to give it time to penetrate into the skin. Remember your eyes, nose and ears and cheeks and all those little areas that you're not going to be necessarily applying sunscreen to. You also want to be sure to put a whole palm full of lotion on. 
Please remember, all sunscreen, no matter what the SPF must be reapplied every two hours.
Use caution when you're out in the sun this summer to avoid getting burned.
Dr. Cindy Gellner - University of Utah