There is clear evidence that exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) can lead to sunburn (sun damage), skin ageing, skin cancer and possibly eye damage. Australia is the skin cancer capital of the world! [1] There is no doubt we need to be more vigilant with sun protection but we also need to consider what we put on our skin and make sure that we aren’t blocking the skin’s ability to make vitamin D.

What is the UV index?

The UV index is a standard international measurement used to indicate strength of UVR during the day. There are parts of the day, which can expose a person to higher amount of radiation. An index of of 2 or less indicates that radiation is low and sun protection is not required. [2] The Cancer Council advises it is best to avoid the suns rays when they are at their peak usually from 10am -2pm. If in doubt you can read the daily index in the weather section of the newspaper or download the free App “Sunsmart”. An index 0f 3 and above requires sun protection. For best protection follow the following: Wear sun protective clothing and include sunglasses and a hat; try to stay in the shade and apply an appropriate sunscreen with high SPF factor 20 minutes before exposure.” A 15 SPF will block out 93.3 UVR; a 30 SPF will block out 96.7 UVR and 50 SPF will block 98 UVR. [2,3]

What about Vitamin D?

There needs to be a careful balance with sun exposure because the body needs Vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is made in the skin and slowly diffuses from the skin into the blood and delivered to various tissues of the body. [4] The active form of vitamin D is actually a hormone and involved in bone maintenance and production. It also plays a part in immunity. Deficiency is common and over 30% of Australians have inadequate levels. [6] Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Some autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis have been linked to inadequate vitamin D intake. [4,5] Other sources of vitamin D can be obtained from food sources such as liver, eggs, fatty fish, cheese, fortified foods and shitake mushrooms but are generally not adequate for good levels of vitamin D. [4,6] Vitamin D blood serum levels can be checked annually by your GP. If you are low your health practitioner can prescribe a supplement. Supplementation is well tolerated but correct dosage is necessary.

In the Australian summer a few minutes of mid-morning or mid afternoon sun exposure on the arms or legs is adequate for maintaining vitamin D levels in healthy individuals. Slightly higher exposure times are required in the winter depending on where you live in Australia and your skin type. Darker skinned people require longer exposure times. In Western Australia 2-3 hours per week is advised in the winter months of June-July. [6]

Chemical sunscreens vs. mineral based sunscreens

Little is known about what chemical blockers really do to our bodies but when it comes to sensitive skin mineral based sunscreens containing zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide are still a better option. chemical sunscreens absorb UVR while physical sunscreens reflect UVR. All sunscreens whether they are chemical, mineral or both must be listed with the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) for safety approval. Products using Nanoparticles are considered safe by the (TGA). [3]

We do not recommend sunscreens with potentially harmful chemicals such as artificial fragrance, Parabens, EDTA, PABA etc. Check the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website for more information on toxic chemicals in cosmetics.

Do you need a sunscreen in your makeup?

Some mineral makeup lines offer an SPF in their foundation. The sun factor may not be adequate for long exposures in the sun but it might be sufficient for short times in the sun i.e. walking to your car. You also need to reapply the makeup every 2 hours because the SPF sun protection wears off after this time.

If you need to wear makeup and you will expose your skin to the sun for a considerable period of time I recommend starting the day with a morning regime. Cleanse the face in the morning and follow with a daily moisturiser if required. Before applying makeup apply a sunscreen to the face and let it absorb into the skin for at least 8 minutes. Follow with liquid or powder foundation. For a natural look without foundation try a tinted moisturiser with sunscreen. For body application use 1 tsp sunscreen per limb, front and back and ½ tsp for ears, face neck.

What we recommend

  • Wotnot 30 SPF face. This sunscreen also acts like a primer and uses organic ingredients in its formulation and is also Vegan. Made in Australia.
  • Perfect Potion tinted moisturiser SPF 15 This is for a natural look (no foundation).  It smells wonderful and gives the skin a dewy complexion. It is certified organic and contains essential oil of lavender. This moisturiser comes in 2 tint colours and a patch test is recommended due to essential oil content.
  • Soleo Sunscreen SPF 30 is a great classic and can be used on the body and face. It is made in Australia and contains no preservatives. It does not contain certified organic ingredients.
  • Little Urchin SPF 30 is a lightweight, unscented formula and is safe enough for babies. It is readily absorbed and leaves the skin soft and silky. It does not contain certified organic ingredients.
  • Eco tan Coconut Sunscreen SPF 30 and Wotnot SPF 30 are Australian brands and use certified organic ingredients. You will need to rub these into the skin for a while. The Wotnot sunscreen is quite oily however great for dry, flaky skin.
  • UV natural- Vegan SPF 30+ is suitable for vegans. Most sunscreens use beeswax for water resistance.

 

When it comes to natural sunscreens you usually get what you pay for as far as quality ingredients. Always do a patch test on the inner part of the arm and let the sunscreen sit on the skin for at least 12 hours. Discontinue use if redness or itchiness occurs on the skin’s surface.

 

References:

  1. Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)[internet]. VIC: Australian Government; 2015. Sun Exposure and Health; 2015 [cited 2018 Jan 29]. Available from: https://www.arpansa.gov.au/sites/g/files/net3086/f/legacy/pubs/factsheets/SunExposureandHealth.pdf
  2. Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)[internet]. VIC: Australian Government; 2015. Sun Protection using Sunscreens; 2015 [cited 2018 Jan 29]. Available from: https://www.arpansa.gov.au/sites/g/files/net3086/f/legacy/pubs/factsheets/SunProtectionUsingSunscreens.pdf
  3. Cancer Council Australia[internet]. Australia: Cancer Council; 2016. Sun Safety; 2016[cited 2018 Jan 29] Available from: https://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/sun-protection/
  1. Gropper SS, Smith JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 6th ed. USA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning; 2013. 586p.
  2. Rolfes SR, Pinna K, Whitney E. Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition. 9thed. USA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning; 2012. 891p.
  3. Osteoporosis Australia[internet]. Australia: Osteoporosis Australia Medical & Scientific Advisory Committee; 2017 [cited 2018 Jan 28] Available from: https://www.osteoporosis.org.au/vitamin-d