How to be safe in the sun
Summer is finally here and as we see (hopefully!) more sunshine in the UK or you might be planning a trip abroad, please remember sensible sun safety for all the family!
Conventional advice often cites that any sun exposure is dangerous and recommends the regular application of sunscreen - if you do choose to use sunscreen then remember:
- Make sure sunscreen labels have the letters ‘UVA’ in a circle logo and at least 4-star UVA protection
- You need minimum SPF30 sunscreen to protect your skin against UVB radiation
- Don’t use old sunscreen that has passed its expiry date
- Bear in mind that a 2014 review* of over 2000 sunscreens across 257 brands found that more than 75% of the sunscreens contained toxic chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer and other health issues - in addition many were ineffective, particularly against UVA
What we at The Bagnall Centre think about how you can be safe in the sun:
- Unprotected mild sun exposure (around 20 minutes) is good for you because it allows you to generate Vitamin D3 - one of most researched nutrients over the past 5 years which has been shown to naturally help boost the immune system, help fight cancer and improve mood. A deficiency in Vitamin D3 is being linked to a wide range of chronic health problems
- There is also evidence that exposure to sunlight helps to balance circadian rhythms, reduce pain and increase evening alertness
- Don’t stay in the sun longer than you would without sunscreen
- Build your exposure slowly & regularly, avoid burning & particularly do not expose fair skin to bright sunshine
- Cover up in direct sunlight with light fabric long sleeves/trousers and hats
- Keep to the shade between 11am and 3pm (when the sun is hottest)
- Take particular care with facial skin and UVA
Mineral based sunscreens contain Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide as a more natural form of sunblock. These do not break down in sunlight, are not usually absorbed (so don’t disrupt the body’s hormones), are not allergenic and are more effective at blocking UVA rays than non-minerals. Also there is also a real concern that some of the ingredients in sunscreen residue are damaging to marine life - using such mineral based eco-friendly options break down in nature more easily.
It is common knowledge that oxidative damage can increase your cancer risk, so eating a diet high in antioxidant foods (think rainbow of fresh vegetables and fruit) can potentially decrease your risk.
Try to up your intake of the following to protect yourself and your family:
- Resveratrol (blueberries, red grapes)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, fish oil)
- Astaxanthin (salmon, fish oil)
- Catechins (green, white tea)
- Vitamin E (pumpkin seeds, almonds, asparagus)
- Beta-carotene (carrots, red bell peppers)
And our last bit of sun advice! If you do get burnt, choose a soothing mixture of aloe vera, coconut oil and vitamin E oil on your skin rather than expensive after sun lotions which often contain more chemicals.
* Environmental Working Group 2014 "Our review…shows that some sunscreen ingredients absorb into the blood, and some have toxic effects. Some release skin-damaging free radicals in sunlight, some act like estrogen and disrupt hormones, and several can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. The FDA has not established rigorous safety standards for sunscreen ingredients." A study published in Environmental Science Technology has shown the common sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone, methoxycinnamate, and PABA are estrogenic chemicals linked to cancer. Sunscreens have not been regulated since 1978 in the USA, and the SPF factor only tells you how effective a sunscreen is against UVB rays which cause sunburn.