It’s the one item that most of us travel with to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays, but did you know it should actually be our last resort?
Even when wearing suncream, the tanning process still causes long term cell damage in the deeper layers of our skin, and while sunshine causes the body to produce crucial health-giving doses of bone strengthening, immune-boosting vitamin D, scientists have found that sunscreens can inhibit this process.
There’s no evidence that suncream alone helps prevent skin cancer either – particularly melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, rates for which have tripled over the past three decades.
So before we reach for it (mindfully), experts agree we should instead plan our lives around the sun, so we can get a good dose of Vitamin D without harming our skin. Spend time outdoors early in the morning or late afternoon when the
sun is lowest in the sky, wear sunglasses, long sleeve tops and trousers to reduce our risk of exposure, find or make shade wherever possible, and avoid burning at all costs.
When we do buy suncream, we should go for a cream rather than a spray, to provide a more even coating on skin, and be wary of the products we choose. Like many creams of all kinds on the market, many sunscreens contain toxins such as micro plastics which are harmful to our bodies and the environment, adding to the toxic load of our lakes, rivers and oceans, and ultimately ending up back inside our own bodies when we eat fish, seafood and the like. According to US based experts EWG, which publishes an annual sunscreen guide, too many suncreams in the market also contain toxins such as oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor and allergen, and retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may actually harm skin and speed the development of skin cancer.
Crucially, avoid buying creams with misleadingly high SPFs, for as UK-based Green People points out, contrary to popular opinion, a SPF50 does not offer nearly double the protection of an SPF30. In fact, a SPF30 lotion offers 97% protection against UVB rays, while SPF50 offers 98% protection – just 1% difference!
High factors also encourage people to spend more time in the sun, and apply their cream less frequently, when in order to get good protection from UV rays, everyone should regularly and liberally apply more suncream whatever the factor. It’s far better to have a more natural suncream at a lower factor, apply it more often, and just spend less time in the sun.