Wear sunscreen, naturally

Pale skin has never been sexier: just look at Lily Cole, Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, Rachel Weisz and Nicole Kidman for proof of that. Let's be honest, there's no such thing as a healthy tan and these pale beauties know it. By Jen Marsden

Photo credit: Julianasur

"Wear Sunscreen", Baz Lurhmann's late 90s hit song, had some truth when he said that the long-term benefits of sunscreen had been proven by scientists. But how natural is the sunscreen we use?

Well, ladies and gentleman, class of green beauty, let's myth-bust some of the rumours going around about the effects of sunshine on our skin.

With our skin being the body's largest organ it needs protection from the two types of rays that the sun radiates: 

  • UVB that causes tanning as well as the classic red lobster effect.
  • UVA that is what can age our skin and is a main cause of skin cancer.

UVA rays penetrate the skin easily - even through windows or a cotton shirt - so avoid the sun when it's at its strongest from 10am to 2pm each day.

Many of the popular branded sun creams on the market don't protect against both UVA and UVB rays, so be sure to check the label as a whopping 80% of skin cancers are caused by too much sun exposure.

Chemical vs. natural sun creams

Many chemical sun creams have powerful chemical UV absorbers that can release harmful compounds (such as methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone and triazine) into the skin and bloodstream.

Some international medical and scientific studies claim that these UV absorbers can be just as bad as the sun, causing skin cancer and premature ageing, as well as disrupting hormones.

Natural sun creams and sprays avoid these chemical UV absorbers and use minerals known to reflect sunlight, working as a physical block. The two most widely used minerals are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.


Photo credit: Hello Turkey Toe

In recent years natural sun lotions have really developed, to prevent the white sheen and streaky look of early versions. But, this isn't necessarily best for your health.

The advances are in engineering the minerals such as titanium dioxide into nano particles (known as nanotechnology) that make them strong and protective but sheer or clear when applied onto the skin.

Whilst nanotechnology is used regularly in non-natural sun cream products there's controversy over the long-term health effects of their use.

Some toxicologists believe that nano-sized particles can create free radicals – the molecules responsible for ageing and tissue damage - as well as damaging DNA and cells and disrupting the body's hormones.

As a result, many natural sunscreen brands are applying the precautionary principle (if in doubt leave it out) until further research has been conducted.

So, the more effective natural sun creams may feel a little sticky and make your skin appear pasty white once applied, yet you can rest assured that they are working.

Many natural sun creams, like Alba Botanica's Hawaiian Aloe Vera, include fantastic organic and natural ingredients such as aloe vera and sunflower seed oil that are known for their antioxidant properties and help prevent free radicals.

Eau de irritation

Photo credit: Julianasur

Some of the fake perfumes used in chemical sun lotions can cause allergic dermatitis and photo-allergic dermatitis, the latter happening when the substance you've applied combines with direct sunlight.

Your best bet to prevent skin irritation is choosing a fragrant-free option such as Green People No Scent Sun Lotion.

Buying a specific hypoallergenic product that works with the sensitive skin of babies and tots is also a good idea, such as Jason Earth's Best Organic Mineral Based Sun Block.

What the SPF?

Skin experts recommend using a sun cream that has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 to 30. In fact new rules are in place in the US that state products with an SPF less than 15 must carry a warning label because they just don't perform.

SPF isn't based on percentages: SPF 15 gives 93% protection against UVB; SPF30 offers 97% protection whilst SPF 50 can protect 98% of the UVB rays. The more sun-sensitive you are, the higher SPF you should opt for.

The Lovea Natural Sunscreen Spray SPF15 is a fantastic option for daily use as it is easy to apply and suitable for all skin types.

Sun cream care tips

  • Keep your skin radiantly beautiful by moisturising 15 minutes before applying your sun cream.
  • Wait 30 minutes for the lotion to absorb into your skin before going outdoors.
  • Research suggests that we only use half the amount of sun cream that we actually need. A full shot glass of sun lotion applied to your body should give you enough protection.
  • Ensure you apply sun cream every couple of hours, particularly if you're in the water. You could also choose a water and sweat resistant sun block such as Jason Sunbrellas Sport Natural Sun Block SPF45.
  • If your sun cream has been hanging around for more than three summers then chuck it away and get yourself some new bottles to be sure the product will do the job. BigGreenSmile.com provides a range of natural sun care from the best natural brands around.

Disclaimer: Skin types vary depending on the individual, and you should contact your GP or a professional dermatologist for expert advice.