* I wrote this blog post as a Tropic Ambassador to encourage you to use sunscreen. If you purchase any products from me, I will get a commission. *
Should I bother with sunscreen today? It’s not that sunny, is it?
Don’t even give it any thought: just use sunscreen everyday! Sunscreen blocks UV rays, which put you at risk of sun damage. The end. Wearing sun protection also reduces the likelihood of sunburn and lowers the risk of skin cancer. Check this really interesting article on Cancer Research UK for more information.
Lockdown and Coronavirus-related travel restrictions mean people have spent less time than usual on sunny beaches over the past year, but we’ve also had a pretty unusual amount of sun in the UK, haven’t we? Many of us have spent a lot of time in our gardens, taking exercise outdoors or queuing outside shops. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to keep your skin protected from incidental sun damage that could occur when you’re relaxing in your garden, painting your fence or doing outdoor exercise.
A lot of people assume that if they stay in the shade and don’t feel the warmth of the sun, they’re safe from UV rays. That’s not actually true. The heat we feel from the sun is infrared, not UV. What we see from the sun is called visible light. You can’t actually see or feel UVA or UVB rays. UVA rays in particular have the ability to bounce off reflective surfaces (e.g. sand, the ocean) and can penetrate through the clouds. Even on a very cloudy day, only 25% of UVA rays are filtered out. UVA is so strong that it can actually penetrate through glass. If you want to know more, read this article on Public Health Matters, which lists the Nine things you need to know about UV (ultraviolet radiation).
The aim of this blog post is to share my experience with sun care and answer a few common questions about sun protection, backed by NHS advice and medical professionals at The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) and The National Eczema Society (NES). Although I have read a lot about sun protection, I have no medical background, so for a professional opinion, always ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Does everyone really need to use sunscreen?
Whether you tan easily, burn at the mere thought of sun rays touching your skin or have dark skin, you should use sunscreen. Don’t forget that sun exposure damages your skin over your lifetime, whether you get sunburnt or not.
What if I love the sun?
I love the sun. I really, really do, and there is no shadow of a doubt I get SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in darker months because of the lack of sunlight. I’m a little bit obsessed with light boxes in winter and have them all around the house to simulate the exposure to sunlight.
Loving the sun doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect your skin from the negative effects of UV rays though. It’s also important to model the behaviour you want to see from your children and use a high SPF sunscreen yourself.
Do I have to always stay away from the sun to be safe?
Protecting your skin from harmful UV rays doesn’t mean not getting in the sun at all. It doesn’t mean you have to jump from shadow to shadow until you reach the shade. What it means is you should enjoy the sunshine responsibly, without damaging your skin or letting in harmful UV rays.
It might sound like common sense, but whenever it gets sunny, my children and I always try to stay away from midday sun. That’s when we have lunch, do quieter activities in the house, read, watch TV or have a nap. We tend to plan our afternoon activities after 4 p.m. in summer, when the sun is not as strong as it might be between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
If for some reason you can’t stay away from midday sun, always stay hydrated, try to cover your head with a hat, wear sunglasses, sunscreen and lightweight clothes.
You need the sun on your skin to get vitamin D though, right?
It’s true that small amounts of UV exposure help produce vitamin D. For instance, Vitamin D in sunlight helps keep your bones strong and healthy. It may also prevent various forms of arthritis and autoimmune diseases. However, the link between skin cancer and the sun is also proven, so always be careful not to burn as you soak in that lovely vitamin D.
According to the NHS, “Most people can make enough vitamin D from being out in the sun daily for short periods with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen from late March or early April to the end of September, especially from 11am to 3pm.”
Although I always use sunscreen on my face straight after moisturising in the morning, I also tend to apply sunscreen to the rest of my body after 15 minutes of being outdoors in spring and summer, to allow my skin to absorb vitamin D.
What’s the UV index?
You can find out the UV index forecast on the Met Office’s website. It“identifies the strength of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun at a particular place on a particular day, allowing you to take the necessary precautions to help reduce the impact of UV on your health.” Always wear a high SPF sunscreen if the UV index is above 3. The average UV index in London between April and September is above 4.
Actually, what’s a tan?
Here is the definition of a tan, given by The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD): “The dark pigment that gives the skin its natural colour is called melanin. Melanin is made in the skin by pigment cells called melanocytes. After our skin has been exposed to sunlight the melanocytes produce more melanin in attempt to absorb further UV radiation, and so the skin becomes darker. A tan is actually a sign that the skin has been damaged and is trying to protect itself.”
A lot of people see a tan as looking ‘healthy’ but you’ve got to keep in mind that a tan is actually a sign that your skin has been damaged by UV radiation and it is trying to defend itself from getting damaged further.
Over 100,000 new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every single year in the UK. Nonetheless, in 80% of cases, skin cancer is linked to extensive sun exposure and could have been prevented by using sun protection. Scary, huh?
What’s the difference between UVA and UVB?
In short, UVB is what causes sunburn and redness and is strongly linked to various types of skin cancer. So if you use sunscreen that has a high sun protection factor (SPF), it will help block UVB rays and prevent your skin from burning. As a result, it will also help avoid damage that could cause skin cancer.
UVA is associated with skin ageing. UVA radiation affects the elastin in the skin. In other words, it’s what damages your skin DNA, causes hyperpigmentation and creates signs of ageing like wrinkles, leathery skin and brown pigmentation. UVA is also linked to skin cancer. In conclusion, a sunscreen with UVA protection helps shield your skin against ageing caused by the sun and potentially skin cancer too.
To make sure your sunscreen offers both UVA and UVB protection, always go with ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreen.
What is SPF?
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, shows the level of protection against UVB. The lower the number, the least protected end of the spectrum. Ratings of 50+ offer the strongest forms of UVB protection.
Do all sunscreens work the same?
There are two types of sunscreen:
Organic filters, which are also known as ‘chemical’ sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat. The heat generated is then released on the surface of the skin and comes back out. It works like a sponge that mops up UV radiation.
Inorganic filters (‘reflective’ or ‘mineral’ sunscreens) contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
These types of sunscreen reflect UV radiation away from the skin. They tend to be the best option for people with very sensitive skin because they are physical blockers that work like mirrors, which bounce UV straight back off the skin..
Which sunscreen should I choose?
When my baby’s skin was riddled with eczema eight years ago, she was referred to a dermatology clinic. I was worried about applying anything to her skin other than the various creams and emollients her dermatologist had prescribed, so I asked our dermatology nurse for advice and she swore by SunSense. She even gave me a sample to try. I bought our first-roll-on a couple of days later and we never looked back until we found an alternative we loved even more.
I have been using Tropic skincare products for a few years now but since we all loved SunSense, we didn’t try Tropic sun care straight away. We only used it for the first time last year actually when I was trying to focus a bit more on sustainability and buying products made in the UK.
Why We Love Tropic Sun Care
The whole range of Tropic sun care products is made in Surrey (UK) using reef-safe, cruelty-free ingredients.
We started using Tropic sunscreen after I found out it was the first beauty brand in the UK and Europe to be awarded the Protect Land + Sea certification. The non-profit scientific organisation tested all of Tropic’s sunscreens, checking that they were not polluting for our oceans after being washed off swimmers’ bodies.
To me, the seal of approval really sets the standard in the beauty industry by ensuring Tropic’s formulations are safe for the planet and marine life.
All of Tropic’s sunscreen tubes are completely recyclable, but in the UK, only 58% of all plastic actually ends up being recycled. So here is an incentive to encourage recycling: if you send 5 tubes back to HQ for recycling, you will get a free Mini Sun Day UV facial defence, worth £10.
30-day Happiness guarantee
Tropic offer this guarantee so that everyone has a chance to try products and return them for a full refund or exchange. There is no denying that products can have different results for different people. It also takes a few weeks before you can see real results from a product, so the 30-day happiness guarantee gives you an opportunity to properly try Tropic products on your skin.
Tropic sun care products:
Sun Day: A facial UV defence sunscreen
- Available in a 15 or 40ml tube
- SPF 50
- A silky, lightweight facial sunscreen
- Perfect primer underneath makeup
- Easily applied and readily absorbed, it feels like a light lotion
- Smells of coconut and vanilla
- Really hydrating as it contains hyaluronic acid
- Banana flower extract calms any areas of irritation on the skin
- Antioxidant-rich hibiscus extract helps to defend the skin against free radicals
Skin Shade Tinted Facial Sun Cream
- Available in Light to Medium or Medium to Dark in a 40ml tube
- SPF 50
- A tinted facial sunscreen which provides sheer, dewy coverage and broad spectrum, water-resistant protection
- Can be used as a tinted moisturiser, with the added benefits of a sunscreen
- An optimised formulation means it’s now smoother and more nourishing for the skin
- Blends seamlessly into the skin
- Perfect under makeup or on its own
- No white cast since it contains a low level of pigment
- A completely physical barrier from the sun as it’s 100% mineral
- Contains passion flower oil extract, which retains your skin’s natural moisture as it’s high in omega 6
- Australian aniseed myrtle and wild hibiscus flower extract actively eliminate free radicals for younger-looking skin
- Antioxidant vitamin E keeps skin nourished and protected
Skin Shade Sun Cream: the original sunscreen by Tropic
- Available in a 200ml tube in SPF 15, 30 and 50, and in a 100ml tube in SPF 50
- UVA and UVB broad-spectrum protection
- A completely mineral range of sunscreen
- Protects your skin through a physical barrier
- Zinc oxyde and titanium dioxide (2 types of mineral) coat your skin and reflect the sun’s UVA and UVB rays
- Because it is mineral, it’s non reactive on the skin and therefore is perfect for those with ultra sensitive skin
- An optimised formulation that spreads well onto the skin
- Downside: on darker skin types, it can leave a bit of a white cast
- Best if you have really sensitive skin or swim a lot
Great Barrier Sun Lotion: the sunscreen that ticks all the boxes
- Available in a 200ml tube in SPF 15, 30 and 50, and in a 100ml tube in SPF 50
- UVA and UVB broad-spectrum protection
- A hybrid of mineral and safe chemical sun-filters
- Sunscreen that ticks all the boxes
- Lightweight yet nourishing, hydrating sun lotion
- Doubles up as a moisturiser
- Absorbs really easily onto the skin
- Smells of coconut
- Completely transparent once absorbed by the skin. No white cast whatsoever
- Water resistant (but not as much as Skin Shade)
- Available in a 17g stick
- SPF 50+, the highest SPF protection allowable
- The stick format is easy to apply
- A hybrid of mineral and safe chemical sun filters
- Sun Stick has been tested on babies from 6 months+
- It goes onto the skin pretty much clear
- Great for blending onto the skin
- Can be used on lips
- Fab for top ups & perfect to carry around in a pocket or small bag
- Available in a 100 or 200ml tube.
- A soothing, calming lotion to calm and hydrate sun-damaged skin
- It blends effortlessly onto the skin
- Aloe vera juice and menthol help cool skin and calm redness
- Jojoba oil deeply nourishes and vitamin E repairs the skin
- Bisabolol and eucalyptus help to soothe and rejuvenate sun-damaged skin
A bit more about eczema and the sun
For some people, exposure to sunlight will trigger an improvement in their eczema. One of my daughters, who has contact and discoid eczema, always finds her skin ‘calms down’ in summer. Other people will find that their eczema flares up with exposure to sunlight.
For both of my daughters with eczema, I find that Skin Shade, which is a mineral sunscreen (sits on the skin and bounces off UV rays rather than penetrating into the skin), is the perfect option, applied at least half an hour after their emollients.
I can only comment on my own experience, and what works for my daughters might not work with other people who suffer from the skin condition. Make sure you do a ‘patch test’ a few days in a row on on your forearm before applying it to your whole body, just in case it causes a reaction.
Just a few stats that might convince you to use sunscreen
Both UVA (creates skin ageing) & UVB (associated with skin burning) have the ability to mutate the DNA of our skin cells. We can’t see or feel UV rays, which means we won’t be able to see the damage until it’s done.
80% of all visible facial ageing is caused by the sun (UV rays). They have the ability to break down our elastin and collagen, which keep our skin plump, youthful and elastic.
Studies have shown that people who use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on a daily basis show 24% less skin ageing that those who do not use sunscreen daily.
A 2016 study shows that improvement in skin clarity and texture can be seen after 12 weeks of continuous use of daily sunscreen. Sunscreen protects our health.
A tan is always an indication of skin damage, not a ‘healthy glow’.
When the UV index is 3 or more, the sun is strong enough to cause sunburn.
According to Cancer Research UK, 86% of melanoma skin cancer cases in the UK are preventable and you can help reduce your chances of developing the disease by regularly using a high SPF 50 sunscreen.
Disclosure: I am a Tropic Ambassador, so if you order Tropic products through me, I will get a commission. All copy and photos other than Tropic products are my own. Please note that I have no medical background, so for a professional opinion, always ask your doctor or pharmacist.