Protecting your skin from the sun shouldn’t mean exposing it to a whole host of harsh chemicals, which can be found in many traditional sunscreens. As the summer heats up, it’s time to consider more natural alternatives to the mainstream sun protection products you find on the shelves.
It goes without saying that we should avoid sunburn and the health risks associated with excessive exposure to the sun’s radiation, including skin ageing and discolouration, and ultimately skin cancer. So it’s important to stock up on sunscreen for holidays and hot days. Yet, according to a University of California study, these creams contain potentially harmful compounds that can be damaging when absorbed into the skin. When shopping for conventional sunscreens, look out for products free of oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate – these chemicals may block UVB and UVA rays but research suggests they can also effect hormones and release free radicals.
Natural sun protection products, or mineral sunscreens, create a physical barrier between your skin and UVA and UVB rays, and usually contain zinc and titanium dioxide. Unlike chemical creams, mineral sunscreens are effective from the moment they’re applied because the block works on the surface of the skin to reflect ultraviolet radiation rather than relying on chemical reactions to absorb it.
When picking out your natural sunscreen, beware of falling for something just because it has the word ‘organic’ on the label – it may actually only contain up to 70% of organic ingredients. Natural sun protection products tend to be slightly thicker than their chemical counterparts, so may leave a white residue on the skin at first but this is a small price to pay for keeping your skin safe the natural way. It’s worth noting too that a cream claiming to be over SPF 50 isn't worth the hefty price tag, as 50 is the highest protection that can be guaranteed.
Whichever route you choose, it’s important to apply an ample amount of product every two hours while out in hot weather, and more frequently than that if you’re perspiring or swimming. A quick dollop in the morning just won’t do so keep a supply on you at all times.
Find more health and wellbeing advice on the GP blog Nutrition section