Beauty: Nat­u­ral sun­creams..................................

Hol­i­days sur­rounded by friends and fam­ily, the smell of BBQ’s waft­ing through the evening air, camp­ing trips and long stints at the beach are things we dream of in the lead up to Sum­mer. Sun­burn, not so much.

Element - - CONTENTS - By Deirdre Robert

While you may think you’re do­ing your body a favour by slap­ping on the sun­screen, you should know that all sun­screens are not cre­ated equal. In fact a 2012 anal­y­sis of 800 com­mer­cially avail­able sun­screens by US-based En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group (EWG) found that 75% of sun­screens con­tained po­ten­tially harm­ful in­gre­di­ents. So, what should you look out for and what should you steer clear of? The SPF (Sun Pro­tec­tion Fac­tor) rat­ing was first in­tro­duced in 1962 to mea­sure the ef­fec­tive­ness of sun­screen against Ul­tra­vi­o­let B (UVB) rays, which were deemed to be the sole cause of skin can­cer. But sun­screen should not be judged on its SPF rat­ing alone. More re­cently, re­searchers have dis­cov­ered that both UVB and Ul­tra­vi­o­let A (UVA) rays are im­plicit in sun­burn, pre­ma­ture skin age­ing and skin can­cer. As a re­sult many sun­screens now in­cor­po­rate UVA pro­tec­tion and carry the de­scrip­tion ‘broad spec­trum’.

While ‘broad spec­trum’ will pro­tect you against both UVB and UVA light, there is cur­rently no in­ter­na­tion­ally agreed stan­dard of test­ing to mea­sure the ef­fec­tive­ness of UVA pro­tec­tion. How­ever the Aus­tralian/New Zealand Stan­dard states that a prod­uct must have a min­i­mum SPF of 8 and have a UVA-PF (pro­tec­tion fac­tor) of at least 1/3 of the la­belled SPF be­fore it can be la­belled as ‘broad spec­trum’.


Sun­screens are broadly clas­si­fied into two groups, chem­i­cal ab­sorbers and phys­i­cal block­ers.

Chem­i­cal sun­screens work by ab­sorb­ing the sun’s rays and phys­i­cal sun­screens work by de­flect­ing or block­ing the rays from your skin. Many sun­screens com­bine a mix­ture of chem­i­cal and phys­i­cal block­ers.

Min­eral sun­screens are com­prised of phys­i­cal block­ers such as ti­ta­nium diox­ide and zinc ox­ide, which tend to of­fer a wider spec­trum of UV pro­tec­tion and are deemed safer be­cause they don’t ab­sorb into your skin like chem­i­cal block­ers and are less likely to cause al­ler­gic re­ac­tions or skin ir­ri­ta­tions. Un­for­tu­nately phys­i­cal block­ers can leave an un­sightly sheen on your skin – think Shane Warne in his baggy greens, pre-Liz Hur­ley.

More re­cently, nan­otech­nol­ogy has en­abled the cre­ation of ul­tra fine par­ti­cles of zinc ox­ide and ti­ta­nium diox­ide, re­sult­ing in clearer sun­screen for­mu­la­tions. Good news, right? Maybe not. Although re­search is in­con­clu­sive, con­cerns have been raised over the use of nanopar­ti­cles in sun­screen and other cos­met­ics.

In July this year, New Zealand’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Author­ity (EPA) an­nounced an amend­ment to la­belling stan­dards for cos­metic prod­ucts, in­clud­ing sun­screens. By 2015, prod­ucts will have to list nano-scale in­gre­di­ents on their la­bels and high­light the in­gre­di­ent by plac­ing ‘nano’ next to it in brack­ets.

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