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.
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.