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Bring on the sun

November 7, 2010

It’s heading into summer here in Australia which, I might add is sure to annoy all of my northern hemisphere readers who are battening down the hatches for a long and dark winter.  All I can say is read this and imagine yourself into a sunnier place where the sand is a crisp and squeaky white, the sky is a cloudless azure blue and the sea is lapping away at your toes, gently and softly………  Are you with me now?

Anyway, as we are all aware, the sun is lovely and all but it does come with a nasty little sting in the tail if you don’t play friendly!  Being born into skin that is a pathetic shade of white (should be banned in this day and age)  I have to say that with every golden twinkle of UV comes a little moment of ‘OMG, pass me the sunscreen’.  It pays to take precautions.

So, without spending all day lecturing you on what constitutes a good sunscreen (as there are many) I will talk to you about a couple that I have found interesting of late.  Roll up, roll up and prepare to be introduced to a life less beetrootish (I hope).

Extending your fun in the sun

  • The dollars have to make sense.  My first sunscreen was picked based on price and skin-feel.  Let’s face it, most of us cringe a little at spending $20-$50 on 100ml of sunscreen that we know will not even last us until the end of term let alone the whole summer.  Fair skinned Australian dwellers such as myself have to slip, slop and slap every day of our lives just to keep ourselves in one piece so the prospect of a whole litre for less than $15 really appeals.  As with all Australian sunscreens this is SPF 3o+ and broad spectrum. It also has 4 hours water resistance, is non-greasy and rubs in quickly.   The actives in this are the organic filters (Octyl Methoxycinnamate, 4-Methylbenzylidene Camphor, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane and Octocrylene) which some people won’t like but as far as sunburn protection goes, they work and at a low price.    Now some traces of some of these chemicals have been found in breast milk  (according to a recent swiss study)  which sounds rather concerning as the study was also able to map an increase in concentration in people who reported higher sunscreen use – this linearity is not always found so this fact is very interesting.  While this sounds scary (indeed, it is cause for further research) to  conclude that these chemicals must therefore give us cancer, turn us sterile and generally kill us isn’t that sensible either.   More research has to be done including running trials on more people in a randomized way so as to get the best possible evidence for exposure Vs bioavailability and following that work needs to be done to investigate the action of these chemicals in and on the body.   On top of that there are some environmental concerns over using these types of sun filter, probably best to avoid sunscreens with these actives in if you are swimming in open water.   So, if you are now thinking that this product totally sucks then that’s up to you I guess but it is worth working through a few facts.  Hundreds of thousands of Australians get some form of skin cancer each year, of those some are on low – average wages and spend much of their working life and/or leisure time outdoors.   Death from sunscreen has probably never (unless via allergic reaction) been recorded putting the ‘precautionary principal’ that I am so (not) fond off way in favour of slapping on some sunscreen.   If you are on a budget and are really worried about ingredients opt for behaviour modification whenever possible, wear clothing that you can’t see-through and whack on some old-fashioned and cheap zinc stick on the bits that stick out. 
  • Cancer Council Classic. This is one for the ‘I’ll take the zinc please’ mob (of which I am usually one).  This weighs in at around $14 per 110ml bottle so a darn sight more expensive than the other option but probably one of the ‘safest’ options around as far as filters go (it has a low allergy potential, is ‘naturalish’, protects at all burning wavelengths and doesn’t tend to break down easily with sunlight).   This cream contains micronised zinc in it which enables it to rub into the skin without leaving it too white. However, like most zinc-only formulations this does feel a little dry and  heavy. The other down-side that I find with zinc creams (although I wear them) is that they do tend to stick into your wrinkles a little and make little white rivers!  Be sure to rub in well…..    An OK product with SPF 30+, 4 hours water resistance and a better than average environmental footprint.  Great for babies or for using when pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Michael Klim MILK – One for REAL men (as opposed to those fake ones that you see all over the place????)  I have to admit that I bought this because I liked the bottle.  Anyway, after such a shallow start (this guy was a famous and very successful Australian swimmer) my relationship with this sunscreen blossomed into an aromatic love-fest after I tried it on.  Now this again is quite an expensive product at around $30 per 375ml and so it won’t suit everyone.  With this you are mostly paying for the brand and positioning as the formulations actives are the same (just slightly different concentration) as the Coles budget brand. However, the dry touch that this formula has is way superior to the coles product and is most probably brought about by some fancy emollients and esters that would (to be fair on MILK) add to the formulation costs.  In addition, the product smells lovely and fresh with its Australian inspired tea tree and aloe aroma making it great for people who don’t want to smell like a girl all day (most sunscreens are a little ladyish).  Overall I do love the feel of this but think that there are better formulation options for that kind of money.
  • Finally we have the Invisible Zinc product – a sunscreen that took Australia by storm when it launched a few years ago.  Never before was a high SPF zinc product so elegant and wearable as this, a product that is still popular today.  The invisible Zinc SPF 30+ is the most expensive option at around $20 for 50ml and you know what? I don’t like it.   I was expecting great things and protection wise this does deliver but as far as skin feel and wearability goes I found it a little too bulky under make-up.  My skin is very prone to peeling and after applying this all week I found myself with a bad case of ‘nose flake’ – very unattractive. It seems that the high level of zinc was just too much for my skin which became dry and flaky.   That said I have to congratulate the brand for keeping the products scent at an all-time low (the aroma is faintly zinc-ish and pretty invisible), the protection high and the packaging beautiful.  If you want a product that looks good on your dressing table then this is a winner plus it fits neatly into a handbag without fear of blobbing over your sunglasses thanks to the airless pump pack and over-cap.  Lots of people adore this product and there are other variations in the range so give it a go as the flaking may just be a me thing.  Oh, and Zinc is probably the best option as far as the environment and skin penetration goes.

So, there you have it, a few options to help you keep out of trouble this summer.  Just remember to listen to my good friend Gavin (interviewed this week about sunscreen use) and top up your protection as all sunscreens let some through and you will burn eventually.

Have fun in the sun and why not drop us a note to tell us what your favourite sunscreen is!

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