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THE VITAMIN D DILEMMA

While vitamin D deficiency is a growing health concern within the Western world, cosmetic chemist Ray Townsend, one of the brains behind Joyce Blok formulations, says you don’t need a lot of sun exposure on a daily basis to get enough vitamin D. “I don’t think sunscreen is our problem; it has to do with our lifestyle. It’s exacerbated by us spending more time indoors,” Townsend says. The issue surrounding the impact sunscreen has on the body’s ability to produce vitamin D is a contentious one, however the World Health Organization agrees with Townsend’s recommendation of five to 15 minutes of casual sun exposure to hands, face and arms two to three times a week. In countries where UV levels are higher, such as New Zealand and Australia, shorter periods of exposure are sufficient. The Cancer Society of New Zealand makes similar recommendations but suggests sun exposure in summer on either side of the UV peak time (before 10am and after 4pm).

KNOW YOUR LIMIT

Sunscreen doesn’t block all UV rays, which is why applying sunscreen correctly is crucial to staying safe in the sun. Experts believe most of us don’t apply enough sunscreen, resulting in only 50 to 80 per cent of the protection stated on the product. To protect your skin you need to be liberal with the amount of sunscreen you’re using; apply a teaspoon of sunscreen per limb – the equivalent of seven teaspoons for an average-sized adult.

GET REAPPLICATION WISE

Townsend says one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding sunscreen is how we think about reapplication. “Reapplying every two hours doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun all day,” he says. Townsend goes on to explain that reapplying sunscreen only replaces product that’s lost through perspiring or contact with water. “It’s really important to not think of reapplication as giving you more time in the sun,” he says.

Townsend simplifies the way we should think about reapplying sunscreen by comparing it to using an oven to cook a roast dinner. “If you’re cooking a roast dinner and it says leave in for three hours, if you take it out after 1.5 hours do you then put it back in for 1.5 hours or another three hours?” he asks. “If you have sunscreen on and 300 minutes is your limit before you get burnt, reapplying your sunscreen isn’t going to extend your burn time.”

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