The sun! We all love it, but you can indeed have too much of a good thing. Later on in this post, we’ll look at the issues with the sun and ozone layer, but for now, let’s have a quick look at how to safely protect your skin and health in the sunshine.
Nearly all sun lotions sold in supermarkets and chemists contain ingredients that harm aquatic life. They are also not good for your health. Chemical sunscreens contain toxins, so natural sunscreens are used made with titanium oxide or zinc oxide. But these cause ‘white cricketer’s nose’, so most companies use nano-particles to blend them down to be invisible. But just like microplastics, these then wash off (in the sea or down the sink) and cause harm (just a few drops can cause untold damage to square miles of ocean). The alternative is to use a purely natural sunscreen that does not use nano-particles. Also see where to find biodegradable sunglasses.
Never expose babies to direct sun. Never use human sunscreens on dog’s noses and paws as zinc oxide (used in most natural sunscreens) is very toxic (see below for tips on keeping pets safe in the sun). Avoid essential oils for pregnancy/nursing & affected medical conditions (epilepsy, asthma, heart – no rosemary, citrus or sage oil for high blood pressure). Avoid shea butter for latex allergies. Keep essential oils & cocoa butter (toxic if licked) away from pets.
NHS has tips to keep babies safe in the sun. Keep babies out of direct sunlight and use a sunshade and apply a safe baby sunscreen, and use a sunhat with a wide brim or long flap on the back, to protect heads and necks. Inside or outside, remove extra hats and clothing when going into warm places (even if it means waking babies) to help prevent risk of crib death. And use a room thermometer to check for safe temperatures.
- Stay out of the sun from 10am to 4pm. If your shadow is shorter than you, find some shade.
- Drink water (don’t drink beer, and fall asleep!)
- Use a sunhat that covers your head and ears.
- Use wraparound sunglasses, with 99% plus absorption
- Some medications can make you more sensitive.
- Take care at high altitudes (and sunny, like skiing).
- Wear long shirts and trousers (ideally in dark colours), like they do in hot countries. Sun-protective clothing is mostly made with chemicals and synthetic fibres (if you use it, wash in a microfiber catch bag).
Trustworthy Vegan Natural Sunscreens
Never use human sunscreens on dog’s noses and paws as zinc oxide (used in most natural sunscreens) is very toxic. Don’t let dogs near your skin until after you’ve showered.
A trustworthy sunscreen will always say reef-safe and no nano particles. Never use sun lotions with oxybenzone (banned in Florida and Hawaii) that mimics human hormones (just one drop in the ocean is toxic to a huge area of coral reef and remains in your urine, so pollutes the ocean. Two good sunscreens are Suntribe Natural Mineral Day Cream (Sweden, which also offers a child’s sunblock). It does not offer above SPF30 saying the difference in protection to SPF50 is just 1%, and requires more chemicals. Amazinc! is a Czech brand sold in cardboard and aluminium packaging, made with zinc oxide and shea butter (all items are vegan, bar Mineral Shield). Also ses SunButter Sunscreen and Seasick Sunscreen Co.
Let’s Meet The Super Sunshine!
Sometimes we take the sun for granted. But it does give us light and heat, and can power homes, sterilise things and make people and animals feel better. So let’s meet the sun, and learn how it works, and why the ozone layer has stopped giving us some of the protection we need.
The sun is simply a star, a big gas ball that lights our entire planet. This also fuels energy to grow plants. Yogis often perform a ‘salute to the sun’ in the mornings, facing north or east to greet the day. The sun does not exactly rise in the east, but more on an angle (in India, homes are built to face the north or east, so you don’t end up washing up facing glaring infra red or gamma rays, mid-afternoon, like some buildings are built here). Our moon only glows due to light from the sun, it has no light of its own.
Just like the moon is responsible for tides, the sun is responsible for lots of other things, including most life on earth and the wind. Although it’s much bigger, it’s still a star and way bigger than earth (over 300,000 times!) It’s so far away it takes 8 minutes for any light to reach us, although the Equator is far nearer. If you’ve ever seen the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) in Scandinavia, these are caught by solar winds interacting with earth. The sun also produces vitamin D in our skin, without having to eat animal products. But this must be done in moderation, to avoid sunburn.
The ozone layer is simply a thin part of in our atmosphere, and has got thinner, rather than developed a ‘hole’. Ozone is a trace gas that absorbs radiation like UV light, and this is where we need it, to protect us from harmful rays that may cause sunburn and skin cancer. UVA light is worse, often used on tanning beds. The removal of CFC gases in aerosols has helped, but they are still in many other items. Although the ozone layer has slowly started to recover.
What About Skin Cancer?
Melanoma is the official name for skin cancer. Although a simple skin cancer can usually be cured, the problem is that often it has progressed to other organs. People with pale skin and red hair are most at risk, although anyone who has more than 5 sunburns doubles their risk. The survival rate is high (99%) as long as it’s detected early. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends these tips to help prevent skin cancer:
- Use your common sense. Stay out of strong sun, and use the shade. Look at animals, they know how to do this far better than us.
- Wear clothing that covers vulnerable areas. You don’t have to wear chemical-laden ‘sunscreen clothes’ but do wear long sleeves and lightweight natural fabrics, and wide-brimmed hats.
- Use a natural sunscreen and reapply frequently (see above, don’t let pets lick your skin until after showering, as zinc oxide used in most brands is toxic to them). Most adults need a shot-glass worth to cover the body, don’t forget to apply to oft-missed areas like the top of your head, neck, ears and tops of feet! Reapply every 2 hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- Be extra cautious near water, snow and sand, as the rays of the sun can burn quicker.
- Exam your skin regularly for moles and any unusual changes. Early detection can cure 99% of skin cancers. Be away for changes, itching or bleeding.
Why Are Tanning Booths Legal?
The obvious question to ask is that if tanning booths contribute to skin cancer, why are they not banned? They are indeed banned for people under 18, and some worry banning them for tanning addicts, would send the industry underground. 77% of dermatologists want them banned, as they give out the same rays that increase risk of developing skin cancer, at greater doses than the sun at midday (when we are advised not to go sit in it).
Millions of people use tanning booths in beauty salons, hotels and (ironically) health spas. Regular use can also damage the eyes, which is why goggles are usually given out to users. Official advice is to never use sunbeds if you have a history of sunburn (including in childhood), you have fair sensitive skin with freckles or moles, you are taking medicines or are pregnant (both make you more sensitive to sunlight) or have a conditioned worsed by sun like vitiligo). Or of course you have had skin cancer.
Sun Protection for Dogs
Ensure shady areas for pets (older pets and sun-loving cats can get heatstroke). Never use human sunscreens on dog’s noses and paws as zinc oxide (used in most natural sunscreens) is very toxic. Don’t let dogs near your skin until after you’ve showered.
This vet says the perfect safe sunscreen for pets does not yet exist, but he says pet-safe ones are needed for vulnerable white ear flaps etc (some pets are at higher rates of tumours in the sun, just like redheads with pale skin for humans).