The Myth Of The Base Tan, Debunked!

base tan myth debunked 01

It’s that time of the year. Time to pack your bags and head out to the beach, where you can relax with your friends and swim in clear blue waters. But you are as pale as a ghost. You don’t want to get a sunburn. That’ll spoil your holiday.

You’ve heard that a base tan can prevent that from happening, so, before leaving, you book a couple of sessions at your local tanning salon. Now you’ll be able to soak up the sun and enjoy yourself without worrying about sun damage.

Or so the myth goes. The reality is very different.

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Do We Really Get The Most Sun Damage In Childhood?

at what age get most sun damage

Up until a couple of years ago, it was thought that 80% of sun damage occurred by the age of 18. Shocking, isn’t it? Makes you wonder why we should bother with sunscreen once we grow up, or why wrinkles and dark spots don’t appear sooner. Sure, sun damage takes its time to show up on the skin, but if you get that much so soon, surely none of us would have such elastic, smooth skin at 18.

Instead, it’s in your 30s that the first signs of aging start to appear. If, like me, you spent your childhood playing outside without ever wearing sunscreen (cos that was reserved for the beach only back then), those annoying fine wrinkles around your eyes or on your forehead may have appeared even sooner. I love hot Italian summers, but if you forsake the sunscreen, they don’t do your skin any favours.

But, when you think about it, the statistic above doesn’t really make much sense, does it? How can you get more sun damage in 18 years than you do in the rest of your life? You don’t. According to recent research, only 23% of damage has been done by the time you turn 18. At 40, you’ve accumulated 46% of damage. That’s another 23%. From your 40s to your 60s, you accumulate another 27%. That’s the exact amount that occurs between the ages of 60 and 78 too. The total is 100%.

And when you’re even older? The study doesn’t say. It was based on a 78 year life span. But it does show that in two decades, we accumulate an average of 25% of sun damage, which increases slightly as get older. Now, this makes a lot more sense, doesn’t it? It also means that you can never stop to use sunscreen, no matter how old you are. If the sun shines, slather it on, and then go out and enjoy yourself!

Do you wear sunscreen every day?

Why Sunburns Itch (And How To Soothe Them)

These days I wear sunscreen religiously every day, but in the past, I got my fair share of sunburns. *sighs* Worse than the redness, is the pain. And the itchiness! Sunburns can itch like hell. And you can’t scratch because it makes things so much worse! Argh! So, how do you soothe an itchy sunburn? And why does it have to itch so much, anyway?

Why sunburns itch

An itch is an irritation in the skin that makes you want to scratch it to relieve the unpleasant feeling. UV rays, which caused the sunburn, certainly irritated skin, causing quite a lot of damage to it. But UV rays can’t penetrate skin, so they only damage its surface, which is full of c-fibres. C-fibres are special nerves that respond to mechanical stimulus such as pressure, certain chemicals, or heat, causing skin to itch.

Thus, C-fibres protect us by letting us know that something is wrong. For instance, if you have an insect crawling on your skin, the itching feeling caused by the C-fibres will alert you to it so that you can get it off you. But getting rid of the itch caused by sunburn isn’t that easy, unfortunately.

How to soothe an itchy sunburn

1. Colloidal oatmeal baths: colloidal oatmeal is rich in different types of phenols that give it both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe irritations and sunburns. Adding Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment, which is 100% pure colloidal oatmeal, to your lukewarm bath will give you some relief from the itch.

2. Soothing lotions: apply a gentle and soothing moisturizer, such as Eucerin Calming Creme (this too contains colloidal oatmeal). For an even more soothing effect, keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours before application.

How do you soothe an itchy sunburn?

Are You Reducing The Effectiveness Of Your Sunscreen?

sunumbra sunkids spf 40

We can spend hours looking for the right sunscreen that won’t feel too greasy or leave a white cast on our skin. We read the labels carefully to make sure it provides broad-spectrum protection. And, often, in the summer, we opt for products with high SPF numbers that promise to keep our skin protected for hours.

But it doesn’t matter how good the sunscreen we bought is if you we don’t apply it properly. If you think you can just pour out a bit of product, slather it on your face, and go about your day without reapplying it, think again. Sunscreen application has its own rules and, if you break them, you’re seriously reducing the effectiveness of your SPF.

Here are a few tips to avoid that:

1. Apply sunscreen first, get dressed later

Sunscreens should be applied at least 20 minutes before going out. So, why not apply it right after your shower? By applying sunscreen while naked, you won’t miss any spots, not even those hard-to-reach-and-easy-to-forget-about ones such as your feet and the back of your neck. We also tend to apply less sunscreen on the areas around sleeves etc for fear of staining our clothes. By applying sunscreen before getting dressed, your clothes won’t hinder you.

skincare product time

2. The proper order

Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide create a shield on the skin that reflects sun rays away from it. These can be applied at anytime. All other sunscreen agents, such as Avobenzone and Octocrylene, for instance, need to bind with the skin in order to provide sun protection. Therefore, they should be applied first, before moisturizer and makeup.

3. Apply the proper amount

I know, I know. A lot of sunscreens are pasty, thick, and leave a white residue behind. But that’s not an excuse to apply a thin layer and expect it to protect you for hours. In fact, that won’t offer much protection at all. Instead, shop around until you find a sunscreen that fits all your requirements and apply the proper amount. That’s a shot glass for the whole body and a 1/2 of teaspoon for the face and neck. If you use a zinc oxide-based sunscreen, you can use a bit less. But in no case a thin layer is enough. Ever.

4. Follow instructions

Let’s face it. Often, the directions printed on the back of beauty products are odd and absurd. Use the shampoo only with its matching conditioner? Apply the cream with a weird massaging technique that’s supposes to help the ingredients penetrate better into the skin? Usually, this stuff is there to make you think these products do something their competition doesn’t and nothing more. But, other times, the instructions are actually very helpful and should be followed to a T. Otherwise, you’ll just compromisethe effectiveness of the products. That’s the case with sunscreen. Always apply the recommended amount printed on the label, and reapply every couple of hours, and always after swimming, sweating, and towel-drying.


5. Don’t rub it in!

If you’re vigorously rubbing sunscreen into your skin, stop! A 2006 study has shown that sunscreen works better when it is applied as a thin film than when it is rubbed into the skin. Now, thin film doesn’t mean that you can apply less than the recommended amount. That is NEVER a good idea. Instead, it means that after you’ve covered all areas, you should feel a thin film on the skin.

6. Don’t dilute it!

Some people like to mix their sunscreen with their moisturizer to create a 2 in 1 product that does it all. In reality, rather than protecting your skin, you are damaging it. By mixing the two together, you’re diluting your sunscreen. That means that you’ll have to apply more to have the level of protection stated on the bottle! And no one does that. Not to mention that your moisturizer may contain some ingredients that can compromise the effectiveness of the sunscreen. So, just use two separate products. Better be safe than sorry.

7. Don’t use sunscreen with insect repellant

Mosquitoes must be, by far, the worst thing about summer. But covering yourself in insect repellant while at the beach (or whenever you’re wearing sunscreen for that matter) is not a good idea. A 2000 study has shown that, while the effectiveness of the insect repellant isn’t diminished when used with sunscreen, the active ingredient used in insect repellant, N,N -diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (diethyltoluamide; deet), can reduce by 33.3% the effectiveness of sunscreen. This happens even if you layer the products one after the other. Therefore, use them together only if absolutely necessary.

Are you inadvertently reducing the effectiveness of your sunscreen?

Why I Don’t Use Spray Sunscreen (& You Shouldn’t Either)

I love convenient things. Like takeout pizza. Online shopping. Feedly. But not everything that looks convenient really is. One exception, for instance, is spray sunscreen.

I used to be a big fan of it. It’s practical to carry around, can be easily sprayed on those hard-to-reach areas, and doesn’t leave that ghostly white residue behind. What’s not to love? The poor protection it affords.

Spray sunscreen is harder to apply evenly

To be fair, spray sunscreens, just like any other sunscreen on the market, are formulated to give the level of SPF stated on the bottle when applied properly. And that’s the catch. Applying the necessary amount of sunscreen lotion (1/4 teaspoon just for the face and neck, and 1 oz for the body) is difficult enough. With a spray formula, it’s even harder.

But why? Shouldn’t it be harder to spread those thick lotions on the skin? Well, they may not be the most pleasant to use, but at least you can see exactly where you apply them. Spray sunscreens are usually transparent, so it’s easy to miss a spot or two. You also won’t see how much of the product has landed on your towel, or, carried by the breeze, on your neighbour. What a waste!

Another common problem is the speed of application. We tend to zip over the different areas of our body in a matter of seconds but, according to an experiment done by Nikki of Future Derm, “to apply enough spray sunscreen to achieve the level of protection listed on a bottle, […] you need approximately six seconds of application per area of your body“. Otherwise you get only a fraction of the SPF and the protection it affords.

Spray sunscreens can be drying and irritating for sensitive skin

Alcohol Denat, or SD Alcohol, can be found in many spray sunscreens. The reason? It lower the surface tension, allowing the product to spray better. But alcohol is a controversial ingredient in skincare. Some experts, like Paula Begoun, believe it is always drying and irritating to the skin, and should be avoided. Others, like Nikki Zevola think that is safe for everyone but those with dry skin. I believe it depends on the formula. If it contains enough emollients and moisturizing ingredients, then they’ll be able to combat the dryness caused by alcohol. Even then, though, those with dry and sensitive skin that’s more prone to irritations should stay away from it.

The bottom line

Spray sunscreens may be convenient, but they are also harder to apply evenly and, because they often include alcohol, they can be drying and irritating for people with dry and sensitive skin. If you choose to use them anyway, make sure you spray each section of the body for at least 6 seconds to get the level of SPF stated on the packaging.

Do you use spray sunscreens?

6 Things To Look For When Buying Sunscreen

Wearing sunscreen is the best thing you can do for your skin. It protects it from cancer, and it helps to avoid UV damage that can cause sun spots and premature wrinkles, thus allowing you to age gracefully and look younger for longer.

All the anti-aging products on the market can only do so little if you forget to use sunscreen, and one of my biggest regrets is having included it in my skincare routine only in my middle 20s. Now, though, you’ll never find me without it. I wear it 365 days a year, even indoors! I’m not taking any chances! :)

But, with all the many options on the market, shopping for sunscreen can be daunting and confusing. Fret not. Here’s what you need to know before buying one:

1. Broad-spectrum protection

How many times have you reached for the sunscreen with the highest SPF available on the shelf, thinking that was sure to offer you all the protection you needed? Sadly, that’s not always the case. SPF rates only the degree of protection from UVB rays. So, even a SPF50 may still provide little or no protection against UVA rays, the type that causes premature aging and contributes to the development of cancer. Scary, isn’t it?

Instead than relying only on the SPF number, make sure you check out the label to see if it includes any of the following UVA filters: Avobenzone, Zinc Oxide, Mexoryl XS (aka Ecamsule), Tinosorb S (bemotrizinol) and Titanium Dioxide (offers only partial protection, so should be used with another of the ingredients mentioned here). If neither of these appear on the label, leave it on the shelf.

If remembering all these names is hard for you, just look for the UV seal (mostly used in Europe), or the PA (complete with plus signs) symbol (mostly used in Asia), on the label. US sunscreens that contain adequate protection from UV rays must simply be labelled “broad spectrum”.

2. SPF 15 or higher

Dermatologists recommend you use a SPF of at least 15 daily to protect your skin from UV rays. But, especially when the sun’s shining brightly in the sky and you’re gonna spend a lot of time outdoors, it can’t hurt to go a bit higher. You don’t need SPF 100 though. It doesn’t offer that much more protection than SPF 30, and can even create a false of security, making you think you won’t need to slather it on liberally and reapply it often. But, of course, you do.

sunumbra sunscreen 30+

3. Water-resistant

If you sweat a lot, plan to play sports outside or go swimming in the sea, choose a water-resistant sunscreen. But don’t think that means the sunscreen will never wear off. Water-resistant simply means that the SPF level stays effective after either 40 or 80 minutes (check the label to be sure) in the water. After that, you’ll still have to reapply it.

4. Avoid spray-on formulas

Spray-on sunscreens are very convenient and can provide adequate protection if you apply enough. Problem is, that’s difficult to do. If you’re not careful, the sunscreen may end up on your towel rather than your leg, or, if there’s even a light breeze, be carried away and land on your neighbour. That doesn’t just leave parts of your skin unprotected, but it is also a waste of money.

5. Sensitive skin

If you have sensitive skin that’s prone to allergies and irritations, or are looking for a sunscreen for your child, opt for a zinc oxide based one. Zinc Oxide can, on its own, provide broad spectrum protection, and is very gentle on the skin. Also, pick one without alcohol, fragrance, or harsh preservatives. My favourite sunscreen for sensitive skin and children, which meet all these criteria, are Sunumbra Sunkids SPF 40 and Badger Balm Kids Sunscreen Cream SPF30.

6. Expensive doesn’t mean better

It’s not the price, but the active sunscreen agents and how liberally they are applied, that determines the effectiveness of a sunscreen. Because they must be slathered on generously, if you are on a budget, you may want to opt for a cheap product that fulfils all the requirements listed above.

Do you look for all these things when buying sunscreen? What is your favourite sunscreen?