The SPF Dilemma
These days I’ve a new found love of the sun – the light mornings and being able to wander in the park and sit outside before the heat rises and the hustle and bustle of the day kicks in. In the past though, it was always a bit of a hassle to go out into the sun. Having fair skin, I would never leave the house without at least an SPF15 sunscreen on – whether I was on holiday in Greece or going to work. And I did this unfailingly throughout my teens, twenties and beyond. It was good in the sense that I was practising what I preached as a Beauty Director. It’s a fact that there is a direct correlation between sun exposure and premature ageing of the skin in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven texture and pigmentation (and worse still, skin cancer). And this approach seems to have worked to keep my skin relatively youthful in my 50s.
But something switched in my late 40s, when I began to crave the sun – more precisely, light. When I found out I was Vitamin D deficient it all made sense. I felt starved of the UV rays skin requires to create the so-called sunshine vitamin in our skin. When I analysed my lifestyle, I realised it had become very indoors-y. I was office based at the time, and even the mode of transport I took (bus, tube) and my favourite form of exercise (yoga) were all inside. Like so many of us in winter, it wasn’t unusual for me to go for days without seeing daylight. Plus, I mistakenly thought that light through windows would count, but apparently the UVB rays required for Vitamin D production do not penetrate glass.
So, I started to relax a little on wearing sunscreen year round – and I could afford to do that since I was pretty meticulous at the time – even my daily moisturiser had a high SPF. It didn’t mean I suddenly turned into a tan fanatic. In any case, most experts agree that all it takes is to expose a small area of skin for a few minutes to the light to help kick start D production (note:- not blazing sunshine, remember the UV exposure/skin cancer link). And while it seems D is one of the most elusive vitamins, it seems we can’t necessarily get enough through the skin which is why a multi-pronged approach including supplementation and diet is always good. This combination seems to be working for me as now my vitamin D level is now normal and stable, which I’m sure has contributed to me feeling a lot more resilient (for example, I rarely get colds these days).
All of this is good, but I found I was increasingly in a dilemma. The more I moved away from sunscreen – particularly those laden with unnecessary chemicals and additives – I became increasingly concerned about protecting my skin from the ageing effects of UV. It made sense to go back to ‘safe sun’ rules such as staying out of the sun between the hours of 11-4pm, always wearing a hat, staying covered up and seeking the shade rather than sitting in direct sun. Plus, it’s good to take a holistic ‘inside out’ approach to this – we know that anti-oxidants can help our skin protect itself, and we can up our intake of fresh fruit and vegetables (berries, grapes, avocados, watermelon, apples, salad greens, kale, spinach, aubergine, cauliflower) to boost this effect.
Same goes for skin care. Nowadays I choose my SPFs carefully so they’re as natural as possible and I choose nutritional, natural oils to nourish and repair (see below for tried and trusted favourites). We need never shy away from the sun – let’s respect it, take care of our skin and enjoy these long summer days.
Sun Loving Beauty Wish List:
De Mamiel Exhale Daily Hydrating Nectar SPF30, nectar is the right word for this lovely, dewy light tinted cream extraordinaire. Acupuncturist and aromatherapist, Annee de Mamiel spent years blending the highest quality naturals including nourishing oils such as grapeseed and herbs such as comfrey, yarrow, calendula which would boost and protect skin naturally. A truly unique multitasking product, it seems to melt and meld with your skin to create a soft glow which radiates from inside your skin, all the while giving gentle yet high factor protection.
In Fiore Complexe De Fleur is an all singing all dancing healing oil packed with high quality plant extracts such as sea buckthorn, renowned for its anti oxidant properties, and beautifully aromatic French neroli, Bulgarian rose absolute, and Omani frankincense essential oils. Cleverly, the base is of healing aloe and rosehip seed oil which makes it easily absorbed so it feels super light on the skin.
Another way to go is to buy these two and blend your own summer skin rescue oil: A Rosehip Seed Oil and Virgin Marula Oil. They’re such great value – both being pure cold-pressed and organic. Rosehip Seed Oil is rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid and pro-vitamin A, which help to repair sun damage; Marula oil is the latest ‘darling’ of the natural oils and is a great antioxidant, moisturiser and all round radiance booster.