The power of the sun and our suncream advice
Hallelujah for the sun making an appearance! What a difference it makes, especially after the year we’ve all had….the heatwave last April feels like a VERY long time ago. We thought it was about time we shared our tips on helping your children enjoy the sun in the healthiest way possible.
The amazing power of the sun
Sunshine gives us the best form of Vitamin D. The sun’s rays (specifically UVB rays) interact with a protein in the skin which converts to vitamin D3 – the active form of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an amazing nutrient – its benefits on the immune system were so well documented during the pandemic that the Government made Vitamin D supplements free to the most vulnerable. It also plays a crucial role in regulating the amount of calcium in our bodies – ever notice your nails get harder after you’ve been in the sun? That’s why.
Sunshine plays a key role in our circadian rhythm which regulates are sleep-wake cycle and a whole host of other processes in the body, such as the production and release of hormones. Getting sunlight in the morning helps kick start and regulate our circadian rhythm. Sunlight also helps us to produce serotonin – one of our happy hormones that is also essential for sleep.
So it’s pretty powerful! But too much is also a problem, so how do you protect yourself and your family from sun damage?
Understanding the suns different rays
The sun has two types of ultra violet (UV) rays – UVA and UVB:
- UVA rays have a long wavelength and can pass through clouds and windows. It penetrates deeper into the skin and is the ray that can damage collagen and cause long term skin damage such as wrinkling.
- UVB rays have shorter wavelengths that only affect the outer layer of the skin. These are the rays responsible for the redness and sunburn if you get too much of them. They are also the rays that help us make Vitamin D.
We produce something called melanin which is an antioxidant that helps minimise the penetration of UV rays. It is also what causes our skin to darken in the sun. UVA rays stimulate the production of melanin in an attempt to prevent damage.
Which sun-cream is best?
There are two main types of sun-cream – mineral based and chemical based.
- Mineral based use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to scatter UV rays so they bounce off the skin. They offer protection against both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum protection), with little to no skin penetration. The main downside is cosmetic, as the formulas tend to be thicker and whiter than chemical based ones.
- Chemical based sun-creams absorb the rays, convert them to heat and then deactivate them. Lots of ingredients in chemical sunscreens are absorbed which isn’t ideal – chemicals such oxybenzone are known endocrine (hormone) disruptor and don’t do sea life any good. Chemical sunscreens are generally thinner and more spreadable, but need to be applied 10 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and require more frequent reapplication.
SPF ratings are only based on how much protection it gives you from UVB rays, not UVA rays. As an example, SPF 30 means it would take 30 times longer for you to burn than if you didn’t wear it. To get protection from both you need to make sure you buy ‘broad-spectrum’ sun-cream.
Here are a few sun-creams we recommend for kids:
- Babo Botanicals – Clear Zinc Sunscreen
- Mustela Baby and Child Mineral Sunscreen
- Green People Organic Sun Cream
- Jason’s Mineral Sunscreen
What else can we do?
- We let our kids have 10 minutes in the sun before applying sun cream, in order to give them a chance to fully absorb the sun’s rays to produce vitamin D. We then opt for mineral based sun protection (always broad spectrum).
- Eating a diet rich in antioxidants including lycopene and vitamins A, C and E can also help boost the skin’s ability to reduce skin damage. Increase intake of berries, citrus fruits, melons, tomatoes, pomegranate, cacao, salmon, orange and green coloured veggies.
- Buying a good sunhat is a great investment – it saves kids losing sunglasses and shades their beautiful faces whilst aiding their play time!
- UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) swimwear for kids is also a great investment. This protects against UVA and UVB and there are some great options out there. We love Polarn O. Pyret and Frugi.