Health and wellbeing / Our Products | 01.09.2017

Read this before you buy another bottle of sunscreen!


It's starting to warm up in the Southern Hemisphere and spring is on our doorstep, so that means it's time to think about donning protection when you head outside. While we all need a little bit of vitamin D, it's best to get your fix early in the day. Come 10am until late noon, your skin is exposed to damaging UV rays. 

Sunscreens are topical – literally. It's difficult to know what to use. One thing is for sure: research is now proving you shouldn’t be choosing a sunscreen based on the SPF factor alone. 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its 2017 Guide to Sunscreens, which found that 73% of the products evaluated rate poorly for skin protection, or have ingredients that could cause adverse health effects or heighten sensitivity to the sun’s harmful rays. It's strongly recommended that you should steer clear of products with SPF 50+ or higher.

"The vast majority of sunscreens aren’t as good as they should be,” said Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst at EWG and lead author of the guide. It's thought that the situation regarding sunscreens won't improve until there are stronger enforcements by regulators to review potentially harmful ingredients and look towards allowing the use of new ingredients that offer more protection, in particular from UVA rays.

An average formulated sunscreen may prevent sunburn, but won’t shield your skin from UVA rays that cause skin ageing and melanomas. EWG estimates that half of all sunscreens sold in the US couldn't be sold in Europe, where stronger UVA protection is required.

"High SPF is a marketing gimmick,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG. "SPF values over 50 mislead people into thinking they are completely protected from sunburn and long-term skin damage. But instead, they may encourage people to spend more time in the sun, exposing themselves to more, not less, ultraviolet rays.”

What's the difference between UVA and UVB Rays?

You'll likely remember from science lessons at school that UV radiation is the electromagnetic light from the sun that reaches the earth. It has different wavelengths that penetrate the atmosphere. Unprotected exposure from a little ray of UVA or UVB sunshine can cause skin ageing, eye damage and suppress your immune system. When the DNA of the skin is damaged, it can cause genetic mutations and melanomas. UV is identified by authorities as a known human carcinogen. Yikes! But before you step outside in a space suit ready for Mars, let's examine what these rays do.

UVA rays

Are the long, predominant tanning waves that brown your skin. Although it feels healthy and damn sexy to have a tan – and there's a helluva lot of brown buns coming up on your Insta feed – it's actually the result of UV penetration that has caused damage to the dermis (deeper layer) of the skin. So, when your skin hits 40 kids, it ain't going to look so pretty.

Most of us are exposed to significant amounts of UVA just through our normal day to day activities. Like Superman, it can penetrate clouds and glass.  UVA rays account for 95% of the radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. 

UVB rays

Are short length rays that cause ouchy, stingy, redness after a day at the beach by burning the crapola out of the superficial layers of your skin and have you running for the nearest aloe vera plantation. They're the main cause of skin cancer development and cause permanent skin damage over time. The intensity of the UVB rays is seasonal, but it's best to avoid direct sun for lengthy periods between the hours of 10am and 4pm, particularly in summer. 

UVB rays don't penetrate glass as readily as UVA, but they can cause damage and burn your skin at high altitudes while you're plummeting through whitelands on your snowboard or splashing about in water. The rays can bounce back and reflect off surfaces giving your skin a double whammy of UVB.

don't rely on spf alone

SPF (sun protection factor) measures the degree of protection a product provides against the sun’s UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the less difference in protection and the higher the proportion of toxic chemicals that you may be exposing yourself to.

The formula used to work out SPF divides the number minutes it takes to burn if you’re wearing a thin application of the product, by the minutes it takes you to burn if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen. 


When choosing a sunscreen, you should be scrutinising the full ingredient list. There are two primary forms of sunscreens - "traditional” and mineral. They differ in relation to their sun protection ingredients. Since both types of rays are harmful, broad spectrum protection is necessary. 

When choosing a safer alternative to chemical sunscreens look out for actives ending in "ide" such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, although check if they're nanoparticle free. All over the counter mineral sunscreens are either micron-sized, micronised or nano. Most nanoparticle sunscreens in the marketplace have particle sizes of 15 nanometers or 0.015 micron. Micronised sunscreens are created by grinding larger particle sizes into smaller ones. Micronised particle size are between 0.1 micron and 100 microns. The process of grinding zinc and titanium particles may result in nanoparticles also known as ‘fines’. There's currently no legal requirement for the particle size to be listed on packaging although many green activist groups have been pushing for this change in legislation for over five years.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are readily used in sunscreens and cosmetics in their nanoparticle form, because they make the physical active transparent and are perceived to help filter UV light more effectively. However, CSIRO research suggests that many nanoparticles in sunscreens and cosmetics may be more toxic, without providing substantially better protection from UV light or better transparency than larger particles.

An estimated 70% of Australian sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and 30% of those that contain zinc oxide may use these minerals in nanoparticle form. While the jury is still out on the potential dangers of nanoparticles, the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) recommends that certain nano titanium dioxide (TiO2) ingredients not be used in sunscreen because they strongly react with sunlight to produce free radicals and that nano TiO2 and nano zinc oxide (ZnO) not be used in powder or sprayable products because of the toxicity risk associated with inhalation. 

The European Chemical Agency (ECHA) is also currently reviewing the safety of titanium dioxide (including the nano form) because of concerns in may be harmful to the environment and human health. Furthermore, a fairly recent Italian study found that nano titanium dioxide could damage the outer layer of skin. The researchers warned that this could allow nanoparticles and other unwanted chemicals to penetrate the skin – posing a potential human health risk. The EU already requires the safety testing and labelling of nano-ingredients in sunscreens.

Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, can degrade in the presence of light and can be hormone disruptors. Avoid active ingredients that end in "one” or "ate” avobenzone, benzophenone, homosalate, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC), Padimate O,  Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and octisalate.

Avoid methylisothiazolinone which is used alone or in mixtures with a related chemical preservative called methylchloroisothiazolinone and is often found in over the counter sunscreens. Avoid sprayable forms of sunscreen that can be inhaled. The percentages of active ingredients in the sunscreen should also be included in the weight versus volume ratio on the label.

Slip, slop, slap 

In the meantime, given the uncertainty over what to slap on your skin when you're heading to the great outdoors, our Tinted Moisturiser with Sunscreen SPF 15+ has you covered for your day to day activities and chores. It’s totally free of UV absorbing chemicals, has a certified organic base and uses 20% micronised zinc oxide as broad spectrum protection. Whilst it's not designed as an all day, outdoor protectant, nor to give you a false sense of security, it will adequately protect you whilst hanging out the washing, driving the kids to and from school and racing to meetings. (Note - the tint in the product is used to offset the whiteness from zinc oxide and is not considered to be a cover up or foundation.)

When applying sunscreen most of us don't get it right. It's best slathered on 20 minutes before venturing outside to allow the actives to bond to your skin. Use at least a teaspoon on your face, neck and décolletage. Don't miss the outer third of your face. Start at your ears and work your way in. Be generous with slathering your body as well. Get someone to assist you in reaching the hard to get to places. 

The other strong recommendation is to follow the pragmatic SunSmart guidelines:·    

And remember, while it's fun to be a sunny bunny, you'll pay the price in the long-term. Look after your body, it's an asset more valuable than prime urban real estate.

How do you protect yourself and your family naturally from the sun? Leave a comment and be in the running to win $150 worth of Mukti products of your choice.


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