We who were born in the 70s remember the “happy” but also dangerous days of the 80s. Being brown was important, very important. Kind of more important than getting a good job. During the summer, when I ran down to my best friend Marcus in Grimmered, a suburb of Gothenburg, I still remember how I always cheered on his mother on the go. There she lay, on the terrace in a deck chair, foil paper under her chin and a bottle of coconut oil on the side table.
No one who approached the bathing place in Näset could miss the smell of the Hawaiian tropic either. Peeling off skin due to too much sun was a sign that you have succeeded in your sunbathing. The sun protection factor was at most 6 and it was reluctant feelings that you felt when you stood with the bottle in your hand. On the one hand you could lie 6 times longer in the sun without getting burned, on the other hand it would obviously take 6 times as long before you got brown…
Fortunately, the happy days of the 80s are over.
Most of us still love spending time in the sun and if we enjoy the sun in reasonable amounts it can actually give us many health benefits. The sun is our best source of our vital vitamin D. However, forget that you need to push on the beach to get enough vitamin D production. It takes about 10-30 minutes in the middle of the day a couple of times a week to get enough sun for the body to produce this important vitamin. You also do not need to throw away the clothes, it is enough that small areas of the skin are exposed, such as forearms or lower legs.
Researchers have also discovered that UV rays that hit the skin or eye give signals to the brain that trigger hormonal processes. The fact that many people feel that they feel better during the summer months has previously been linked to increased vitamin D production. New studies show that it can also be direct signals to the brain that produce feel-good hormones, for example serotonin.
However, overexposure to UV radiation can not only cause painful reddened skin, but also more long-lasting effects such as premature aging of the skin, which mainly includes more wrinkles and pigment spots. Excessive sunbathing can also lead to various forms of skin cancer.
But how do you protect yourself from the sun? I have tried to summarize this in 6 tips below.
Avoid the strongest sun!
Between 11 am and 3 pm, the sun is strongest. Avoid staying directly in the sun during these 4 hours.
Choose the right sunscreen
Choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation that has a high level of protection, ie SPF 30-50. Sunscreen that also protects against UVA radiation has a UVA symbol on the packaging.
Also make sure that your sunscreen is waterproof, this way the protection does not decrease as much when you bathe or sweat. In addition to this, we recommend that you choose a photo-stable sunscreen, which means that it does not lose effect when you are in the sun. Feel free to read about photo-stable filters here.
Do your skin a favor by choosing a product that does not contain perfume. Many perfumes are allergenic and their effects can be intensified when exposed to direct sunlight.
Choose the right sun protection factor
To get the right protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, you can check the UV index in your area – depending on what level it is at, you can choose a higher or lower sun protection. The UV index is an international standard used to measure how intense (ie harmful) the UV rays are in different places and times. The picture below shows how the UV index is normally in Sweden.
The scale is linear and the higher the index value, the stronger the UV radiation you are exposed to.
During the summer season, the UV index in Scandinavian countries is usually between 4-7 and during the winter lower than or equal to 2. At a low UV index such as 2, you do not need to use sunscreen, but at a high UV index between 4-7 increases the risks of negative effects of radiation and then you need to protect yourself. You can find information about the UV index for your area at, for example, SMHI.
A general recommendation is to use a high sunscreen 30-50 daily during the summer (April-September) as the UV index is highest during this time.
To get the protection promised on the packaging, you must apply the sunscreen in an even layer and also apply at regular intervals, especially if you have bathed or exercised.
How often it is needed depends on how active you are and how much the product is rubbed off, but it is best to reapply every two hours and especially after you have bathed. Below is a recommendation on how much you need to apply to face and body:
To be sure that you get the protection that is on the packaging, it is important to apply more than you normally do. As much as 40 grams should be applied to the body to get full protection. And how much is 40 grams? It is about the same amount of cream that fits in your cupped hand.
When it comes to the face, it is over 1 gram to the facial skin that applies. Most of us take too little, you may take 1 pump of your sunscreen for the face but you need to take much more to get the protective effect. So lubricate properly, rather too much than too little.
Choose the right filter
What protects in a sunscreen are different types of filters that are usually divided into chemical and physical filters. Many manufacturers use chemical filters because they sell better, because they do not give the white sticky film on the skin that physical filters give.
From a skin perspective, the physical filters titanium dioxide and zinc oxide may be preferable because they do not penetrate the skin. Therefore, the body is less likely to react to physical than chemical filters. It is i.a. the low risk of allergies which means that physical filters are often used for children and for people with sensitive skin. However, the cosmetic effect can be perceived as worrying as physical filters often form a white film on the skin.
Among chemical filters, some may be of an older model and among these, a so-called endocrine disrupting effect has been seen. Filters of an older model have smaller molecules and can thus penetrate the skin and in some cases be measured in the urine. The filters that in studies have shown an endocrine disrupting effect in animal experiments or in vitro studies are, for example, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), Homosalate, 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor, Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate and Ethylhexyl dimethyl PABA. Do you want to know more? Feel free to read more here.
When examining the various UV filters from an environmental perspective, it can be stated that both chemical and physical filters have a negative impact on the environment. Both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which belong to the physical family, have been shown to have a negative impact on aquatic organisms such as fish, algae and crustaceans.
Among the chemical filters, the older variants of UV filters have also shown negative effects on e.g. coral reefs. It is estimated that about 25 percent of the sunscreen ingredients we apply to the skin end up in the water. Certain chemicals – including oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, octisalate, avobenzone and homosalate – have been identified as being particularly hazardous to marine ecosystems, making corals more susceptible to bleaching, deforming young corals and impairing their resistance to climate change.
The recommendation is to choose products from European companies when choosing sunscreen. European companies often use newer variants of UV filters that are usually better from a skin and health perspective. The FDA, which regulates the use of UV filters in the US, has so far not approved several of the European variants and US companies therefore tend to still use the older filters. Newer filters that you can keep track of are: Ecamsule and Drometrizole trisiloxane. Ecamsule consists of terephthalyidene dicamphor sulfonic acid, a highly photostable substance that remains on the skin with a limited risk of penetration. The same goes for Drometrizole trisiloxane. Ecamsule is FDA approved while Drometrizole trisiloxane is not yet FDA approved. These filters / substances, on the other hand, are approved in the EU, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Ethylene-bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol (MBBT) (Tinosorb M) and bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol methoxyphenyl triazine (BEMT) (Tinosorb S) are examples of broad-spectrum filters. Both filters are slightly larger molecules that reduce the likelihood of systemic absorption or endocrine, ie endocrine disrupting effects.
They are also considered to be photostable and have a lower risk of irritation. More about UV filters here:
Name of chemical sunscreen (INCI): Benzophenone-3 (Oxybenzone), Octylmethoxycinnamate / Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octinoxate), Homosalate Trimethylcyclohexyl salicylate) ), Octyl salicylate/Octisalate (Ethylhexyl salicylate) (), Octocrylene (2-ethylhexyl 2-cyano-3,3-diphenylacrylate), Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (Avobenzone), Bis-Ethylhexyoxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine (Tinosorb S), Drometrizole trisiloxane (Mexoryl XL), Ethylene-bis-benzotriazolyl tetramethylbutylphenol (Tinosorb M), Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX).
Name of physical sunscreen (INCI): Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide
Dress to protect!
Clothes are the first line of defense against the sun. How do sunscreen garments affect how well you are protected? Here are some tips:
1. Dark clothes. Black and navy blue, absorbs more UV rays than lighter colors such as white and pastel colors. For example, a plain white cotton t-shirt has an SPF of only about 10.
As a rule of thumb – the more intense the shade, the better protection the clothes will provide.
2. Material. Just like color, the material and texture of your clothes can affect how well they protect you from UV rays. Synthetic and semi-synthetic fibers such as polyester or rayon are the best choices for sunscreen, as are dense, heavy, tightly woven fabrics such as wool, denim or cuffs. At the opposite end of the spectrum are light fabrics (such as refined cotton), which tend to be thinner and thus allow more light to pass through. Example:
• Shirt (jeans) SPF 1700
Blouse 100% viscose: SPF: 15
• T-shirt 100% bomull: SPF 10
3. Size. It is quite obvious that the more skin you cover, the better you are protected. It can be easy to forget that the same thing applies to hats! The best hats for sun protection have a wide edge (3 inches or more). Do not forget to check that your sunglasses fit – a pair that slides down along the nose puts your eyes at risk of sun damage. Look for sturdy sunglasses with wide lenses that cover the eyes, eyelids and as much of the surrounding areas as possible.
4. Loose fit. A shirt with a loose fit gives better SPF than a tight one.
Still not getting enough? 😉 In the last episode of Huddoktorerna, Petra Kjellman and I talk about sunscreen, listen here.
Have a wonderful summer in the shade 😉.