The myth: Higher SPF means greater protection

The truth: Higher SPF gives a false sense of security and introduces bad chemicals into your bloodstream


Q: Why should you choose SPF 15 with anti-oxidants, concentrating on UVA blocking and re-apply every 90 to 120 minutes?

A: Research work at Riverside in California on sunscreens has shown that three of the most popularly used sunscreens for UV-B and high SPF (octylmethoxycinnamate, octocrylene and oxybenzone) do not remain on the surface of the skin but are absorbed into the skin, and when they encounter a UV ray they become free radicals which will cause damage to the cells in the surrounding area – including your DNA.

Q: Which chemicals are safer to use on the skin?

A: Titanium dioxide has the great advantage that it remains on the surface and is not diminished significantly by sun-exposure and keeps its SPF value all the time that it remains on the skin. It does not get degraded but it can be rubbed or sweated off. If about 75% of the SPF value comes from titanium dioxide then the organic molecules that have been absorbed deeper into the skin are exposed to fewer UV rays and so fewer free radicals develop. Most high SPF products do not have Titanium dioxide and rather use the standard cocktail of sunscreens and, as the SPF factors get used up, there is less and less protection for the significant number of molecules that penetrate into the skin where more and more free radicals are made as a result.

Q: Why do we need anti-oxidants in sunscreen?

A: You also need antioxidants to gain a broader protection from sunlight. A good sunscreen will contain these, titanium oxide and beta-carotene to reduce Infra-red damage. They mop up as many of those incidental free radicals that occur as possible – depending on the concentration of antioxidants in your sunscreen (you can’t control that, you can only rely on the integrity of the manufacturer).

Free radicals can be water-soluble, oil soluble or maybe one of the less common nitrogen based or protein derived free radicals. We need at least water and oil soluble anti-oxidants in our sunscreen.
Water-based molecules are vitamin C, certain vitamin B molecules and various tea extracts. Oil soluble molecules would be vitamin E, Vitamin A, vitamin D, beta-carotene etc. There are very many antioxidant molecules. Because no sunscreen can prevent 100% of the rays, free radicals will develop even with the highest sunscreen within a few minutes of exposure to the sun. The higher the sunscreen rating, the less likely that there is sufficient space in the formulation for good doses of antioxidants.

Q: Are organic sunscreens better for the body?

A: No! UVA rays are only poorly absorbed by organic sunscreen and they easily penetrate into the skin and cause free radical havoc.

Q: What is the best way to apply sunscreen?

A: Be certain to apply it evenly and in a much greater quantity than most people understand. Expect to get a slightly whitish haze on the surface of your skin. If you go to the beach wearing a swimming costume then you will need about two tablespoons of sunscreen to cover the exposed areas of your body. Obviously bigger people need more. You should apply the sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Soon after applying sunscreen you will lose some due to contact with clothes and other things. Sweating will also “wash off” the sunscreen.

One molecule of sunscreen generally deals with only one UV ray and then becomes inactive. That’s the main reason why we need to reapply the sunscreen. Even though you walked into the sun wearing an SPF of 100, by the 90 minute mark it has been reduced to about SPF 15 at most and very likely much less than that. You will learn why we want to keep as much of the active sunscreen on the surface as possible. If you go for a swim, then you will wash off a lot of the sunscreen quite easily even though it may claim that it is waterproof or water-resistant. About 10% of your organic sunscreen could be absorbed into your bloodstream and so there is less sunscreen activity on the surface. Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are not absorbed.

Q: Can we what we eat affect the level of sun protection in the skin?

A: Yes!

  • Tomato soup or tomato sauce will enrich your skin with lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein as well as other antioxidants and protect your skin as well as your eyes. Orange-yellow tomatoes may be easier to absorb according to some sources. Other red fruits are also beneficial against sun-burn.
  • If you add vitamin A rich foods, you will also increase your natural sun-proptection because vitamin A accumulates in the skin as retinyl palmitate, and that is a wonderful UVA and B sunscreen. Oral supplements of 40,000 i.u. per day have been shown to be a very powerful sunscreen and will reduce your chances for skin cancer.
  • Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables like berries, and purple sweet potatoes contain high levels of photo-protective molecules.
  • Spicy coloured ingredients like chillis contain lots of lycopene which works the same as for tomatoes.
  • Broccoli and bright green vegetables contain lots of beta-carotene as well as anti-cancer agents and folic acid.
  • Oral Vitamin E and C by mouth will also increase your resistance to sunburn.
  • Drink a lot of green tea which has resuscitative effects on sun-damaged cells, rooibos tea would also be beneficial.
  • Dark Chocolate which has been shown to be photo-protective

Q: How do I choose a really great sunscreen?

A: Choose products that:

  • Give you real SPF 15 when evenly applied, and repeatedly re-applied while you are in the sun. Don’t go for higher than 30.
  • Restrict exposure to organic sunscreen molecules that cause free radicals when they have been absorbed.
  • Give a more lasting protection on the surface of the skin with inorganic sunscreen (titanium dioxide which won’t interfere with the activity of the antioxidants whereas zinc can) and this protection means that the absorbed organic molecules are less exposed to UV rays.
  • Significantly reduce activity of free radicals because of a brigade of antioxidants.
  • Do not contain perfumes because they may cause photosensitivity

Don’t be deluded by the promise of TOTAL PROTECTION..