Sunscreen blog

This sunscreen blog will help you stay up to date on news about sunscreen, the dangers and benefits of sunlight and related health matters...

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Proposed new FDA sunscreen regulations

The most important aspect for me of the proposed new sunscreen legislation from the FDA , is the fact that they are acknowledging that of the 16 approved active sunscreen ingredients that have been listed in the USA for the past few decades, ONLY 2 are now GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe).

They just happen to be the only physical, (or otherwise know as 'mineral' or 'natural'), sunscreen ingredient - zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The rest of the list are all synthetic chemicals.

What they are saying is that the FDA will require manufacturers to submit to the FDA what testing has been done to show how safe the sunscreens are, rather than be accepted as safe - as they would be with either or both of the 2 mineral sunscreens.

However, it also means that if there is any percentage of chemical sunscreen ingredients in a formula, the tests would have to be submitted. Some formulas contain either or both of the mineral sunscreens to make sure they can obtain the UVA broad spectrum required, or claim to be 'natural', while also containing chemical sunscreen ingredients.

This announcement supports much of what the EWG (Environmental Working Group) has been advocating for 10 years now and has been "incredibly welcome news" according to Scott Faber, the senior vice president for government affairs at EWG.

Oxybenzone, as an example, is included in this list. It is included in a huge percentage of sunscreens and in more recent years has been highlighted as especially toxic to coral reefs. Both Hawaii and Key West, Florida, are making moves to ban sunscreens with chemical ingredients like oxybenzone (or benzophenone-3), octylmethoxycinnamate or octocrylene with scientific evidence cited as further contributing to the destruction of coral reefs.

Besides looking for what is advertised as Reef Safe Sunscreen, try looking for a sunscreen that is Biodegradable. Meaning that it will leave no lasting impact on our environment.

So I guess there will many manufacturing reformulations happening fast, but in the meantime look for those sunscreens using ONLY zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or what is becoming labelled as 100% Natural sunscreen, as your best GRAS option!

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Why use a Natural Sunscreen with Organic Ingredients?

Natural vs chemical sunscreens.
 Don’t damage your skin with chemicals to avoid getting sunburnt. Zinc Oxide, as a mineral sunscreen, is 100% natural, provides a high level protection for both UVA and UVB, plus has excellent healing qualities.

Avoid these chemical sunscreens:

  • Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3): allergic reactions and hormone disrupting
  • Avobenzone (Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane): becomes toxic in sunlight!
  • Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate): gender bending (estrogenic)
  • Octocrylene: potentially carcinogenic!
  • Homosalate: Hormone disruptor; forms toxic metabolites
  • Padimate O (Octyl Dimethyl Paba / Paba Ester): releases free radicals; damages DNA; estrogenic and allergic reactions
  • Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid: potentially carcinogenic!
  • Octyl Salicyclate: penetration enhancer; allows other chemicals into blood
  • Benzophenone (Sulisobenzone): irritates skin & eyes. Penetration enhancer
  • Mexoryl SX: Degrades 40% in sunlight, produces reactive oxygen species

Avoid toxic cosmetic ingredients. A healthy lifestyle is vital to combat toxins from modern industries. Choose cosmetics with healthy ingredients and avoid these toxic ones:

  • Sodium Laurel, Lauryl Sulfate, or Sodium Laurel Sulfate: Combined with other chemicals this becomes Nitrosamine, a powerful carcinogen, which penetrates the skin’s moisture barrier, allowing chemicals in
  • PEG (Polyethylene Glycol), Polysorbates, or Ethoxyylate alcohol: all contain dioxane, which is carcinogenic and probably one of the most potent toxins known to man
  • Propylene Glycol: can cause dermatitis, kidney or liver abnormalities, skin growth prevention, or just plain irritation
  • Phenol Carbolic Acid: Can cause circulatory collapse, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and even death from respiratory failure
  • Acrylamide: Can cause breast cancer
  • Toluene (Benzoic; Benzyl or Butylated Hydroxtoluene): can cause anemia, low blood cell count, liver and kidney damage and birth defects

Natural and organic preservatives do not damage your health. Commonly used Parabens are endocrine disruptors mimicking oestrogen, upsetting hormone balance, plus are carcinogenic.

No Petrochemicals or Mineral oils. They clog up skin pores, trap toxins, slow skin cell growth, disrupt normal hormonal functions, rob bones and the nervous system of magnesium, can be estrogenic, plus absorb oil soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from you and then excrete them.

Natural Colorants are non-toxic. Compared with toxic Synthetic ones, they are a far better choice

Natural organic ingredients smell delightful. Added Fragrance has been shown many times to be toxic.

Avoid unnatural Polymers for Water Resistance. Unlike natural alternatives, they coat the skin and prevent it breathing

Many Organic plant extracts provide Anti-oxidants. Added protection against free radical damage and atmospheric toxins, enables the elimination of chemical reactions, and repairs skin cells.

Direct benefit from every ingredient. No fillers are required to counteract negative reactions to chemicals.

Reverse sun damage. Switching from toxic chemical sunscreens to non-toxic sunscreens with added organic ingredients, you can possibly reverse some existing sun damage.

sunumbra® is a wholly natural sunscreen with organic ingredients and a core purpose to make a difference in people’s lives as well as the environment by embracing the sunshine.

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Anti-oxidants in sunscreens

Micronutrients are defined as minerals and vitamins essential for human survival. While necessary in our diets they can also play an important role in skincare as antioxidants, which help prevent oxidative damage. This helps the skin to stay healthy, as well as prevent premature ageing and is especially important in suncare.

Good nutrition goes a long way to helping your skin remain young, supple and healthy. However, topical application of nutrients intended to complement the health of your skin can sometimes be absorbed far more efficiently directly through our skin than via one’s digestive system! There are in fact some ingredients that are rendered inefficient after passing throughout the digestive system, An example of such is Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), which is perhaps one of most potent anti-oxidants we know of. It is an enzyme upon which a major part of the skin’s defence system depends.

SOD repairs cells and reduces the damage done by superoxide, the most common free radical in the body. It is found in both the dermis and the epidermis, and is key to the production of healthy fibroblasts (skin-building cells). It acts as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, neutralising the free radicals that can lead to wrinkles and precancerous cell changes. It helps to reduce facial wrinkles, scar tissue, heal wounds and burns, reduce hyper-pigmentation, and very importantly, it helps protect against harmful UV rays.

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Counter pollution and Urban Toxins with Daily suncare

It's really encouraging to see reports of trends changing from the negative 'anti-ageing' messages to a more positive message that embraces growing old. I certainly have felt so much better since disposing of all hair dyes to allow the graceful grey hair to stake its claim and declare the fact that I am over 50... But liking my wrinkles may yet prove to be a challenge!

Another trend in the cosmetics world seeming to take hold is to help our bodies to resist the toxicities of urban living through added ingredients such as antioxidants. These are proven to be very effective in their transdermal action and are referred to as a variety of things from 'dermocosmetics' to 'neutraceuticals'. The latter mostly refers to food extracts but these are now increasingly being added to cosmetics as a skin nutrient. In both cases - whether as a food supplement or a cosmetic supplement - they boost our internal systems to be able to deal with the increasingly toxic urban environments we live in.

Which is also why I advocate wearing a daily sunscreen with added organic botanical ingredients that boost our ability to help the skin deal with the ageing wrinkles from the UVA and UVB rays, as well as the toxic elements presented in everyday living.

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sunscreen innovations

There is an encouraging number of developments coming through the sunscreen industry lately, even though not all are to to everyone’s liking, or in some cases, not even that believable! We have had a water product infused with electromagnetic waves claim to have remarkable sunscreen capabilities as well as sunscreen pills, and a variety of bracelets that tell you when you’ve had enough UVB exposure.

Although all of these claim to be highly effective in their sun protection qualities, with many people vouching for their success, none are able to be verified under the current SPF testing system employed by countries around the globe to measure the protection properties against UVB rays. Never mind the protection measurements for UVA protection, which is every bit as harmful, if not more, than UVB rays. So even if they are able to offer protection, we cannot officially measure them against the properties offered by sunscreens.

Although there are many different types of foods or nutrients we can consume that will help us boost our natural system’s sun protection capabilities, scientific data to prove this seems to be lacking still with the ‘official’ world. This doesn’t mean to say that one cannot consume what you like for yourself. What I like is how many of these nutrients are being seen in sunscreens recently for transdermal adsorption - offering not just traditional protection but embracing added benefits for your skin’s health too.

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Beauty from Within & Micronutrients in Cosmetics

Micronutrients are defined as minerals and vitamins essential for human survival. While necessary in our diets they can also play an important role in skincare as antioxidants, which help prevent oxidative damage. This helps the skin to stay healthy, as well as prevent premature ageing.

Good nutrition goes a long way to helping your skin remain young, supple and healthy. However, topical application of nutrients intended to complement the health of your skin can sometimes be absorbed far more efficiently directly through our skin than via one’s digestive system! There are in fact some ingredients that are rendered inefficient after passing throughout the digestive system, An example of such is Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), which is perhaps one of most potent anti-oxidants we know of. It is an enzyme upon which a major part of the skin’s defence system depends.

SOD repairs cells and reduces the damage done by superoxide, the most common free radical in the body. It is found in both the dermis and the epidermis, and is key to the production of healthy fibroblasts (skin-building cells). It acts as both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, neutralising the free radicals that can lead to wrinkles and precancerous cell changes. It helps to reduce facial wrinkles, scar tissue, heal wounds and burns, reduce hyper-pigmentation, and very importantly, it helps protect against harmful UV rays.

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Why you should wear sunscreen EVERY day

I just came across this fabulous video illustrating the effects of UV on our skins. A man called Thomas Leveritt has an ultraviolet camera that he set up outside where people were passing while enjoying a variety of outdoor activities in the sunshine.

He stopped people randomly and asked if they wished to see their how the sun affects their faces. Standing in front of the camera you see their reactions to how much their skin alters to be able to deal with the sunshine.

All those with very fair skins were quite horrified by the number of freckles. Those with very dark skin as an alternative, were shown to have extremely healthy skins - almost glowing in the sun!

The one aspect I really enjoyed was how he illustrated the effect of sunscreen and how much UV it appeared to be blocking. The message is very clear - if you wish to look after your skin, maintaining a really healthy, natural looking skin, it makes sense to wear sunscreen EVERY day, regardless of your skin type!

Broccoli sprouts great to detoxify environmental pollutants

Throughout history, across many different cultures, Mother Nature has provided solutions for many health issues. More and more today, diet is being held up as the principle cause of people’s ill health, but at the same time we are hearing the opposite - that food itself can be your best medicine.

Whole, fresh, organic food… and especially broccoli! How many times do you hear people say how much they LOVE it, or HATE it. There is seldom anyone hanging on the fence and saying something in between.

However, if you eat sprouted broccoli seeds in your salads or on your sandwiches, you can effectively obtain one of the highest levels of nutrition with anything from “10-100 times the amount of the chemo-protective compound called glucoraphanin, found in mature broccoli”. So says Dr Mercola.

During the sprouting process, minerals such as the all important calcium and magnesium, bind with proteins. This creates a more active effect when absorbed by the body. Vitamins and essential fatty acids increase during sprouting, which are highly important to healthy living.

Broccoli sprouts are also said to help detox environmental poisons such as the dreaded benzene. Research done in China, where the environment is badly polluted and everyone breathes filthy air involuntarily, resulted in the excretion of carcinogens benzene and acrolein increasing by 61% and 23% respectively. This was after broccoli sprout extract had been introduced to their daily diet and effectively boosted their natural internal defence systems.

Some of the health benefits provided include helping to prevent:

  • Cancer
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Allergies
  • UV radiation skin damage, when applied topically

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Are Children’s Sunscreen Formulas really that different?

Legislation for sunscreen ingredients used by manufacturers all over that globe, are no different for children than they are for adults. So how do you choose an effective sunscreen for your child? Many people just buy a sunscreen that claims to be especially for children, or for sensitive skins, or even one that is “dermatologically approved“ for children.

Or we could even go for one approved by your doctor or dermatologist. However, the fact remains - "There is no safer ingredient just for kids," as quoted by Consumer Reports Health Editor Trisha Calvo. "Manufacturers use the same active ingredients in kids' sunscreens as they do in adults’ sunscreens.”

So if you are inclined to do your homework, you’ll find that many popular sunscreens do not differ in ingredients from their kids sunscreen to their adults sunscreens. If we read that a particular sunscreen is considered the “number one peadiatrician-recommended brand” one would ordinarily assume it’s safer? Bottom line is actually that none of the international bodies governing sunscreen safety include any kind of measure to ensure children’s sunscreens are any different to adults sunscreens.

So, the quality and safety level delivered in a children’s sunscreen brand really lies entirely with the manufacturer. However, they supply according to demand. So, if you want to influence demand, it pays to read the ingredients and know a little about what differentiates a ‘safer’ sunscreen for a child.

Mineral sunscreens, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, provide a balanced broad spectrum protection without any percutaneous absorption with zero risk of photo contact allergy and are not associated with any risk or controversy for hormone disruption or other toxic effects on humans or the environment. However, zinc oxide can be used alone for broad spectrum coverage where titanium dioxide requires further ingredients with UVA1 protection for a fully balanced coverage.

Additionally, although spray-on sunscreens are very popular for use with children outdoors, the consensus is increasingly moving towards not spraying your kids due to the risk of them breathing in the sunscreen ingredient. This poses a very real cancer risk through the lungs. Of course, another risk made quite public recently with people catching alight while barbecuing, is that sprays are often flammable.

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Melanoma study: sunscreen not enough for protection

A recent study undertaken by the University of Manchester's Cancer Research Dept and the Institute of Cancer Research in London, shows us a number of things:

  • allows us to begin to understand how UV light causes melanoma
  • sunscreen can greatly reduce the amount of DNA damage caused by UV
  • provides proof that sunscreen does not offer complete protection from the damaging effects of UV light
  • the importance of combining sunscreen with other strategies to protect our skin

Professor Richard Marais, study author and Cancer Research UK scientist, based at the University of Manchester, said that their studies had allowed them to "begin to understand how UV light causes melanoma".

Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, added: “We’ve known for some time that sunscreen, when applied properly, can help protect our skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. But people tend to think they’re invincible once they’ve put it on and end up spending longer out in the sun, increasing their overall exposure to UV rays."

What they're not mentioning here is the difference between UV rays and the importance of the sun's UVB rays in creating Vitamin D through our skin. For me there seems to be a balance of sun exposure required to obtain good levels of Vitamin D, which in turn help the body to fight the potential for melanoma.

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Aluminium in sunscreens causing skin cancer?

I read with interest an article published by Science Daily, on a report by Keele University about the potential for aluminium in sunscreens actually causing skin cancer.

Aluminium, defined as being a pro-oxidant, has the ability to increase potential oxidative damage in the skin. Where my understanding is that many sunscreens are moving towards including anti-oxidants in their formulas, it came as quite a surprise to hear that many sunscreens still use aluminium in various formats in their formulas.

Where the potential for damage is perceived to be relatively high, I deduced that the reason for including aluminium must be REALLY good? Not so it seems. Most manufacturers, when asked why they included it, provided no answers. One reason given by someone using aluminium hydroxide was that it enabled the coating of the surface, thereby preventing the agglomeration of another ingredient, titanium dioxide particles.

I for one, try to avoid unnecessary use of aluminium and where there are many sunscreens focussing on being healthy, I am sure there are plenty available without aluminium listed as an ingredient.

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Australian Melanoma study: Wear sunscreen Daily

Statistics are always of great interest to me. This study revealed some gaps that are not immediately apparent. I love the fact that the results have determined that wearing sunscreen is a good thing. However, for me there are some information gaps that include:

  • what type of sunscreen was used?
  • Although 'broad spectrum', did the sunscreens used have sufficient protection from UVA rays?
  • what time of the day did they apply sunscreen?
  • what exposure to the sun did they have, with or without sunscreen?
  • did their exposure to the sun allow VIT D creation?

Melanoma is the worst kind of skin cancer with the worst prognosis and the best way for avoiding it is to balance your exposure to the sun. Obtaining this balance depends on a few important things that are not necessarily taken into account in this exercise.

  • What is your skin type?
  • What outdoor activities do you participate in every day?
  • How much protection from UVA does your sunscreen provide in relation to UVB?
  • Do you know how much Vit D you have?
  • How healthy is your diet and your environment?

Knowing the answer to these questions may just help us to balance our exposure to the sun a little better. Each of us is so very different, making it crucial that we know all the answers, as there is no 'one solution fits all'.

But the bottom line is true for me - wearing a carefully chosen, healthy sunscreen every day certainly helps towards preventing that dreaded Melanoma diagnosis.

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Cosmetics R&D taking on brightening the moon

So you thought researchers in the cosmetics industry only focussed on developing improved creams, gels, soaps, and such? Think again. Once innovation is thrown out there as part of the daily mantra, who knows what the research team may come up with?

Well this one went beyond 'the sky's the limit' as they looked beyond our hemisphere and decided they can lighten the night skies by making the moon reflect the sun's rays a whole lot brighter than before.

Who knows what cosmetics they may come up with?

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Skin Cancer increases dramatically in the UK

An interesting BBC interview and article details the latest statistics from Cancer Research UK. It is rather alarming to see the increase in melanoma over the last few decades and great to see the BBC featuring it as a news item.

Melanoma, as a skin cancer diagnosis is the most deadly and definitely not the one you want to hear. The sooner you detect it the better the results of whatever treatment you have.

The BBC interview a survivor of a melanoma diagnosis and she talks about it being tracked back to a sunburn when she was a little girl on holiday with her family. Holidays in all sorts of wonderful sunny spots in the world are being held up as a primary cause of sunburns and the reasons for such an increase in melanoma statistics.

Knowing your skin type and looking after your skin while on holiday will help you to enjoy that wonderful time in the sun.

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Sunscreen you can eat?

The sunscreen industry is making more positive noises about some more creative or innovative ways at enabling us humans to deal with too much sun.

Although sunshine is so very good for us in many different ways, most of all in allowing us to create Vitamin D, too much can cause untold misery.

Enabling the body to deal with such imbalances has been of great interest to me ever since I started researching healthy sunscreen options. There are many interesting botanical options that can be ingested or rubbed onto the skin and have been used through millennia by various cultures. Now these botanicals are being considered in diet supplements to help boost the body's basic ability to resist sun damage.

Mis-identification of some exotic flowers and other botanicals has been identified by some experts in the phytochemistry industry as something to keep an eye on. The result is that you may think you are using or taking a specific botanical ingredient but could in fact be taking something else.

Another relatively new development is what is termed 'Harmonised Water'. This is used to help re-balance the body where it has lost it's ability to deal with imbalances that typically are caused by modern living. e.g. diet causing digestive issues. But it claims to also help protect the body from such things as DNA damage, which of course is common with sun damage. I shall be watching this one develop with interest.

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One thing to do everyday to keep looking young

There's a simple message being given out there by all ages, sexes and ordinary or famous alike:

Put sunscreen on!

Various polls run by magazines and online blogs reveal that only around 30% of people will wear a sunscreen daily. Whether or not you are office bound or work in the outdoors, you are better off wearing sunscreen. Without being outdoors every day, most people are exposed to about 14 hours of casual UV exposure every week.

It helps when some of the revered beauties of the screen advocate wearing sunscreen as their key beauty secret. Some of these include:

Katie Holmes "I learned a long time ago how important wearing sunscreen is."

Julianne Moore -"I say this to every young person I know: Stay out of the sun! I have very fair skin and it would have been super-damaged."

Kristin Davis - "I've done a lot of damage to my skin in the past, which makes me appreciate a great sunscreen now."

Judy Reyes - "Always wear sunscreen, no matter how dark your skin is and how well it takes the sun."

Hayden Panettiere - "I make sure that I put sunscreen on under my makeup, or just by itself, no matter where I am going."

And my favourite Nicole Kidman - "It is the worst thing in terms of ageing, so I wear a lot of sunscreen, and I never go in the sun."

My advice is to check your skin type and make sure you choose the right sunscreen to wear for every occasion, every day.

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UV damage from light bulbs?

The UV we are exposed to from most light bulbs is a very low emission, enabling every day SPF15 protection to be quite adequate for all average skin types.

However, it’s also vital to note that your sunscreen contains high UVA protection. Many face moisturisers today provide UV protection, but only use a chemical sunscreen ingredient and so don’t protect from UVA, only UVB.

There are some people, however, who are extremely sensitive to any UV light and require extra diligence with their protection. This is an interesting excerpt specifically about fluorescent lights: “For most fluorescent light, the amount of UV radiation produced is minimal, much less than the radiation you are exposed to after only a short time under the sun.

However, for people who suffer from sensitive skin or skin conditions that are made worse by natural light, the brighter versions of fluorescent lights can be highly irritating, since these lights mimic sunlight and include a small amount of escaping UV light as well."

The typical fluorescent bulb applications do not require complete nullification of ultraviolet light. However, in some medical or scientific situations, no UV light can be allowed. In these cases, fluorescent lights can be fitted with a sleeve or case that absorbs any escaping UV wavelengths and neutralises them completely while still providing light.

Another way to protect ourselves from the UV effects of fluorescent lights is to replace them with incandescent bulbs. However, this is proving a problem these days as the world shifts to energy saving options and we're back to square one.

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Daily sunscreen use reduces melanoma risk by half

An Australian study conducted over more than a decade, has provided some really interesting results showing that "adults who use sunscreen daily can drastically reduce their risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer". Although perhaps there are many areas where the study could have been improved, or criticised, the results I liked especially are that by wearing a sunscreen every day you can:

  • reduce the overall risk of melanoma
  • reduce the invasive properties of the melanoma
  • reduce the size of the melanoma

Applying a broad spectrum sunscreen to the head, neck, arms, and hands every day, they reduced melanoma incidence by half in their 800 study participants. The other 800 - the half wearing sunscreen as they would normally - came away with some results that I would hope woke them up to the reality of the melanoma risks faced without sunscreen usage? In this instance, it would be interesting to know just what their 'normal sunscreen usage' was and whether or not they used a broad spectrum sunscreen or not.

An area not covered is that of the non-melanoma skin cancers - Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Basel Cell Carcinoma, Actinic Keratosis, etc. Although the indirect implication may be that they would benefit too, it would have been extra informative to have known the reduction of risk with these too.

Plus there is the relatively 'ordinary' aspect of anti-ageing. Wearing a protective sunscreen every day helps enormously to combat this unwanted element of our busy lives and if there are added ingredients that boost the skin's ability to deal with potential DNA damage, then things like sun spots are reduced quite radically, never mind wrinkles and such.

Although the researchers acknowledged they would need to do further, larger research to follow up, the key result seems to be that they highly recommend daily protection, whether by sunscreen usage or other means.

Continue reading "Daily sunscreen use reduces melanoma risk by half"

Beauty motivates skin health in teens, not cancer

I think this article in Cosmetics Design is right on the mark when it comes to how best to connect with motivating teenagers to protect their skin. Let's face it - haha - being positive is so much more appealing than negative anyway. The messages that are being giving out constantly about the state of our world today can be rather depressing, so the tendency to pull towards the positive message is very natural.

When you're a teenager, life is supposed to be relatively fun and carefree, is it not? Being accepted as part of the "in crowd" or being admired and respected by your peers does wonders for self esteem and confidences. So maintaining a pale skin when everyone else is out there getting bronzed up for the summer that's beckoning, is quite a hard challenge.

If the message can be conveyed that whatever your natural skin colour is, it is the most beautiful colour possible, then perhaps a more healthy attitude towards the health of our skin will result. It's possibly a long term and rather an arduous task but well worth the outcome if we succeed.

However, it seems that already some university studies have revealed that teenagers will respond better to looking after their skin so they don't age prematurely with wrinkles and such, than because it will prevent skin cancer. Somehow that's far more positive and therefore motivating for them, which is great!

One way or another the message needs to get out there.

Continue reading "Beauty motivates skin health in teens, not cancer"

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