Are you looking for an easy, healthy way to enjoy the sun without falling prey to sun damage? A way to look after yourself and your family on holiday?
The sun is often cast as an enemy that can only be tackled with litres of sunscreen – and that just isn’t the case. Whilst sunscreen plays a part in effective suncare, it is supplementary rather than being the first thing to reach for.
An estimated 14,000 tons of sunscreen is washed into seas every year - that's the approximate weight of 10,000 cars. Sunscreen pollution has been linked to coral reef damage and some common commercial ingredients are a real threat to marine life. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are examples of ingredients to avoid. So reducing sunscreen use is a positive step for our oceans.
This doesn't mean that we become devil-may-care about the sun. Babies and young children will always need careful UV protection as their skin is more delicate than adults’. Holistic suncare is a responsible approach that will allow you to tune into the needs of your family’s individual suncare needs and skin types.
We're sharing the way of the new sun worshipper – radiant, warm, in harmony with nature and showing our kids the way as we go.
Here go our 6 simple steps to holistic suncare:
- Antioxidants inside and out…
What you eat can radically change your skin’s ability to cope with the sun. Sun damage is a form of oxidative stress – this is most effectively combatted by eating antioxidant rich foods and using antioxidant skincare. How? Fresh, bright foods are full of antioxidants, so it is easy to spot them! Think berries, watermelon, carrots, tomatoes, and deep leaf leafy greens. Creating colourful fruit and veg snack plates for children in hot weather is fantastic for their skin and also keeps them hydrated. Watermelon is a holiday treat not a chore, so that’s a double win.
Before and after sun exposure, using skincare that is lavish in its Vitamin C content is an excellent way of healing any damage and preventing photoaging. Look for natural antioxidant rich plant oils such as Sea Buckthorn, Rosehip Seed, Raspberry Seed and Pomegranate too, which all promote supple, radiant skin. We love Natural Wisdom’s hand blended, food grade skincare which harnesses some of nature’s most potent forms of Vitamin C.
- Cover before slathering…
Using clothes and UV protective swimwear drastically reduces sunscreen use. They also mean you are in complete control of how much sun you or your children are getting. Fabric also offers instant and consistent protection.
Dressing kids in UV protective rashguards or sunsuits on the beach means that you are more able to relax knowing that they are safe from burning where covered. It also means no more struggles to get sunscreen on a wriggling, protesting toddler! For children with sensitive skin or conditions such as eczema, UV swimwear is a solution that keeps them comfortable – no more stinging.
The key to using clothes and UV swimwear for suncare as an adult is to find styles that are flattering so that you actually want to wear them. A modular approach to swimwear works really well. Choose a bikini or one-piece that coordinates with a rashguard; wear the rashguard while the sun is strong and wear the itsy-bitsy option on its own when the sun is soft. It is liberating not to have to reapply a full body load of sunscreen after going for a dip. And out of the water…embrace the kaftan. It is your floaty best friend.
- Seek and make shade…
Whether it is laying your picnic blanket under a tree or pitching a beach parasol – having readily available shade is essential for the whole family. The easiest way to eliminate sunstroke or heatstroke is to relax in the shade rather than fry in the full sun. It sounds so obvious, but it is also easy to forget. A portable beach umbrella or small pop-up tent will fit into a shoulder bag and even cabin luggage.
When the sun is at its’ strongest from 11-4pm, always seek shade. This is the time of day to 'shadebathe'. Lounge and be lazy. It’s no accident that this is the traditional siesta time.
Wide-brimmed hats are a must have. They are your own portable sun protection and instant glamour all in one.
If you are not on holiday and can’t get out of the sun over midday, a hat is your solution too. Choose a brim that is wide enough to shade the back of your neck and down to your collarbones as a minimum. Involve kids with choosing a sunhat they love the look and feel of so that they are happy to wear it. Hats are great in and by the pool, so having a ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ hat is a great sun hack.
Using shade is a way of engaging mindfully with suncare. If we use sunscreen to let us bake for longer than we could without burning, we are overriding the sensory signals that our skin gives us to seek shade and cool down. Sunscreen is needed when we can’t avoid sun exposure. Holistic suncare could just as well be named mindful suncare.
- Balance sun-worship and sun-safety...
The sun is amazing, but it gets terrible press! We instinctively know how good it is because we are happier, more sociable and more relaxed when the sun shines. Our bodies crave the sunlight and need it to make Vitamin D, which is essential for human growth and health. Sunshine affects the brain positively, setting our circadian rhythm.
Even when you are wearing a sunhat or sitting in the shade, by looking out at the sunshine, your brain registers the benefits of the light. This filters down to the internal clock in your organs, benefiting your health as a whole. So it is a good idea to rely on a hat rather than sunglasses in bright light when practical. Another reason is that when your eyes register sunlight, the production of melanin is produced in the skin. Melanin is the pigment that creates the colour of your skin and is what makes you tan. It is the skin’s own defence against sun damage. This is just one example of how crazily intelligent our biology is when it can function naturally.
But excessive sun exposure and sun burn is damaging. Children especially should never get sunburned as the damage lasts for life. It is painful at the time and increases skin cancer risks and premature skin aging down the line.
Getting to know how much sun your body needs for optimal Vitamin D production without tipping into damage is very empowering. Using an app like D Vitameter that takes age, location and skin type into account is a great place to start.
- The right kind of sunscreen…
Sunscreens that are free from harmful ingredients have an important place within holistic suncare. Always look for sunscreen that is designated reef-safe – if it is damaging to other living things, it will be damaging to you too. The healthiest sunscreens to use are ones that use the mineral Zinc Oxide rather than chemicals as the sun protective ingredient.
Mineral sunscreens work like a shield, reflecting the UV rays away from your skin. Chemical sunscreens work like a sponge, absorbing the rays. Whilst this prevents sunburn and can make for a light textured product, this may still let the UV cause damage to the skin cells.
Labeling on sunscreens can be misleading. The SPF rating (such as 25 or 50) refers to the ability block UVB rays. These are the ones that burn you. A product should also protect you from UVA rays – these are the ones that age and damage the skin in the long term. Zinc Oxide is the most effective mineral sunscreen for offering both UVA and UVB protection. For chemical sunscreens, make sure they have a UVA rating in stars.
Because sunscreen rubs off, washes off, sweats off and absorbs, it has to be reapplied. Every 2 hours is a good rule of thumb and after each swim. It also needs to be applied generously in the first place to achieve the advertised level of protection. It takes at least 6 full teaspoons of sunscreen to adequately cover an adult body. Seeing as the body absorbs what you apply to the skin, think about whether you are happy to be absorbing the ingredients of your chosen sunscreen.
As good quality sunscreen is often a relatively expensive product, it makes good sense to use UV protective swimwear to reduce your bottle count! Spend it on all those watermelons (see step 1) or a statement hat instead.
- What's best for the planet is best for you...
Holistic suncare is a philosophy that embraces the benefits of the sun whilst respecting its power. It leads us to care for ourselves in the sun in a way that makes us healthier and happier as a whole. Taking this further, we are completely connected to our environment on planet earth.
For human health, we need a balanced climate and thriving ecosystems that give us clean air, shady oxygen-pumping trees and sparkling water filled with beautiful sea creatures. When the climate suffers, we suffer. There is no separation. It is empowering to realise that we are part of a bigger picture, and that what is good for planetary health is good for our personal health. We don’t have to choose. Just as we need sun protection, the earth does too in the form of our delicately balanced atmosphere.
What can we do as sun-lovers, beach-lovers, wild swimmers, parents and wearers of extraordinary hats? If we do one positive thing, we could choose to support tree planting as this has been found to be the foremost natural climate solution available.
Petal & Ray is committed to being a restorative business, not only a sustainable one. The status quo in retail is still far from sustainable so this is a journey reaching back into our supply chain that we’re excited to be on. From stocking ethical, independent brands to researching where to travel to the sun by train, to experimenting to make the most eco friendly packaging, we’re putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
If you’d like to follow our green business journey or learn more about holistic suncare, we'll be sharing everything through our weekly emails.