I have to admit to feeling pretty smug today.
At a party last night I was told by a few people I looked considerably younger than I actually am and I don’t think they were all drunk at the time either.
This came as a pleasant observation to me as over the years I have certainly not been kind to my skin.
Up until my early thirties I abused it terribly. I coated it in baby oil, carrot oil and coconut oil , not all at the same time I hasten to add, and fried in the sun. My quest for a tan led me to spend more time on sunbeds than is now deemed safe and generally I took my skin for granted.
Not surprisingly my misspent youth has caught up with me and I’ve had numerous questionable spots cut off or frozen from my arms, legs and shoulders. According to my doctor they were all attributable to “sun damage”.
What I didn’t realise until far too late is that there’s no such thing as a safe tan.
Any tan is a sign of skin damage and if you go out in the sun and burn you damage your DNA which makes you more susceptible to skin cancer. Once you start to go red it is a sign that you are doing some damage so the current advice is to limit your exposure to 15 minute intervals.
That’s probably the amount of time I used to stay out of the sun, but not any more. With climate change, the thinning of the ozone layer and generally being older and wiser I realise the importance of sun protection.
Each year there are more and more cases of skin cancer reported. In UK just last year (2006-7) there were 75,000 new cases and apparently many people didn’t even realise the sun could be a factor.
Most people have now heard the advice of Slip-Slap-Slop which refers to slipping on a tee-shirt, slapping on some sunscreen and slopping on a wide brimmed hat which are all very sensible suggestions.
However, it seems that even these may not be enough to protect us from the damaging UV rays of the sun unless we are a bit more conscious about things.
The sun gives off UVA, UVB and UVC rays. The A ones are ageing, the B ones are burning and the C ones are not quite so specifically defined. Sunshine also promotes the production of Vitamin D which is vital for healthy bones and reducing the risk of cancer. It gives us that feel good factor.
We are advised and encouraged to use sunscreens with a minimum sun protection factor of 15 (SPF 15) and in some shops that is the minimum protection you will find. It is also recommended we reapply them frequently. However, whilst this should provide protection from the harmful UV rays there could be a downside.
Most of our vitamin D is made in the skin when we absorb sunlight so if we block the absorption with sunscreens we can reduce our ability to produce it. Some of the higher SPF sunscreens block the absorption by as much as 95%.
Also, some sunscreens contain potentially harmful chemical such as PABA and Oxybenzone which can cause allergic eczema and photo sensitivity in some people.
Another ingredient, titanium dioxide is now being blamed for the rise in skin cancer for users who stay too long in the sun.
So what is the answer?
Well it seems the best way is to cover up and wear dense clothing where the fibres are close together. Linen and thin cotton are not sufficient as the UV rays can penetrate the material. If you do choose to wear light flimsy items of clothing it is highly recommended you also wear sun protection of at least SPF 10 underneath.
I take much more care of my skin now and don’t sunbathe at all. Of course it’s too late as the irreversible damage has already been done, but the natural organic products I now use ensure I am now treating it with the respect it deserves.
My skin care is 100% free of synthetic toxic chemicals which you find in most products and contains only purely natural beneficial ingredients. I figure I’ve done enough damage over the years without exposing myself to potentially harmful toxins which have never been tested either individually or in combination as well.
It must be working which is why I’m feeling pretty smug today.
For details of the World’s First cosmetic, skin and personal care products certified to Food Grade Standards free of toxins and harmful synthetic chemicals see www.bestorganicsforhealth.com Jean Shaw is the author of I’m Not Naughty – I’m Autistic and Autism, Amalgam and Me www.jeanshaw.com