Sunday, 21 June 2015

The minefield that is sun cream

(products above will be reviewed separately)

A little heads up before we begin. This is a very wordy post, so much so that the only picture you will find in here is the one above. Also it's a bit ranty, more than a bit ranty actually. Mentally prepare yourself. *deep breath in...and out*  

Just before I start this post I need to advise you all that I am not a tanner. I don't really sun bathe. I like hot weather, but I don't want a tan at all. Nada colour on this pasty white body. So sun protection is really important for me! I want to be able to wear sun protection every day, because when its day time the rays are out. It very much relates to 'suns out, guns out', but with the added thought of 'I'll put some sun cream on those guns, safety first'.

For the last month, maybe two, I have been looking in to and stressing about sun cream. Especially facial sun cream. And what I would like to know is 'why is it so hard to understand'? I mean all people really want is to slap some cream on their face (and body), and be protected from the suns harmful rays. So why do you have to have a degree in chemistry to be able to understand sun cream? Its ridiculous!

Once upon a time I was blissfully ignorant when it came to sun cream, or if you like, sun protection. I used a daily moisturiser with SPF15 most days. Only switching to a PROPER sun cream, with a higher factor on really sunny days when I knew I would be spending extended time in the sun, or when I went on a sunshine holiday. And yes on the odd occasion, maybe once a year I would get a little burnt, in England. Yes I am actually that pale that I can burn in England. I remember one fun-friend-filled day out at Chester Zoo when I had to borrow the parasol off my friends pram to try and stop myself from burning. See even children have more tolerance for the sun than I do!

*disclaimer, no children were harmed in this sun protection endeavour*

So sun cream has played a big part in my life for years now, as has the knowledge that too much sun exposure is bad for you. Burning = skin cancer (and no one wants that).

But now I have my tattoos to protect (the sun really leaches the colour from tattoos) and now I know the effects of UVA (it AGES you! WT actual F!), sun protection has become even more important. So, if you don't mind, let me regale you with my stressing.

First of all we shall start with the things that I have been stressing about least, my tattoos. As I have mentioned above the sun leaches colour out of tattoos, so the more sun exposure your tattoos get, the less striking your tattoos are going to be. And as I am a lady that loves colour and as my tattoos were not cheap, I would like them not to fade. And when I am talking about colour I mean the blacks and greys as well. They are still colour that has been put in to your skin, and they fade too. But I do believe I have got this sorted. In the UK its not often that my tattoos come out in the sun. They are on my lower back and on my thigh and its not often I get my booty shorts and cropped top on to go down to ASDA - actually its never. But honestly I don't really wear things that show off my tattoos on my back and its not usually warm enough in the UK to get my bare thigh out. So I would say that my lovely tattoos are covered up for the majority of the year. But when it is warm enough and I am going to be outside for an extended period of time or when I am on a sunshine holiday I slap on a really high factor sun cream. I am talking SPF 30-50, 50 being preferable. And there in lies the dilemma. When out in the sun I want to protect my skin as much as humanly possible, and actually be able to get my skin out, but sun protection IS SO GREASY!!!!! Seriously people! Who wants to put greasy creams, liquids or what ever on their skin and feel minging all day, as well as trying in vain to not let your clothes touch said grease for fear of them being ruined? I can tell you - no one! But whatya gunna do? Well I'll tell you, you are going to do just that because there is no other option. In a world where there is a million, billion products on our shelves we still haven't managed to sort this out.

Oh and a little fun fact for you. To get the amount of SPF stated on the bottle you have to slather your body in a shot glass worth of product. Apparently that equates to:
  • 1tsp for the face, head and neck 
  • 2tsp for the front and back torso
  • 1tsp for the left arm and foerarm
  • 1tsp for the right arm and forearm
  • 2tsp for the left thigh, leg and foot
  • 2tsp for the right thigh, leg and foot
If you don't do that then you might be reducing the protection to apparently 'a higher degree than is proportionate - for example, only applying half the required amount can actually reduce the protection by as much as two-thirds'. This information comes from The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), which is a pretty reliable source. So what this is actually telling us is you have two choices. Slather your self in a full body mask of sun cream, feeling sticky and minging all day, doing the clothing dance. Or run the risk of burning, premature ageing or getting skin cancer. Great stuff!

Now lets move on to stuff I am really stressing about (I know, as if I wasn't stressing enough already!). My major stress at the moment is my face. Now I have found out what UVA actually does, I CAN'T LET IT IN! I have learnt that every single day, come rain or shine, when its daylight UVA rays want to penetrate my skin and make me look like an old, haggered crone. Well I can't have that, it goes against my whole ethos. And it has now become my mission to protect my skin at all cost. So I did some research and went out on the hunt for some facial sun cream.

And my research found that although UVA is a really big thing at the moment, loads of brands don't says how much UVA protection is in their products. You see the SPF actually only tells you the protection is for the UVB rays, the ones that make you burn, not the UVA. So if you, like me, want to make sure you are protected from the UVA (devil rays) as well then you have to look for sun protection that says 'broad spectrum'. Now if it just says broad spectrum on it and nothing else then it will have some UVA protection in it but you wont know how much. So then you come to the better brands (the more forthcoming brands) that use rating systems to say how much UVA protection their products have. There are two rating systems that I have come across, the Star rating system and the PA system. The Star rating system is measured from 1-5. 5 stars being the highest. The PA system has three ratings PA+, PA++, PA+++ . The more +s the more protection.

So we know what we are looking for on the shelves now, but like our body discussion above, we also need to know how much product we need to put on. And my research has ranged from recommendations of 1/4 of a tea spoon all the way up to a full tea spoon. A FULL TEA SPOON, of greasy product on your face! I am not going to lie to you, I have not tried to put a full tea spoon of sun cream on my face, this is because I struggled getting 1/4 of a tea spoon on my face. For me and my combination skin it is not possible. I can just about fit 1/4 of a tea spoon of sun cream on, I have done it a few times, and worn it all day for work. But in general I have to powder my face after, so I don't look like I have put baby oil on my face. And that upsets me because I like be make-up free for work. And it also makes my face feel like its caked in gunk all day. It makes my skin feel heavy and minging and the days when I did do it, it was all I could think about all day. It was horrible! At first I thought it might be my cheaper brand sun cream that was the problem so I tried a higher end brand and it was still the same. The issue, for me, was the sheer amount of product on my face.

So here lies my stress. I want to protect my face, every day from the dreaded UVA rays (UVB protection is important too, but for every day wear I am not in the sun long enough for my skin to burn), but facial sun protection is greasy, just like body sun protection. And to get the full protection I have to put an amount of product on my skin that is not humanly possible. So what do I do? Well I have had to assess what I am willing to compromise on. I know that you definitely don't get enough protection from you average moisturiser with SPF included, so I am using specialised sun creams at the moment. I am only using SPF's of 30-50 and the highest Star or PA ratings (5 and PA+++), but I am using less than the recommended product amount. And my skin is looking lovely. I don't know what affect this will have on it in the future, I'm hoping I am adequately protected from skin cancer and UVA nasties but only time will tell I suppose.

I am never going to stop trying sun protection products, sun protection is TOO important, I only wish companies would put more research in to devising products that are better to use.  And hopefully one day I will find one that I will be able to wear the full recommended amount of, with the highest UVA and UVB protection and my skin fell lovely.

But until that day: I will be using less than the recommended amount on a daily basis, keeping my tatts as covered up as possible and feeling like a greasy mess on holiday and on the rare sunny day in the UK.

What do you guys think about sun cream? Have you found the holy grail of sun protection, that is going to be the answer to my prayers? I hope so, because I really could do with some help here.

Stacey x x 

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