People always want to know the best things they can do for their skin. There are so many answers to that question, depending on your current skin condition, lifestyle, and skin goals. All most people focus is on treatment, quick-fixes and instant results. But prevention […]
Happy new year! I hope that everything you’ve been working towards comes to fruition this year, you make many good memories and move on from the past. If one of your goals is to up your skin care game in 2018, here are some skin […]
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many wonderful cities and countries in my life thus far. But one thing I cannot stand is the dry, recycled plane air that wreaks havoc on my skin. If you’ve ever been in a plane before, you’ll know […]
The Damage the Sun can Do
Ultraviolet radiation is a documented serious human carcinogen. Really think about the name – sunlight is radiation, slowly but surely causing irreversible damage to our cells. It’s a slower kind of radiation poisoning but it’s still there.
Sunburn and UV exposure is to blame for up to 95% of melanomas and about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers. In the U.S. more than 5.4 million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed in over 3.3 million people every year. Each year there are more skin cancers than all breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their life.
Down here in Australia, thanks to the hole in the ozone layer and our cultural worship of the sun, two in three Australians will find themselves with skin cancer. If you’re Australian, more likely to get skin cancer than not.
Obviously, we have reason to take skin cancer seriously. Since the discovery that people who use a tanning bed even once before the age of 35 have a 59% greater risk of melanoma, new laws were put in place. It is illegal to run a solarium in any state or territory of Australia as of last year.
Why should you care?
I know it’s easy to read statistics and laws like this and not feel any personal connection to these people’s stories. They’re just numbers. You never think that something like that would happen to you.
As someone who grew up between the UK and Australia, I’ve had it hammered into me for my entire life that the sun = bad. I’m very fair and my parents knew the dangers of letting me tan or burn. I’m so grateful that they made good choices for me when I was too small to do so for myself, and that they taught me to keep it up throughout adulthood. I never had an emotional reason to do this, it was just a habit for me – something to be done and forgotten about.
Unfortunately for my parents, they grew up in a time not so long ago but lightyears behind in knowledge. My dad lived in Central Australia, with summers of over 40 degrees celsius 105 Fahrenheit) for weeks on end and astronomical UV ratings. He would have sunburn competitions with his sisters and see who could peel off the biggest sheet of skin from their backs.
His sister insisted that he go see a doctor for a mole on his back, as she (and every other member of my extended family) had all by then had skin cancer removed too. He denied it and ignored her for months, saying this mole was like any other. Finally he succumbed to my mother’s pleas. He didn’t see the point, and thought it would be a waste of time, but went anyway to get them to stop bothering him.
He was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
Change the Conversation
It hurts and baffles me to have seen first hand the positive rhetoric that still surrounds tanning in North America. There is still so much misinformation and it costs people their lives. It’s easy to feel disconnected and apathetic when it hasn’t happened to you. Yet.
I suggest watching and sharing these videos with your friends and family who you care about. Skin cancer is an affordably and easily preventable disease and people are throwing away their lives for a beauty trend. Perhaps these people who are suffering the consequences of their actions will open your eyes to your future if you don’t stop tanning.
Think back to when you were 16 – did you do some things you regret? Now think of the future. Do you see yourself surrounded by loved ones, living life to the fullest?
We can’t predict what will happen in our lives – the trends that come and go, our relationships and heartbreaks, or the decisions that will haunt us forever. Life’s one big learning curve. But take some advice from those that have been there – you can’t keep tanning and expect to get to that dream life. Think of your family and friends, mourning your loss because you ignored the facts and couldn’t be bothered with sunscreen.
Clare Oliver died of melanoma in 2007 when she was 26, around the time that Australian specialists made the link between solariums and skin cancer. At this time, there was still very little knowledge about the dangers of tanning, though this was changing. This is a place to which I hope the US will be arriving at soon, and hopefully follow in our suit in outlawing solariums. Before her passing, she had a message to share with other young people – that no tan is worth dying for.
Another tanning bed devotee Ashley Tranner died in 2013 at the age of 40. She shares her deep regret in this video, urging others that it’s just not worth it to get a tan.
Marisha lost her nose and other parts of her face to squamous cell carcinoma. See her story and the extent of the damage on The Doctors.
Skin cancer is scary because it happens to all of us; old or young, regardless of gender, race and religion. It’s scary because it’s preventable yet kills so many. You need to be aware, and you need to be vigilant. Get skin checks once yearly with a dermatologist or skin specialist. Take note of any changes to your skin. Wear properly formulated sunscreen religiously and make sure your friends and family do too. There’s no reason to risk your life for a tan.
Read more about skin cancer statistics and solariums, and legislation here.
Stay safe out there!
I recently came across a fascinating twin study all about ageing and which genetic and environmental factors have the biggest impact on perceived age. I wanted to know which features skin make you look old, and whether or not we can control them. What I […]
It seems that recently Australia has been finally catching up with the rest of the world in the skin care game. As such, it shouldn’t have shocked me to walk into my local Mecca Maxima and see Mizon products. But I’m not going to lie, […]
When you’re faced with lots of sunscreen options, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the different types and brands. But the first thing that really matters is the SPF. Let’s talk about what is the minimum SPF you should be reaching for next time you buy sunscreen.
What is the Sun Protection Factor?
By understanding what SPF measures, we can decide how much is right for us.
SPF is an acronym for Sun Protection Factor, a measurement of how long it takes someone to burn with and without the sunscreen. An SPF of 10, for example, means that it took participants in that sunscreen’s tests 10 times longer to burn while wearing it. Obviously, the higher the SPF, the longer you could theoretically go without burning and the more protection you are getting from damaging UV rays.
So what SPF is enough?
The FDA seems to think that SPF 15 is required according to its sunscreen regulations, but most dermatologists and skin cancer specialists seem to conclude that SPF 30 is the minimum to truly protect against damage. Those with lighter skin tones are advised to wear higher SPF sunscreen and to wear it and reapply it more often.
Is any sunscreen ok?
Another thing to consider is whether or not the sunscreen is broad spectrum. This is where it also filters a relative percent of UVA rays proportional to its SPF rating. UVA contributes to tanning, ageing and skin cancer. For protecting yourself completely, broad spectrum sunscreen is key.
What should you look for?
In the US and Australia, these sunscreens must have the words “Broad Spectrum” on the front of the bottle.
In Europe, there is a circle with ‘UVA’ printed inside it, used as an indicator of a sunscreen that offers 1/3rd UVA protection for the SPF rating. This means it’s broad spectrum.
In Asia, the letters ‘PA‘ followed by some ‘+’ signify show the UVA protection. You want to aim to get a sunscreen that is labelled +++ or ++++ for maximum protection.
Is higher always better? What about SPF 70 or 100?
The lines become blurred once you get above SPF 50, and that is why Australia has disallowed labelling over this number (and the US is also attempting to at the moment) . SPF 50 AND SPF 100 protect from a very similar percentage of rays – 98% vs 99% respectively. You need to be reapplying sunscreen more regularly than these sunscreens will protect you for anyway! They also tend to be thicker and less cosmetically elegant, meaning you wont want to wear them as much.
In summary, I believe an SPF 30+ Broad-Spectrum (with the UVA circle or PA+++ where applicable) sunscreen is ideal. You should be able to find a range of these at any local pharmacy or store. Use it every day!
See you next time,
We have it easy here in the great down under in many ways; great public healthcare, high standards of living, and a wonderful (albeit skin cancer inducing) climate. But what we do lack is an affordable, wide range of skincare like the US and Europe […]
There’s been a disturbing trend in the natural health sphere for a while now and I think it’s time I talk about it. Natural health bloggers (see Wellness Mama and Pronounce Skincare, for example) have been spreading the word about their amazing homemade sunscreens. They […]
Mineral oil is the ingredient that gives us baby oil, Vaseline and more. It’s a highly occlusive ingredient that’s chemically inert, making it amazing as a final routine step. It’s derived from the refinement process of crude oil to make gasoline and other petroleum products. While the impurities in untreated mineral oil are carcinogenic, don’t let this scare you. Cosmetic grade mineral oil is rigorously refined to a degree where there are none of these impurities left and no risk. The World Health Organisation itself says refined mineral oil is “not classifiable as to its carginocenicity in humans”.
Yet people still love to harp on about the dangers of using mineral oil in skin care. Thanks to some shoddy research work, people have been given the wrong idea about its safety and place in skin care. Let’s bust some of the common myths surrounding this awesome ingredient that you shouldn’t be avoiding.
Myth: Mineral oil causes cancer/is toxic
Ah, the classic argument. It seems we can’t get away from ‘toxic chemicals’ and carcinogens these days. The carcinogenic compounds found in unrefined mineral oil are removed in the treatment process well before it reaches your cosmetics, making the mineral oil you’ll find in skin care completely harmless.
Mineral oil is not digested by the body nor stored in fat or other organs, making it incapable of building up to toxic levels. It’s in fact prescribed as a laxative because of its ability travel through the bowels and no link has been made between this and cancer incidence.
I might note, however, that National Toxicology Program stated that aerosolised mineral oil might be carcinogenic. It can also irritate the lungs and cause pneumonia in some cases if aspirated, so avoid breathing it in/working in the heavy machinery construction industry if you’re really worried. But that goes for a lot of things – what they’re claiming is like saying that water is ‘toxic’ because people have drowned before.
Claims that mineral oil is linked to higher rates of skin cancer (or any cancers) are unfounded. Mineral oil is also chemically incapable of being absorbed into your bloodstream via the skin, as some sites seem to suggest.
Myth: Mineral oil prevents your skin from absorbing moisture and thus dries it out
Not that I recommend slathering yourself in Vaseline as the first step in your routine, but there is no danger that you’ll ‘lock out’ the moisture by using mineral oil, or any occlusive. The moisture we care about is in the deeper layers of our skin, constantly replenished by the bloodstream. Mineral oil just prevents this moisture from evaporating out into the air a.k.a. trans-epidermal water loss. Of course, much like you wouldn’t put skin care on a dirty face, don’t use it before serums or other active products as the barrier it creates will hinder their effectiveness.
Myth: Mineral oil clogs your pores
Mineral oil is classed as a non comedogenic ingredient. It is also molecularly too large to physically clog the pores in the most basic sense.
It also does not ‘trap’ anything anywhere – whatever you put on your skin before mineral oil would stay there anyway (aside from water, which likes to evaporate). I can find no evidence to suggest that its occlusive properties are to blame for any statistically significant heightened risk of breakouts or bacteria. In fact, if it ‘suffocates’ the skin (which doesn’t breathe, by the way) as so many people claim, this would actually inhibit bacterial growth. Of course, everyone’s skin is different and your mileage may vary as to whether it personally causes you breakouts. I find it great for soothing irritation and flakiness when used as my final step at night.
Don’t let people use the fact that mineral oil is linked to engines and industry to scare you. It’s fear mongering. They use references to studies about unrefined mineral oil to further their agenda of selling you their ‘natural’ products. What we talk about as mineral oil or what you see on your moisturiser label is not the same stuff that goes into our cars. Mineral oil isn’t the bad guy – it’s a great, basic, non-irritating occlusive ingredient that I think is perfect for beginners.
That’s all for today, I’ll see you next time,
If you haven’t heard yet, SPF is the measurement of how much UV protection sunscreen offers you. An SPF of 30, for example, only lets through to your skin 1 bit of UV for every 30 it blocks. That sounds great, right? This is roughly […]