It is really important to protect yourself from the potential harm that can occur from overexposure to UV rays. New Zealand is well known for its harsh sun and the sun damage issues that result from this. Our sun is particularly harmful due to several factors including proximity in December and January, increased UV exposure because of the ozone hole that exists above Antarctica and low pollution levels.
Excessive levels of UV exposure can cause the following skin and eye issues:
- Melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer
- Eye damage including surfer’s eye (pterygium)
- Solar keratosis (sun spots, also known as age-spots)
- Aggravation of cold sores.
There are several ways to protect yourself from damaging UV exposure. Top of the list is to stay out of the midday sun (between 11am – 4pm), cover yourself with hats, sunglasses, umbrellas and clothing and of course, apply a sunblock. Remember you can get burned or sun damaged in the shade, on a cloudy day and also in strong winds. It is also essential to stay hydrated when you are exposed to the sun – not only to help you stay cool but to assist the body to detoxify itself from higher than normal levels of radiation exposure.
Choosing the best and safest sunblock can be challenging. The technology behind the manufacture of ‘natural’ sunblocks (i.e. ones that use blocking agents that create a barrier to UV ray absorption) is changing rapidly. Many manufacturers are now using a form of micronised zinc that is considered ‘nano’. Compared to ingredients in mainstream chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone, these nanoparticles are still considered huge and do not penetrate into the bloodstream. Extensive research has shown that the particles stay on the surface of the skin – which is how they provide protection from the sun’s rays. These ingredients must be labeled as ‘nano’ and have been approved by Ecocert and are considered natural by the Natural Products Association. Natural products ‘watchdog’ EWG (Environmental Working Group) has also given a green light to these ingredients as safe.
In light of this research, we have made the decision to allow this ingredient in products we stock. If the presence of nanoparticles of zinc is an issue for you, we continue to stock products that do not contain them. You can talk to our naturopaths about the range of sunblocks available to find the best choice for you.