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Sunscreen. Your mum tells you to wear it. Your doctor tells you to wear it. Even the staff at the beauty counter tell you to wear it... but what’s all the fuss about? 

Well, the fuss, our friends, is very much based on facts. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proven by scientists (over and over and over again!). Sunscreen protects your skin from the sun's powerful UV rays and helps to prevent sunburn. Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, meaning sunscreen protects you from more than just walking around looking like a lobster.

Here at PlantX, we have been listening to scientists and our elders, providing you with a spectacular selection of sunscreen. Contrary to popular opinion, the sun's UV rays are dangerous everywhere - in the States, the rainy UK, or even Antarctica ... So, wherever on our beautiful planet you are saying hello from, stick around and have a browse. Follow your parents’ advice and the science and protect the skin you are in! 

What are sunscreens and what do they do? 

Sunscreens are topical creams that protect the skin from the sun. Sunscreen blocks the skin from absorbing too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This is important because UV radiation can damage the skin and lead to sunburn and skin cancer. 

No sunscreen can completely block UV radiation so you still need to be responsible. Think about how long you spend in the sun and are exposed to UV rays. Sunscreens simply allow you to spend longer in the sun before the skin begins to redden and burn. They do not mean you can spend an unlimited amount of time baking in the golden sun.

What are the benefits of sunscreen?

When used regularly and correctly, sunscreen decreases the risk of skin cancers and skin precancers. Sunscreen also helps to prevent premature skin aging, such as sagging, age spots, and wrinkles caused by the sun. Not bad hey?

Should I wear sunscreen every day? 

Yes! Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine, even when it’s not sunny outside. It is best to apply at least 15-30 minutes before venturing out. This gives the sunscreen time to really do its work. You should reapply after swimming or excessive sweating. If you are constantly exposed to the sun you should top up about every 2 hours.

Everyday? Even when it is cloudy? Yes! Up to 80% of the sun’s UV radiation reaches the earth through clouds, so your skin still needs protection on overcast days!

Where should I apply sunscreen? 

If you want 100% protection you should apply sunscreen to your whole body at the beginning of the day. This means your entire skin will remain protected as your clothes shift or if you change your clothes throughout the day. 

However, at PlantX we understand a whole body slather may not be the easiest step to add to your daily routine. So, our advice? At the very least apply sunscreen to the areas that you know will be exposed to the sun. 

The face, the neck, and the shoulders are key. The top of your ears and your scalp are also important if you do not have so much hair to protect you! If you drive a lot make sure to get the top of your hands. More than 50% of the sun's UV rays can penetrate glass, so you will be surprised how much of the UV can get through the windscreen as you are driving around!

What does SPF mean? 

SPF is short for Sun Protection Factor. The number tells you the amount of time the sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet (UV) rays. So, if you use a sunscreen that has SPF 30, then technically speaking it would take roughly 30 times longer for the sun to redden and burn your skin than if you had no sunscreen on at all. However, most sunscreens will wear off long before then so it’s always best to reapply every two hours.

Is sunscreen bad for the environment?

While sunscreen is very important to keep our skin safe, scientists have found sunscreen can threaten the health of coral reefs. Sunscreen does not only stay on the skin. When we swim or shower it can wash off and end up in our waterways. Sadly, there is science suggesting that sunscreen chemicals can negatively affect green algae, coral, mussels, sea urchins, fish, and dolphins. 

But not to fear, there are steps you can take. If you want to make sure your sunscreen is also safe for coral reefs then choose a sunscreen that is reef friendly! There are plenty of coral reef friendly sunscreen options here at PlantX!

The basic advice is to find a sunscreen that uses physical/mineral UVA and UVB filters as opposed to chemical ones. Chemical ingredients have been connected to coral reef deterioration. Simply check the active ingredients in your sunscreen by reading the back of the bottle - look for zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as these are considered to be safe ingredients! 

A guide to choosing the best sunscreen for you!

With so many sunscreens available (as you can see here at PlantX!) it’s hard to know where to start. Lucky for you, here is a little guide we have created with the help of the Skin Cancer Foundation. Have a read to help you select a sunscreen that is right for you. 

Step 1: Ingredients

All sunscreens have different active ingredients to help protect your skin from the sun. In general, there are two types of ingredients: 

Physical/Mineral: these are ingredients, such as the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, that block and scatter UV rays before they can penetrate your skin.

Chemical: these are chemical ingredients that absorb UV rays before they can damage the skin.

Some tips to help you choose: 

1. Physical/mineral sunscreens may be less likely to irritate skin than chemical sunscreens. (However, both have been tested as safe and many sun ingredients combine both!)

2. Physical/mineral sunscreens have been said to be less harmful to coral reefs.

3. While the names would suggest otherwise, all active ingredients in sunscreen are derived from chemicals - physical or chemical!

Step 2: SPF 

Make sure your SPF is appropriate for the activities that you will be doing, or how long you spend in the sun. How to choose the correct SPF?

SPF 15 is perfect for everyday occasional exposure - like going for a dog walk or driving to the shops. For lengthy outdoor activities, like hiking, running, swimming - opt for SPF 30 or higher. SPF 30 is also a must if you work outdoors. 

Step 3: Broad Spectrum Protection

Broad-spectrum protection shields your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Previously, most sunscreens only contained information about the rays that cause sunburn - UVB. Now, there is more research about the dangers of UVA rays too. UVA rays cause tanning and premature aging. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will have clear information on the label about both UVB and UVA ray protection. Make sure you are getting the best out of your bottle! 

Step 4: Water resistance

Will you be swimming with your sunscreen on? If so, make sure you opt for a water-resistant sunscreen. Water-resistant sunscreens have the advantage of remaining effective from 40 - 80 minutes after swimming. 

Step 5: Will you actually use it? 

It is only useful selecting a sunscreen that you will actually wear! It is no good to you on the shelf. Make sure your sunscreen has all of the characteristics you are looking for e.g. a spray, a cream, reef-friendly, no white-cast, absorbs easily... The list is endless! Then, once you have found the perfect candidate - use it every day!

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