The Sun And I (What And How I Use Sunscreen)
I’ve been on quote the journey with my old friend the sun.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I’m three years old, watching Teletubbies and it’s at this moment I learn that the sun is actually a baby who giggles and smiles. How pleasant.
Four years old and into childhood. We were at the beach every day possible. I sometimes look back at my childhood and think my dad was allergic to the indoors. Upon reflection as an adult, this gave me the most beautiful childhood and a real affinity for being outside.
But of course, this meant my mum was permanently slapping her sunscreen drenched hands all over me, while I scrunched my face up, trying (but failing) to stop sunscreen going in my mouth and eyes.
Age 11. My dad dies of melanoma.
Early teenage hood. I try to push the boundaries (only a little), and my mums nagging to put on sunscreen makes me less likely to do it. Quickly I suffer a couple of bad sunburns, and I learn that in fact there is some truth to what she is saying.
I’m now self motivated to put on sunscreen, especially when spending every day at the beach.
I get a bit older, and learn from my friends that being tanned, and having tan lines is really cool (honestly yuck!). I make it my mission to get as tanned as possible without burning, and I feel like I’ve solved the worlds problems and hacked the system.
This involves sun baking with no sunscreen for the perfect amount of time, right before you start to burn, and only then putting sunscreen on. Still, I try to get as much sun as possible.
I move to the south of New Zealand for university. It’s so close to Antarctica that during most of the uni year, the temperature barely gets into double digits (talking celsius for my overseas readers). I’m suddenly completely covered in clothes for most of my existence, and while I still lived an outdoor focused life, it wasn’t without layers of puffer jackets and thermals.
I live here for four years and under the radar, suffer from depression symptoms. At least I’m nice and pale though, with very little sun exposure.
I move back to Australia and I get some results that I have extremely low vitamin D, and a genetic test that tells me I have a greater than normal risk of vitamin D deficiency.
I flashback to a uni lecture, where we were told that because of the location of Dunedin (where I resided in NZ for four years), during the winter, you could lie in the sun naked all day, and still you would not be getting enough vitamin D for basic human function. Duh!! I delve further into research and discover that Vitamin D deficiency is a major cause of depression like symptoms. Double Duh.
I’m contacted by the melanoma institute to get tested for a gene mutation they suspect I may have (due to my family history), it turns out positive, and I learn that I’m at a higher risk of developing melanoma and other cancers. I commit to having my skin checked every six months.
Still, I spend a lot of time in the sun. Even sun baking. Despite my dad dying, and finding out I have genetic susceptibly to melanoma, I still sunbake!! SMH!!!
When. Will. I. Learn.
I reach my early twenties, and for the first time, start thinking about signs of ageing. I do some research and learn that the sun is absolutely terrible for your skin.
Finally, I start wearing SPF every day, even throughout winter. And I stop sun baking or spending extended periods of time in the sun.
I mean really, after all that it was ageing skin that actually changed my behaviour? At least I got there in the end.
But it continues.
And still going (questioning what is actually in sunscreen)
Now that I’m putting sunscreen on every day, more than I ever have as an adult, I start looking into the true health of it. I’m aware that a lot of beauty and skin products are hormone disruptors, and I suspect the same might apply to sunscreens.
I was right.
Most conventional sunscreens don’t uphold to my standards. I’m still learning about low tox living, particularly beauty products (Low Tox Life has been a great resource) so I’m not 100% there yet, but I do try my best to use only natural products. Although I’ve learnt it is not always clear what is truely natural and what isn’t.
But thankfully, I find some great natural options that do. I found this trustworthy guide.
And I swap all the kids sunscreen over too (I have two young step kids for those new here).
My partner thinks I’m nutso as I chuck out all the conventional sunscreens and refuse to put them on the kids.
What I’m using:
- Mother SPF, I use the normal sunscreen on my body and face, I use the bronzing drops and tinted SPF on my face too.
- Little Urchins, I buy this one for the kids, although I use Mother on them too. I just have this as a separate one in the beach bag where we have all their beach stuff.
What I Do Now
I’m not afraid of the sun. While it’s true I don’t sunbake anymore, being outdoors makes me happy, and the sun really charges my batteries (that and my seasonal affective disorder). So I’m not willing to live a life indoors and afraid of the sun.
I wear sunscreen on my face everyday.
If I’m outside in Summer, I put sunscreen on the rest of my body.
I wear hats all throughout Summer (I love wearing hats anyway).
I enjoy time outdoors, and at the beach, but I don’t sit there for hours and hours, frying my skin.
I take Vitamin D supplements in Winter. I don’t take a huge amount of supplements, but given my naturally low Vitamin D levels, and the affect this has on mood, depression and immunity (and therefore overall wellness), it’s something I prioritise along with magnesium which is the only supplement I take daily and year round.