Sun care: Ingredients to avoid

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The Sun is out at its strongest. For the majority of people, this means only one thing: getting a tan! During the day parks are full of people in bikinis and boardies, and shops full of same people looking for aloe vera gels and other balms to treat the inevitable sun burns the day after.

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I am a strong believer in SPF being one of the best tools in slowing down the signs of aging, whist also maintaining a healthy looking skin. Tanned skin doesn’t look healthy. It’s dehydrated, it looses elasticity and becomes saggy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the sun!! I love spending time in the sun, enjoying that warm feeling when it touches my skin. That’s why a product with SPF is in my handbag at ALL times.

Whether you are as religious a wearer of SPF as me – or not, there are some widely used ingredients in your skincare regime (or even in your beloved sunscreen), that may even increase the sun damage to your skin.

1 Vitamin A

Many sun protection products contain a retinyl palmitate – a form of vitamin A. We all know by now that Vitamin A is a very effective antioxidant and one of the most powerful weapons against the sign of aging and for that reason alone, we love it. Unfortunately, it also contributes to the photosensitivity of your skin. Retinyl Palmitate itself though has been proven (on hairless mice) that when exposed to UVA rays it causes unrepairable skin damage, photo-ageing, and even cancer. Even though until today it has not been proven to have the same effect on humans, it lights a big [Warning] sign for me.

I avoid sunscreens that contain any form of vitamin A during the day. I still use retinol in the evening though, but you know my drill with SPF! If you don’t protect your skin from the sun, you completely counteract all the benefits of Vitamin A.

2 Alcohol

In general, I am not a big fan of alcohol in skin care products. On the other hand I am not completely against it, either as some active ingredients are soluble in alcohol or it increases their effectiveness. There are different forms of alcohol used in cosmetics, some more tolerable than others. You can find alcohol in many sunscreens. It acts as a penetration enhancer, emollient preservative or thickener. Although the concentration of alcohol in sunscreens is usually not the highest and doesn’t cause any immediate damage to your skin, I generally limit my alcohol intake during Summer months to the occasional refreshing beer. In a shade. Still with SPF on. 

3 Fragrance

We all love to smell nice. I know I do! Considering the downsides of using synthetic fragrances when exposed to sun, for me it’s just not worth choosing a sunscreen with an artificial scent of pineapple or coconut, is it? There’s no way of knowing how the “fragrance” on the INCI list was made or what is in it. Fragranced sun products have been linked to cause skin irritation, allergies, and even nervous system disorders. It’s not just fragrance from your skincare products; perfumes are an even bigger problem as they are literally just a mix of alcohol and fragrance.

You can still smell nice this Summer. Instead on your skin, spray your favourite scent all over your clothes!

These, together with some chemical sunscreen agents which I was writing about last week, are the ones that react when exposed to the sun and can become damaging to your skin. There are some other ingredients that increase the photo sensitivity of your skin and/or break down and loose their effectiveness.

4 Acids

There are some conflicting opinions regarding regular usage of AHA and BHAs causing the thinning of the skin. These opinions have yet to convince me with their arguments. The fact is, that both types of acids are exfoliating, which means they are making your skin more prone to sun burn. If you are not keen to wear SPF daily, my recommendation is to skip using acids completely during Summer. There should be small print on every product that contains acids, but who reads the small print, right?

5 Vitamin C

Vitamin C. The Godfather in the world of vitamins. We all love it, we all know the amazing benefits it has to our overall health. When it comes to skincare it gets a little tricky.

Vitamin C is a super power antioxidant, so it would be pretty logical to stick it in the sunscreen to fight the increased amount of free radicals that occur when the sun touches our skin. The problem is that as strong as its superpowers are, it’s really difficult to keep them stable and therefore effective. Especially when it comes to any kind of UV exposure. There is nothing wrong or dangerous if you pick up a sunscreen with vitamin C in it. The only thing you should be aware of is that its effectiveness will be pretty low – if at all.

If you are using other non-sun-related products with vitamin C at night, it’s worth putting SPF on the next morning as it might be quite drying, and contribute to the photo sensitivity of your skin when used in larger concentrations (> 15%).

I think this post pretty much concludes my sun care saga for this Summer. That doesn’t mean you won’t hear the occasional “SLAP SPF ON YOUR FACE. NOW!” here or on any of my social profiles.

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