Sunday, 7 July 2019

Protecting your skin from the sun | Vegan Edition

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How to apply sunscreen properly

Sounds simple doesn’t it? However people are still applying and using sunscreen incorrectly or not at all. Skin cancer deaths in the UK have increased by almost triple since the 1970’s according to cancer research UK. But these rates are projected to fall by 15% between 2014-2035 as people become more aware of the devastating effects of skin cancer.

Sun damage isn't always visible to the naked eye, the sun causes some sneaky damage you might not be aware of, like altering your DNA causing premature ageing and brown spots and no one wants that.

28g is the recommended application amount of sun cream for your entire body, obviously unless you're at the beach and only wearing a bikini there are few other times you'll need to cover your whole body with sun cream. But did you know that 28g is the equivalent to a shot glass full of sun cream, I bet that's more than you were expecting right?

In a society that is so obsessed with looking young, it seems strange to me how many people overlook something so detrimental to the health of their skin. It is said our hands, face and neck give away our age, probably because these areas endure sun exposure nearly every day come rain or shine, so a little more should be done to protect them. Be more aware of how often your hands are exposed to the suns rays for instance, like when you're driving, or simply just out and about in a long sleeved top in spring time when your hands are still exposed to the elements.

Applying sun cream to your hands all year round or getting a hand cream with SPF will help protect you from the sun's ageing effects and help to prevent you from getting age spots.

SPF hand cream, apply sun cream to hands

Follow these top tips for getting the most protection from your sunscreen:

1) Make sure you are using a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 and check that it is a broad spectrum SPF which means it protects you from UVA and UVB rays.

2) Apply sun cream before going outdoors, allow the cream to sink into your skin for 15 minutes before heading out into the sun because this is the amount of time the cream will take to absorb and provide protection.

3) Don’t forget areas like your ears, tops of your feet, between your toes, your neck, lips and eyelids, yes even your eyelids are at risk of skin cancer so protect them by wearing good quality sunglasses.

4) Don’t scrimp on the amount of sunscreen you’re using, get out the shot glass to measure it!

5) Make sure you are reapplying sunscreen every couple of hours whilst you are outside, and reapply after swimming or exercising.

You might not have heard of a finger tip unit, essentially is's the measurement of sun cream when you squeeze a blob of the product the size of your finger tip. This unit of measurement has been used to work out how much sun cream you should be applying to each part of your body, which makes it easy to work out if you're applying enough.

Wearing sun screen does not stop you tanning, so there really are no excuses. Wearing no protection doesn't make you tan more but it does increase your chances of burning and causing lasting effects to your skin. So make sure you're wearing sun cream every time you go out even if it's not that sunny. Surely by now you've heard that you can get burnt even on cloudy days.

When are you most at risk of sunburn?

Well the obvious answer is between 11am-3pm when the sun'r rays are at their hottest and also beaming down on you from directly above, but there are other times you are at risk of burning that you may not have realised.

80% of the suns rays can penetrate through clouds which is why this is one that catches a lot of people out, the clouds aren't protection.

When you're in water you may find you are more likely to burn, contrary to popular belief this isn't due to the reflective quality of water increasing the amount of radiation hitting your skin, it's actually due to the cooling nature of water masking the heat of sunburn. When you are sitting in the sun you're more likely to notice your skin to start feeling warm but the water cools this sensation so you don't notice until you are too far gone.

Lounging under an umbrella on the beach might make you think you're safe but beware, sand reflects 17% of UV radiation so it could be reflecting straight in your direction!

Don't be fooled by snow, just because snowy locations are on the chilly side doesn't mean you are safe. The suns rays reflect off of snow meaning you will still be affected by the UV radiation and can even burn in the most unusual places like under your chin as the sunlight reflects straight up from below.

When are you at risk of UVA?

Although UVB rays are absorbed by glass, 75% of UVA rays get through, which means if you sit by a window at work or spend a lot of time in your car those ageing rays will begin to have an effect on your skin.

Be careful when on planes, especially when sitting in the window seat, for every 1000 feet in elevation there is an increase of about 2% in UV radiation. So whilst you sit there waiting to get to your sunny destination you could already be feeling the effects of the UVA before even stepping off of the plane! Scary stuff.

You may be fooled into thinking that if you're fully clothed your skin is safe, that isn't actually the case. A plain white t shirt actually only has an SPF of about 7, if you can see through the fabric the UV radiation can sneak through too.

Which sun cream is best?

When you walk into a shop on the hunt for sun cream, often you'll be faced with an entire aisle full of different brands and types with varying levels of SPF. So how do you go about choosing what's best? Well the first thing you should be paying attention to is whether the product is a broad spectrum SPF, what this means is that it protects you not only from UVB rays which are the ones that burn your skin but also UVA rays which are the ageing ones. You'll know this by looking at the EU enforced logo on the packaging, it's a circle with UVA written at the top with up to 5 stars shown beneath. The more stars the more UVA protection the product has.

Really no one should be using less than factor 30, avoid those oils that are factor 2 or 5. They provide very little protection at all and they are not aiding in you developing a deeper tan, it's an old wives tale and a marketing ploy. If you care about the health of your skin opt for factor 30 and above.

Although sprays may seem convenient, you need to take extra care you are spraying enough product and spreading it across all exposed skin.

Look for waterproof or water resistant because even if you're not swimming, in hot weather your perspiration can wear off the sun cream.

Which sun creams are vegan?

Luckily there are plenty of vegan sun creams on the market nowadays, some of the big names you might recognise are even vegan and you don't have to search high and low for them or pay out silly money either.

Bondi Sands are a vegan range which have tanning products as well as sun creams, their bottles of SPF 30 sun cream are currently on offer at Boots for only £4.49 which is a steal and remember you get your advantage card points as well!

They also do a factor 50 if you want even more protection. Bondi Sands SPF 50

Malibu sun care are also vegan and easy to pick up in Superdrug stores, they do an SPF 30 sun cream for around £3.49 which is really affordable and a scalp protector spray in SPF 30 which is super handy as people often get burnt in their partings.

Calypso is a brand who don't test on animals which is great news but not all of their products are vegan as some contain beeswax or keratin, however their Once a day SPF 30 is vegan and can be found in Wilko for £6.

Marks and Spencer have an entire section on their site dedicated to vegan sun care products from varying brands so are really worth checking out: Vegan Sun Care

The whole Solait range by Superdrug is vegan and has every product you could need to protect your skin from the sun.

Your skin is for life, so don't be silly and not protect it properly in the quest for a tan that only lasts a few weeks. Have fun in the sun and stay safe!

Don't forget to share this post with others on the lookout for vegan sun protection.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Is cotton wool bad for the environment?

effects of cotton production on environment

Cotton wool is a staple in most households, especially those that have female residents. I personally use cotton wool pads everyday when taking my make-up off, that got me thinking, how bad is cotton wool for the environment?

How is cotton wool made?

Cotton grows on the cotton shrub and looks remarkably like your little cotton balls growing on twiggy sticks in a field. In short, the little cotton bolls are harvested and are passed through several machines that separate the cotton from the seeds and debris. If you are after a more in depth explanation, I will have disappointed you. But the point of this post was to explore if cotton wool is a handy little product, or a naughty little item best avoided, so lets get onto that.

Is cotton wool biodegradable and can it go in the compost bin?

Like most products, the first thing to consider is are there other chemicals or substances present or are you using 100% cotton wool. Generally I buy my cotton wool pads from Wilko and I checked that they are pure cotton wool, which is positive as cotton wool is a natural fibre so it will biodegrade.
Sadly it isn't as simple as that though, because what do we generally use cotton wool for? Most women will use it to remove make-up, nail polish or tinting products. What difference does that make I hear you ask, well quite a lot if you are wanting to compost your used cotton wool. Adding chemicals onto the cotton wool means you can't really put it into your compost bin as it will introduce those chemicals into the compost eco system, which won't do it any good at all. So that means your cotton balls will have to be binned.

Can cotton wool be flushed down the loo?

Absolutely not! Cotton wool doesn't break down like toilet paper does, it can build up in your plumbing and cause blockages in sewage systems. If you haven't seen the horror that is a fatberg I encourage you to go and look it up but not whilst you're eating your dinner!

Can cotton wool be recycled?

No unfortunately it can't be recycled, another reason it's losing serious brownie points. Cotton wool may be convenient but it seems to be problematic to dispose of.

Is cotton wool environmentally friendly?

The cotton shrub is native to subtropical regions like Africa, Egypt, the America's and India, however China is currently the largest producer of cotton making 23 million tonnes per year. So in terms of how far the majority of your cotton wool has travelled, it's not exactly just around the corner is it?

Cotton production is also the most pesticide intensive crop in the world, which causes serious repercussions to the soil, surrounding biodiversity and the run off of pesticide from the fields often ends up polluting nearby waterways. This is pretty bad news for fish and animals as well as people.

Cotton production is incredibly water intensive, taking 10,000 litres to produce just 1 kilo of cotton and has contributed greatly to the depreciation of several lakes and rivers around the world, most notoriously being the Aral sea which shrank to a mere 10% of its original size due to its feeder rivers being rerouted to arrogate cotton plantations. 

The vast area where the Aral sea once was, is now just dusty salt land that is causing health issues for local residents, when the wind blows up the salty residue laden with pesticides across residential areas, the locals have been experiencing a range of breathing difficulties from inhaling this toxic cocktail. 
To put things in perspective, pesticides can cause really serious health problems from neurological diseases to cancer and leukaemia. It really is no joke, so when you think about the amount used to produce cotton and the devastation it can cause to nature, animals and humans it makes you think, is it worth it?

What can I use instead of cotton wool?

There are several things you could do to reduce or eradicate your cotton wool usage. 

If like me you use cotton pads to remove make up, then an easy swap would be reusable bamboo pads, they are about the same size as cotton pads so they still fit in the holder on my bedside table and I've got enough that I use one every night and then when I have about a week or two's worth I throw them in a little wash bag and sling them in the washing machine with the rest of my laundry, so simple.

Maybe you use cotton pads to remove your cleanser, well in which case why not invest in a muslin cloth to use instead, like this one from The Body Shop or a pack of two REN muslin cloths for £4.50. Just be aware that both of these muslin cloths are still made of cotton but at least they aren't single use and will last you quite a while.

If you are in the market for something truly sustainable it would be worth investing in an Angel Face Cloth which is made from konjac sponge vegetable fibres. It's all natural, gentle on the skin, PH neutral, and biodegradable. 

Other options:

Thanks for reading, I hope you learnt something from this post and it inspires you to make a change, no matter how small.

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