Whether you are staying local, day-tripping to the coast in the UK or venturing to warmer climates like the Med, sun protection is something that needs due consideration. There are so many choices on the market, at every different price point; it's difficult to know which to choose. I've got a husband who can't be bothered to apply his, three relatively young children who need that extra protection but, don't like the yucky feel and I'm time poor so can't wait for a thick cream to absorb. 

Child applying suncream onto face image

What you need to know:

Your sun cream needs to block the harmful effects of UVA and UVB (sun) rays. The sun emits ultra-violet radiation that splits into UVA and UVB rays. UVB causes sunburn and some skin cancers, but not usually until later (10-20 years time). UVA also causes cancers, but penetrates deep into the skin-damaging beneath the layers; causing photo damage, breaks down collagen, elasticity and causes pigmentation; thus speeds up ageing.

Photograph taken by a UV Camera showing a mans hand partly covered with SPF sunscreen

The image on the left is a photograph of a hand taken from a UV Camera.

As you can see some parts of the hand, including both the index and the middle finger is a lot darker than the rest of the hand. This is because these parts of the hand are covered in SPF, whereas the other areas of the hand are not. 

Thanks to this wonderful technology, of a UV Camera, we can see how SPF covers our skin and how it protects us from UVA & UVB suns rays. 

In 2021 there is also another consideration: environmental damage. Caused by both the ingredients and the packaging, the effects sun care has on the environment is huge and more prevalent than ever. Sun cream is widely known to damage coral reefs through coral bleaching and damaging marine life. 

It is also accepted that disregarded sunscreen bottles contribute to the 8m tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans each year.

So what can you do?

Look for packaging that states 'reef-safe and, or 'ocean safe and avoid anything that contains Oxybenzone and Octinoxate as these are known to harm ocean life. Oxybenzone is a chemical compound which whilst a highly effective UV blocker, damages the DNA of coral reefs disrupting their growth and development. Octinoxate disperses UVB rays that cause burns, but even at low concentrations, it is toxic to coral reefs causing bleaching.

Bletched Coral Reef from UV rays image

The above photograph is of a bleached coral reef. This is caused by the sun as well as global warming and environmental damages.

Natural Healthy coral reef before image

The above image is a healthy coral reef. Unfortunately, these are dying out quickly across the globe due to climate change and environmental damages.

Packaging.

You can also choose packaging which either started life as something else, so it's already recycled, or is recyclable. Some smaller brands, like ours, might not be able to offer this just yet, but as it becomes more in demand, packaging manufactures will make it more obtainable for all. 

In the short term, if like me you have a whole family to 'cream-up' I always opt for a brand which offers a larger format bottle, this means only buying one or two per holiday, instead of four or five bottles over the course of the summer or a two-week break. 

Great and safer sun creams to try:

La Roche-Posay - Anthelio's spf 50

50ml, Easy to recycle packaging

Soltan roll-on, Boots SPF 50

50ml, great for kids that want to apply their own. 

Sunsense - kids SPF 50

125ml, fragrance-free and can be used on children as young as 6m old.

Dr Strum Sundrops SPF 50

30ml, SPF drops that can be added to your order skincare and moisturisers to give them an SPF boost. 

Ultrasun 

Up to 400ml, larger formats for less packaging.