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Why We Need to Question What We Think About SPFs

Written by John Hamilton


Posted on 06 May 2020

Is Sunscreen the worst thing we could be using on our skin for both wellness and our ability to fight Covid19? We raise the questions and even suggest some answers.

Vitamin D

With the news that Public Health bodies are urgently reviewing Vitamin D's effect on coronavirus following reports that a vitamin D deficiency can increase death risk by 99%, it is without a doubt time to look at the myths and misunderstandings surrounding sun exposure and in particular the value of sunscreens. Sunscreen stops you from being able to absorb Vitamin D, this combined with the fact that darker skin types need more sunlight than white skin types to be able to absorb Vitamin D could be a factor in why BAME people are three times more likely to contract COVID and why a higher proportion need Intensive care when they do catch it.

Toxic Chemicals in Sunscreens

 Combined with recent concerns raised by:

  •   Professors of Photobiology Dermatology Science at Newcastle University,
  •   Molecular Clinical Sciences Research Institute University London,
  •   Head of Toxicology Hereford University
  •   & Professors of Pathology Queen Mary University

All of the above have made statements relating to the toxic potentials of the chemicals in sunscreen and have recommended investigations as to their safety. Is this the exposure of a major health risk?

ALSO: The FDA in The USA has failed to get the sunscreen industry to do toxicity testing ... WHY? what are they hiding... Is this another Johnson and Johnson talc scandal  where it took 40 years to come out it had cancer causing things in it

AND: There is also a strong argument for just how effective sunscreens are anyway and as skin cancer is effecting huge amounts of people more so than any other cancer. Q: Are official sun screens effective? on the evidence of how many are getting it when using them... No not really  seems to be the answer.  

Adrian Martineau, a professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London,  says that deaths among BAME NHS staff had highlighted the role of vitamin D deficiency.

“Vitamin D could almost be thought of as a designer drug for helping the body to handle viral respiratory infections,” he said. “It boosts the ability of cells to kill and resist viruses and simultaneously dampens down harmful inflammation, which is one of the big problems with Covid.”

We have seen a dramatic increase in Vitamin D deficiency in the UK over the last few years which has fueled debates and concerns that sunscreen use could be contributing to this rise in vitamin D deficiency. This happens because SPFs stop the production of Vitamin D in the skin by UVB light.   

 In a recent poll, 80% of people don’t understand what SPF protection means and 56% didn’t know that SPF only protects against UVB rays and not UVA, i.e that it protects against sunburn but not skin cancer or premature ageing. 

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society tell us that SPF is ‘the level of protection offered against UVB rays alone’ This means that the higher the factor/star rating is only calculated based on reduction in sunburn. WDDTY magazine commented ‘health warnings have become so extreme that most of us are starved of Vitamin D’ so sun avoidance combined with frequent use of high SPFs are putting our health at risk.  

The  FACTS ON UV>>>two types of light:

UVA Light: This contributes to skin ageing and the development of skin cancer as it penetrates deep into the skin, UVA has a consistent intensity throughout the day, all year round and can penetrate through cloud, clothes, hats, umbrellas, water and glass.  

UVB light:  We describe UVB light as being like a heat lamp you see keeping food warm, which, if you have too much,  it dries out and burns the food.  You can easily avoid this damage by being sensible in direct sunlight ie getting shade regularly,  wearing a hat / t shirt and giving your skin a rest from direct sunlight during the day. 

Why are free radicals so bad?

Free radicals are unstable atoms that damage cells causing illness and ageing, they are linked to a whole host of diseases. The free radicals trigger peroxidation, which leads to oxidative damage which in turn leads to cell breakdown, resulting in skin ageing and internal disease. Mainly modern commercial sunscreens contain ‘minerals’ and they are marketed as this being a good thing, but because ‘minerals’ are made from petroleum (carbon molecules) it is toxic to human cells, causing oxidative damage mentioned above. (This was part of a report by the head of the molecule intelligence unit at Cambridge University, if you’d like to read more, drop us an email)

 So commercial sunscreens are good and protect the skin? 

 A recent comment made by a USA medical center highlighted why this isn't the case: ‘the ingredients in commercial sunscreens actually increase the risk of skin cancer and induce premature ageing’. Sunscreens are expected to offer significant protection from UV damage and oxidative stress, however simple tests are showing that free radical activity in sunscreens, when it is exposed to UVA light. We know that free-radicals are the main cause of skin ageing and damage so the product being used to protect us could actually be causing more harm than good.  

Research published by the JAMA in May 2019 has shown that some sunscreen ingredients are absorbed by the blood and has raised a need for further clinical research into these findings. The four studied considered were avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule. 

We also know that there are other chemicals used in sunscreens which have shown to increase the damage of free radicals/UVA and, according to Cambridge university are hugely damaging to human cells: zinc and titanium oxides which also only reflect UVB not UVA

Although the levels of these ingredients being absorbed falls below the theoretical toxicology safety threshold, this study highlights the fact that these synthetic materials are being absorbed by the body and that understanding the effect they have on bodily systems at these levels is limited (but that they are toxic at higher levels).

For us, the question is why would you want to put any of these synthetic toxic chemicals on your skin in the first place? No matter what level you are absorbing them at! 

 How to combat free radicals

It is no secret that antioxidants stop cell damage happening - that’s why eating fruit and vegetables full of them are recommended. The antioxidant compounds can be found in the vital oils of the fruit and vegetables. Antioxidants are reducing agents, they reduce and limit the effects of oxidative damage. Our cells are equipped with antioxidant enzymes and reactive species (RoS) scavenging molecules, however their capacity isn't endless, they can soon become overwhelmed with the daily dose of oxidative stress, especially when we are using hundreds of free radical releasing chemicals every single day in skincare, around our homes and in the environment.  

We know that ingesting antioxidants is recommended but applying them to the skin also makes scientific sense, replacing the petroleum by-products with natural antioxidant-rich products is recommended. Our founders, John and Karen demonstrate this effect by presenting you with two bowls, one with mineral baby oil (zero antioxidants) and the other with extra virgin olive oil (antioxidants) and some nice bread to dip in them and invite you to go ahead...

 Naturally, people are happy to dip into the olive oil but not the baby oil for some reason!  

 When asked why is that?  they reply ‘isn't it a poison to the body’. 

 Well yes, John and Karen reply, it is, so I understand why you don’t want to eat it, but then why are you covering your body in it, especially when 60% of it will go into your body via your largest organ.  

For us, this little exercise is an excellent illustration of the importance of ingredients!  

So where can we find Antioxidants in skincare? 

 Hint: Not in the majority of commercially available sunscreens! 

 You need to look at ingredient lists very carefully, you need to be using vital oils: 100% natural, unadulterated plant oils which are packed with antioxidants. We use oils which are particularly strong in antioxidants ( as shown by a 10 page clinical study by Birmingham University)  these oils which are particularly strong in antioxidant activity are Peach Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Jojoba and Avocado amongst others. If you apply these to the skin in a purely unadulterated way you are getting the full benefit of these powerful antioxidant properties. The theory of applying unadulterated forms of antioxidants and how they restore antioxidant enzymes was discussed in a paper by the Journal of Investigative dermatology in 2003. So, applying these oils topically forms a defense line and work from within the fight against free radical damage

 How to protect your skin in the sun using unadulterated oils?

 The key to protecting your skin is to make sure your skin doesn't burn, building sun exposure up over days will help the melanin rise naturally in your skin which controls the reflection of the light. For the first few days of your holiday, apply Synergistic Body Oil, regularly onto damp skin (little and often) and stay in the sun for only very short periods of time (10 to 20 minutes), get regular shade and reapply after every swim after you’ve washed off the salt or chlorine. Listen to your skin, head out of the sun and cover up when your skin has had enough. Use Soothing Body Lotion at the end of the day over the top of oil to leave a matt finish and lock in the oil.

Top tip: use the oil in the shower to breakdown the chemicals on the skin and hydrate the dermis  Listen to your skin, head out of the sun and cover up when your skin has had enough. Use Soothing Body Lotion at the end of the day over the top of oil to leave a matt finish and lock in the oil. Even having a oil in the bath can make a huge difference ( don’t use oils in jacuzzi baths)

 If you can’t be parted from your usual SPF you can minimise the damage caused by applying Hydrating Facial Oil and Synergistic Body Oil before you apply your SPF

Our Holiday Skin Edit:

Synergistic Body Oil - reduces the effects of UVA light 

For allergy extra sensitive skin on face 

Invigorating Shower Gel  - A  invigorating shower to refresh 

For insect protection with uva free radicals protection 

Soothing Body Lotion - an ideal after sun

Restoring Toner - to refresh the skin after travel and heat