Spring is here ... time to break out the sunscreen ... but which one?

Spring is here and we're starting to think about bringing out the shorts, skirts and t-shirts again, so we also need to think about how we are protecting our skin from the sun. But there's been so much controversy over sunscreens lately that it is hard to decifer which is the best one to choose. So let's have a look ...

Ingredients used as sunscreens can either be chemical absorbers or physical blockers of UV radiation. Chemical absorbers are taken into the skin and work by absorbing UVA and/or UVB radiation. Questions that these sunscreens cause cancers have been raised but recent reviews have found this is not the case. Still, many people prefer to choose a physical blocker sunscreen from natural sources.

Physical blockers reflect or scatter both UVA and B radiation. The two most common physical blockers are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These agents are the near ideal sunscreen as they are chemically inert, safe, and protect against the full UV spectrum. These are the ones that can leave a white glow on your skin so test them to see which one you prefer. Different ranges are now available free from other nasties such as parabens, PABA and petroleum.

The other side of the coin is the Vitamin D debate - can our bodies produce enough vitamin D if we are wearing sunscreen? Despite many Kiwis being deficient in vitamin D, the MoH and Cancer Society say that sensible sun protection is unlikely to make people vitamin D deficient and that even in the shade with sunscreen on, the skin produces vitamin D. So we certainly should not overexpose ourselves to the sun or use sunbeds in order to increase vitamin D levels.

And remember, sun protection is more than putting on sunscreen, we still need to slip, slop, slap and wrap. Our clothes, finding shade, hats and sunglasses are equally important. Bring on the sunshine!

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