Monday, 2 August 2010

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)..

Most of us have got to grips with the concept of safe sex. We've the NHS (and perhaps Madonna) to thank for that. Anyone who recalls her Blonde Ambition Tour's infamous "hey boys don't be silly, put a condom on your willy" will know what I mean. So it's rather odd that the regular practice of safe and responsible sun care still eludes many people. The UK is particularly bad when it comes to shunning sun cream in pursuit of a fast, deep (and peeling) tan.

We've overtaken Australia with the number of confirmed cases of malignant melanoma. Today, one in ten UK citizens are diagnosed with skin cancer. When caught in its infancy, the success rate of treatment is high. But like all cancer, when diagnosed in its advanced stages, it can (and often is) fatal.

Tanned skin in its many shades, has been championed by cultural icons as diverse (and at times comical) as Coco Chanel, George Hamilton, Farrah Fawcett, Jennifer Anniston and Donatella Versace. At its best it speaks of glowing health, athleticism, jet-setting and a love of the outdoors. At its worst it is orange-tinged and attributed to Z-List celebrities. But good or bad, a tan isn't worth dying for. Ever.

The Australians are immensely clued-up when it comes to being safe in the sun. They've led active campaigns to ensure their citizens are aware of the dangers of unprotected sun exposure. Specifically its direct links to malignant melanomas and skin cancer. Strolling along Bondi Beach, bottles of sun cream are as prevalent an accessory as the surf boards. The difference being that a surf board won't save your life while you're out in the sun.

What's so awful about enjoying the sunshine you might ask? Well, if you are remotely vain, the sun's rays (specifically UVA rays) break down the elastin in your skin. In layman's terms, if you don't wear sunscreen, in time you are guaranteed to look like a prune. A prune that accessorises with plenty of liver spots (and potentially skin cancer). So if you want to look more Daisy Duke than Driving Miss Daisy, get with the program and starting learning about (and using) a product with the proper SPF for your skin.

Five Top Tips

1. Try to stay indoors or in the shade between the hours of 12pm and 4pm, this is when sun exposure is particularly dangerous as the sun's rays are very strong.

3. Covering up is a great way to avoid sun burn and skin damage. Joan Collins, an icon of a certain age, is as striking and well preserved today as she was at the peak of her success in the 80's. When in the sun she's rarely (if ever) seen without a sun hat. No wonder then that her complexion and skin tone are as milky and line-free as they are. Kaftans are a great cover up for the girls, while longer board shorts, drawstring cotton or linen trousers and a shirt or t-shirt are ideal for the chaps.

4. Pick the right sunscreen for your skin type. As a general rule of thumb, those with fair skin should opt for a product with an SPF between 30 - 50. Those with olive to dark skin shouldn't wear an SPF lower than 20. If you are unsure where to start, head to Boots and invest in Soltan products - they carry a five star rating for protection against UVA rays.

5. The sea, swimming pools (and unfortunately sweating) all diminish a product's SPF so be sure to re-apply liberally in each instance to maintain sufficient sun protection.

Top Sun Care Products

The snap of me at the top of this blog is from my June holiday in Barbados. I built up a gorgeous, safe tan using these standout products:

1. Liz Earle Mineral Sun Cream SPF 20, 150ml - £18.50

New to the market, the first thing that grabs you about this mineral sun cream from Liz Earle is its delicious aroma and luxuriously creamy texture. Scented with antioxidant Green Tea Extract and Orange Flower Water, it is part Kyoto tea house and part Moroccan spa in olfactory impact. Some experts question the safety of sun creams that absorb the sun's rays. There is research that suggests a long-term health risk due to the skin's increased exposure to radiation. When solar radiation is absorbed on to the surface of the skin, there is an argument that suggests that the radiation would then pose an immediate risk to the skin itself. This product is brilliant because its active minerals, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, reflect radiation away from the skin, limiting the risk of long term sun damage. Holistic junkies like me will be delighted to hear that together with Green Tea, it also boasts the antioxidants Beta-carotene, Pomegranate Extract and Vitamin E. Skin-conditioning comes with the aid of Glycerin, D-panthenol and Shea Butter.

Jurlique Sun Lotion SPF 30, 100ml - £39.00

I fell in love with this product. Its scent takes me back to a very special family holiday in the south of France, in particular the heady aroma of the lavender fields in Grasse, France. So many sun creams make me break out but this light-as-a-feather lotion absorbed spectacularly well, leaving not a trace of oily residue on my skin. Naturally, this superstar is from Jurlique, which together with Kylie Minogue, is one of Australia's most legendary exports.

3. Caudalie Soleil Divin Body Sunscreen SPF 20, 100ml - £21.50

Grape-seed polyphenols are mighty antioxidant free radical busters and central to the Caudalie range of skin care. Known for their age-defying properties, grapes have been culturally significant since the Greeks and Romans, with grape seed extract and grape seed oil now featuring in a variety of naturally inspired skin care products. The French are renowned for their savoir faire when it comes to beauty. Gallic stars such as the actress Eva Green are testament to that. It's no wonder then that Caudalie is the go-to brand for those in pursuit of a skin care regimen that is both indulgent and effective. This sun cream for the body had a subtly sweet aroma, pleasingly light texture and didn't irritate my sensitive skin.

To find out more about Fake Bake products, go to:

Below is a recent interview I filmed with James Read, the UK's leading authority on self tan and go-to man for a stream of A-List lovelies including pop star Lady GaGa, Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan and Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington Whitely. The video also features the CEO of Fake Bake, Sandra McClumpha, who talked about her collaborations with high street fashion giant New Look and music video mega-channel, MTV:

And some of you may remember this funny music video from Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann: