Why ‘clothing is king’ when it comes to sun protection.

yellow stripe crazy arms holding sunscreen

Article updated August 2021

Can you trust sunscreen? 

As a Cancer Council spokesperson told us at a recent school event, when it comes to sun protection, ‘clothing is king’.  So what does that mean for ‘slopping’ on sun screen, and can we trust it?  Our answer is a ‘yes' - with reservations - based on our own research.

Life is not a laboratory!

The first issue is making sure you apply the necessary amount. Cover every exposed area on your kids accurately, 20 minutes before going out in the sun.  Then repeat every two hours or more often.

As parents, we know this is not always as easy as it sounds. Kids wriggle, kids want to get out there. It’s messy. Sunscreen sprays are one way round it, but these have been shown to be less effective at delivering a good enough covering. We like roll ons, but again you need to make sure you get an effective amount. Careful attention to the face – nose, ears, cheeks in particular – is really important. And watch out for those ‘not very sunny days’ when an hour passes, and you suddenly see your little one turning crimson.

Which sunscreens are the best, and are the chemicals safe?

Both chemical and mineral blockers do the job. Chemical sunscreens work through chemicals which absorb the UVB and UVA.  A variety of chemicals are used, with maximum concentrations specified to minimise the absorption into your system. The list gets updated as more research takes place. Government testing has declared the levels safe.  We go along with that, although we still reckon absorbing less is probably better. 

Indeed a recent study in the USA suggested that if you apply sunscreens in the right quantity to be effective, then you will be absorbing more than the specified 'safe' amount.  So that's another reason why ‘clothing is king’.  Wearing Crazy Arms can reduce overall sunscreen use by 30%, as well as providing consistent protection.

As you may have read, Hawaii will be banning sunscreens containing two chemicals - oxybenzone and octinoxate - in Jan 2021. This is because of the potential impact on the reef systems, which rings another alarm bell (although like everything, these findings are now being disputed).

There's now research casting a shadow over one of the most common ingredients in sun screens, octocrylene which is over 2,400 brands.  According to research, as octocrylene degrades over time, it forms benzophenone, a suspected carcinogen that also can interfere with key hormones and reproductive organs. Scary stuff.  How scared we should be will be a matter for the scientists to investigate further, and you can read a good summary article here.

Mineral blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide work differently by deflecting UV rays and the Crazy Arms team tend to use these products when we are out and about with our families. These mineral blockers are famous for the 'white' look. 

To get around this, nanotechnology is now being used to make these mineral blockers less ‘visible’. Are these 'safe'?  According to the latest Australian TGA review: 

"to date, the current weight of evidence suggests that TiO2 and ZnO nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells, rather, they remain on the surface of the skin." 

We just wish they didn't add the proviso "to date", don't you?

In Summary

In summary, we use sun screen on ourselves, and on our kids, as an important defence against UV rays, especially on the face. Then it's hats, long pants, and UPF t-shirts and Crazy Arms as our day-to-day defence.  We're no experts.  Just parents trying to weigh up all the evidence and do the right thing by our kids.  

You can find the Cancer Council's write up on sunscreen here.  As they warned in a recent email, "sunscreen is very effective when applied correctly, but it's not a suit of armour".

#crazyarms #sunsmart #sunprotection #sunscreen #clothingisking #oxybenzone #octocrylene

Our blog articles are based on our own experience and research. For expert advice, please contact a medical professional. 


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