Tuesday, November 18, 2014


With the continuing stormy, windy, rainy, hail, thunder, lightning and snow weather here in New Zealand, it is very hard to believe summer is meant to be arriving in less than 2 weeks!
So before the hot sunshine comes, have a read of 7 questions about sunscreen. 
1. What is the history of sunscreen?
The ancient Egyptians considered lighter skin to be attractive, making potions to prevent sunburn. Some of the ingredients they used are in our sunscreens today.
A pharmacist in South Africa produced the first sunburn cream as we know it, in the early 1930’s.
The founder of L’Oreal refined this preparation, making the first sunscreen in 1936.
In 1938 an Austrian Piz Buin chemist came up with the sun protective factor, SPF. SPF is “a standard for measuring the effectiveness of sunscreen when applied at an even rate of 2milligrams per square centimeter.” His original cream had a SPF of 2.
After more experimenting, in the 1980’s, the company Coppertone developed their first UVA/UVB sunscreen.
Research continues with ideas of developing a sunscreen pill…!!!?

2. How does sunscreen work and what are the benefits of using one?
A sunscreen is a protective layer which has inorganic chemicals that reflect the sunlight, and organic molecules that absorb the UV rays releasing it as heat, hence preventing or minimizing the amount of UV rays getting through to the skin.
UV rays consist of UVA and UVB
      UVB are shorter in wavelength so don’t penetrate deeply into the skin. These rays are the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer and cause damage to DNA. The SPF factor in a sunscreen only protects a person from the UVB rays.
      UVA are longer in wavelength, penetrating to deeper levels of the skin, they are linked to the cause premature aging of the skin. Only sunscreens that carry the words “broad spectrum” will  protect from UVA rays.
Australian research at Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane in 2013, found regular sunscreen application helped to counter the premature aging of skin. Researchers however did say that as well as the lack of sunscreen use, there are other factors that contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancer, such as smoking, sun exposure history, skin colour and wearing sun protective clothing including hats – these conditions are not prevented by the use of sunscreen alone.

3. Are there any concerns about sunscreens?
Babies of 6 months and younger should not use sunscreen at all because of its chemical ingredients. It is best to keep babies in this age group in the shade or indoors during the hottest time of the day, 10am – 4pm.
“One of the main constituents of sunscreen is the ZnO particles. ZnO nanoparticles are sought out for UV-filter applications thanks to their inherent optoelectronic properties and are, therefore, broadly used today in cosmetics and polymers. Preliminary toxicological data, however, point out that they can induce significant DNA damage and genotoxicity due to their Zn2+ ion leaching. It has become important for the nanotechnology industry, to devise scalable, safer-by-design approaches to minimize the ZnO nanoparticle dissolution and toxicity without altering their desired optoelectronic properties.” “In our center we developed a safer formulation concept to mitigate toxicity by encapsulating the materials in a thin layer of Silica.” Feb 2014.

4. What is the correct way to put sunscreen on?
* Apply before going outside
* Some say use a shot glass full of sunscreen as a quantity guide to cover your body, however bodies are different in size. Professor Leffell of Yale School of Medicine says, “use enough to evenly cover the skin and massage it in, and be systematic about it. There’s no such thing as using too much.”
* Reapply 2 hourly, more often after swimming or heavy sweating. The skin literally uses it up. Apply and wait a few minutes to give time to be absorbed before swimming, otherwise you simply wash it all off.

5. What do different SPF scores mean?
 “Products with a higher SPF allow fewer of the photons that produce sunburn to strike the skin. In simple terms, you can view an SPF 10 sunscreen as allowing 10 out of every 100 photons to reach the skin and an SPF 20 product as allowing only 5 out of every 100 photons to reach the skin.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-sunscreen-protec/
A product with SPF 30+ will block out 96% of sunburn from UVB rays.
A product with SPF 60 or more will only very slightly increase that protection. There is no product that can give 100% protection.
Specialists therefore warn of the need to never trust in sunscreen alone, but add wearing a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, tightly woven fabrics or clothing that absorbs UVA and UVB rays and avoid being out in direct sun for long from 10am – 4pm. Stay in the shade.
Moisturizers and makeup foundations often have SPF in them. Foundation with SPF does not give sufficient protection as it fades through the day and when applying you put less quantity of foundation on your face than the quantity of sunscreen you would apply.
Moisturizers with SPF however do give effective sun protection.

6. Are there benefits from being in the sun?
In just a few decades we have gone from promoting summer sun worship to sun dread over the summertime.
But sun on the skin does have benefits – it relaxes, eases off depression and mind anxiety. It lifts our emotions. Going out into the sun promotes outdoor sport, real play for children and gardening, which are all essential contributors for our wellbeing.
It is questionable if the level of vitamin D deprived people today was as high a few decades ago. Being in the sun is a natural and the best way to receive vitamin D. Getting 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your face, arms, back, or legs without sunscreen a few times a week is enough to generate your body’s vitamin D needs for a week.

7. Do sunscreens last forever?
The active ingredients in sunscreens do deteriorate over time, becoming less effective, so check the expiry dates of the sunscreens in you cupboard.

To be available and handy for use sunscreens are often stored in the car glove box or boot all year round. This exposes them to extreme high temperatures, which also may result in their effectiveness being compromised.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


As summer approaches here in New Zealand, we will soon be sorting through the cupboard for the insect repellent.
How much do you know about insect repellents? Here’s 5 Q&A to help.
Get rid of bugs. But depending on the active ingredient in an insect repellent, it can mask our body scent, which usually attracts insects to us – confusing them, or it can paralyze insects – killing them.
I'm looking at the 4 most common active ingredients used in insect repellents - DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and Essential Oils.
* DEET or Diethyl Toluamide ~ 
Studies suggest that DEET products are the most effective at keeping insects away. A NZ pharmacist in October this year questioned the safety of DEET products sold in NZ, saying some products are 80% DEET. In the US the max concentration allowed is 30% in adult and 10% in child insect repellents. The WHO recommends a max of 40%. “Deet is a solvent that has also been proven to melt some plastics and textiles - a problem for those venturing into the bush or working outdoors in garments that contain Gore-Tex, or carrying packs and equipment that could be damaged by the products.” “Deet is a neuro-toxin, which means it has the potential to affect your brain and nervous system.” says the pharmacist George Batchelor.
Labels carry warnings such as - can be dangerous especially to children if used in large amounts on skin, clothes, bedding or for long periods of time or repeatedly, not to be used on children under 6 years, wash hands after use.
DEET products usually give up to 6hours protection.
Product eg.s – Autan, Aerogard Tropical Strength, RID, Repel Tropical Insect Repellent, Bushman Insect Repellent.
* Picaridin ~
Studies suggest Picaridin is the second most effective active ingredient to rid us of insects.
Safe to use when used as directed.
Labels carry warnings such as – suitable for children 12months and older, wash hands after use.
Picaridin products usually give 4hours protection.
Product eg,s – OFF! Family Care, Aerogard Odourless Protection, Skin Technology Picaridin Insect Repellent.
* Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or p-Menthane-diol (PMD) ~
This is a natural oil extracted from lemon scented eucalyptus leaves and twigs in Australia.
Studies suggest that Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus products are as effective as Picaridin products. It is the only natural product authorities recommend to repel insects.
Safe to use if following the directions.
Labels carry warnings such as – avoid eye contact, should not be used on children under 12months.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus products may need to be applied more regularly than chemical repellents.
Product eg.s – SAFE Natural Insect Repellent, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, Just Herbal Insect Repellent, PURE FIJI Insect repellent.
* Essentail Oils
Essential oils such as Citronella, Lavender, Peppermint, Camphor, Cinnamon… are used in repellents. There is controversy about their effectiveness as active ingredients in insect repellents, and studies rank them behind Oil of Eucalyptus and Picaridin repellents.
The concentration of essential oils put into repellents is low, making them safe repellents for people, but be aware that cats and dogs are different and some essential oils repel animals.
Use these repellents as directed on the label. You will need to apply them more regularly than chemical repellents.
Essential oils themselves in concentrated form should never be used ‘topical’, or directly onto the skin of children under 2 years of age.
Product eg.s – Cancer Society Insect Repellent, Gardener Insect Repellent, Kiwiherb Herbal Insect Repellent, Badger Anti Bug Balm, PURE FIJI Lemongrass Insect Repellent,, Goodbye Sandfly.
* For best results don’t apply like perfume with a squirt here and there, instead apply insect repellent in a thin covering on all exposed skin. Creams and liquids can be applied thinly making them a better choice than sprays.
* Opinions differ as to if you only apply insect repellent to skin or if it is effective to also apply to clothes.
* Never apply over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
* Never apply to eyes, mouth, nostrils and use sparingly around ears.
* Never spray directly onto the face, rather spray onto your hands first, then apply to face.
* If using spray repellent only use it outdoors to avoid inhaling.
* Never allow children to handle insect repellent. Apply onto your hands, not theirs, then apply onto child’s body, the reason being that children often put their hands into their eyes, mouth and nose.
* Again use just enough quantity to cover the area as a heavy application will not give better or longer protection.
* ALWAYS wash hands after applying insect repellent. Use soap and water. This is particularly important when repellents are use repeatedly or on consecutive days.
* Remember swimming and heavy perspiring will reduce the amount of protection an insect repellent will give.
The stronger the repellent or the active ingredient in an insect repellent, the longer you are protected from insects. It does not men that more mosquitoes will be killed.
* Avoid wearing brightly coloured clothes which can attract insects.
* Avoid sweetly scented perfumes, moisturizers, soaps… which attract insects.
* Wear long pants and long sleeves at dusk when insects are most active.
* Opinions differ as to the safety of using insect repellent if you’re pregnant or breast feeding so check your brand with your trusted pharmacist or doctor.
* Opinions differ as to the reliability or safety of make your own insect repellents. If you are interested to try –
* Get rid of stagnant water around your home, in ponds, roof guttering, bird bath, in large leafy plants, puddles or water features with still water….
* Plant insect repelling plants in your garden especially near outdoor leisure areas or child play areas. Geranium, marigold, basil, lavender, lemon balm, lemon thyme, ageratum, garlic, rosemary….
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ before summer and insects really hit hard, check what you have in your cupboard and have been using for insect repellent. Do some reading and thinking about what you want to do from here on.