My sun cream routine
I think that the nicest thing about Winter, perhaps, is that Spring will be here again. Because that I can thoroughly enjoy! In the last few days that initial Spring sun on your skin has been glorious. It does seem slightly crazy that in a few days we will be leaving for Lapland to enjoy our family holiday in the snow and freezing temperatures. And last month it was even -25°C there! And while I am busy packing all those thermals, an enormous pile of woolly hats, gloves and heavy snow boots, the terraces here are all full. The warm weather has come early this year; never too early for me, personally, however, it is for my website www.smeerjein.nl, which is currently being updated.
Why I came up with my campaign Smeer je in! (which is currently being updated)
For those who don’t know about it, or those who have forgotten, around six years ago I set up the campaign ‘Smeer je in’. I was extremely concerned about the fact that so many people still didn’t appreciate the importance of enjoying the sun sensibly. People don’t think it is such a problem in the Netherlands, but make no mistake; hardly anywhere else in Europe has as much skin cancer as here. Furthermore, the numbers are rising dramatically and the problem is being seen at an increasingly younger age. How can there still be schools and nurseries without a shaded area and without any regard for sun protection? And why do I still hear parents talking about the ‘lovely’ tan their children have?
Inspiration at the schools in Australia
Protection from the sun should actually be treated in the same way as cleaning your teeth. And it is just worthwhile getting that into our system as soon as possible in a convenient way. In Australia they have known its necessity for a long time. After an inspiring trip Down Under, where I spoke to people from the Cancer Council and visited several schools, I decided to develop songs, games, short films (with and without Dutch celebrities) and digital picture books in the Netherlands. Parents, teachers or nurseries can download this material for free and use it to encourage children to start applying.
In Australia, by the way, they go one step further. At the schools I visited the children had to wear hats or caps, long sleeves and long trousers when they were outdoors. I don’t see that happening here in the near future. In the Netherlands we would rather decide for ourselves what we do. And I do also agree with that. You do need to be made aware of it though, what you do about it, however, is your decision and responsibility.
My non-profit product Suncover
I launched the Suncover range to coincide with the Smeer je in! campaign. I was searching for an un-fragranced and mild sun cream with effective, safe filters for myself and had difficulty finding one. Good sun filters are very expensive, so are significantly reduced. And a body product requires a lot more. For that reason my Suncover sun creams are sold on a non-profit basis.
Coming soon, new teaching material on the importance of protection in the sun
Anyway, it has been a while since I began this campaign and it is now time for an update. Coming soon there will be more teaching material and information in a new look on the website smeerjein.nl. Not much longer to wait, I’ll keep you informed…
Should we already start protecting ourselves then?
The sunny weekend did deliver a mailbox full of questions. Because should we already start applying protection?
The general advice is to apply sun cream if the UV index is 3 or above. And that wasn’t the case in the last few days. Are you unsure, as I am, about the general advice? Because can your skin still incur damage even if the sun’s strength or UV index is 3 or below? And do you want to avoid premature ageing? Then you are best off protecting your skin daily. The idea behind using sun cream only if the UV index reaches 3 is based on the thinking that you also get enough sunlight to make vitamin D in the skin. If you make sure, however, that you get enough vitamin D, it is actually better to start protecting yourself earlier. Especially if you have fair skin and spend a lot of time outdoors.
From Spring onwards I make sure there is sun cream within easy reach at home
You may be thinking that it isn’t such a clear answer, but this isn’t so black and white either. What I can tell you is how I approach it. I make sure that I always have a sun cream readily available in a special place at home. And from Spring onwards my children take a bottle in their bags (and sports bags). My children started applying sun cream themselves from a young age. Although they enjoyed it, there was always a bit of a mess when they were very young. But I’m happy that I did it. Without being afraid of the sun, my children now know how important it is to protect themselves. Applying sun cream is embedded in the routine from March to October, and in Winter I basically follow my instincts.
I also sometimes forget in the morning, or am too lazy to re-apply
Although I usually use a factor there are also days when I am mainly indoors and don’t feel like applying an extra layer. And that’s what I am trying to share with you: build up a routine in the months when it is necessary and in the remaining months do what feels best for you. And I even get it wrong now and then. Sometimes I forget my sun cream, sometimes I under estimate the strength of the sun and sometimes I’m just too lazy to re-apply. That’s just life; just like once in a while going to bed too late, drinking one too many wines or finishing off that whole packet of sweets.
But how is vitamin D production affected? That little bit of sun is, in fact, important in Winter or not?
An appropriate question is indeed, how does it affect the production of vitamin D? It seems a bit like choosing the lesser of two evils. On the one hand you want to protect yourself from the sun and the reduce the risk of skin cancer. But in that case you may be handing in the production of vitamin D (you can read more in this blog) with all possible consequences. And the advice, therefore, not applying sun cream until the UV index reaches 3 is based on that last point. Yet it’s good to know that the way in which we apply it (not as thickly as we should) will still produce vitamin D. And in any case there is no sun cream that blocks out the UV rays one hundred percent. Some always reaches the skin. As well as that, one person makes vitamin D more easily than another. Vitamin D deficiency even occurs in countries which are sunny all year round.
Just enjoy the sun
Sufficient vitamin D intake via diet is the best of course, but in practise that often seems to be difficult. It is specifically important for children, the elderly, people with coloured skin and pregnant women to supplement the diet. But I myself would, in fact, advise everyone to take extra vitamin D. An even better way is to get your vitamin D amount checked now and again. And at the same time protect your skin as much as possible from sun damage. And don’t worry too much if you don’t always manage it.
All the information and awareness about the risks will almost make you forget to enjoy the sun otherwise. And that is something you should do. Even if it is only to make you happy. I hope that it is going to be sunny in the next few days; not only for you in the Netherlands but also in Lapland. I would love to see the Northern Lights and, for that, a clear sky is necessary. Fingers crossed!
Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology