By Alex Orfila
Those who are more familiar with my articles will no doubt have heard me harp on endlessly about the importance of wearing SPF (Sun Protection Factor). This is all the more relevant at this time of year when the weather begins to seriously hot up in Gibraltar and summer is upon us.
Our climate here refuses to offer us a smooth transition from one season to the next, and we tend to suddenly wake up one morning in late April or early May to find that we have unknowingly been plunged into a new season altogether. One which will literally escort us up to at least the last quarter of the year.
As the heat pushes us to be more liberal with our wardrobe choices and we start to bare more skin, the longing for a gorgeous tan begins to dominate most people’s beauty admin checklists. So, whether you love being naturally sun-kissed or prefer to fake it, one thing which should always remain at the forefront is not to forget the SPF!
Although we are certainly blessed to be graced with such gorgeous sunshine here in the Med, there is also a downside as it becomes all too easy to fall victim to some nasty sunburn or sun damage. Now more than ever we are well informed of the risks this presents us with, not only does sun exposure speed up the development of wrinkles and signs of aging in the skin but it can also contribute to far more dangerous risks such as skin cancer. This is because UV light can damage DNA and cause changes to skin cells.
UV levels in this part of the world start to drastically creep up to the ‘high’ end of the UV index scale around May, which is between 6-7. Whereas in peak summer levels can sometimes soar to 10 (classed as ‘very high’).
This may all sound like a lot of numerical jargon, but what does it actually mean? A reading of 6-7 means there is a high risk of harm from sun exposure and protection is required if outdoors. The advice is that an SPF of at least 30+ should be applied generously at least every hour.
Whereas a reading in the 8-10 range means there is a very high risk of harm from sun exposure and that further protective precautions should be taken, such as avoiding being out in the sun altogether at times of peak sunshine which tends to be around mid-afternoon.
Granted, that being outdoors is at the heart of our summers here and it is unlikely that we will be able to steer clear of UV rays altogether. That means that protection is key.
We can have readings of up to 5 (presenting a moderate risk) even as early on in the year as March, proving that wearing SPF is a skincare step which should be adhered to all year long.
One thing many skincare experts agree on is that if you were going to introduce just one skincare step into your daily routine then this should be SPF. As not protecting your skin from the damaging effects of the sun makes all your other skincare efforts pretty much futile.
Unfortunately, over exposure to the sun is not the only risk presented to those in search of the perfect tan, the concept of acquiring a tan on demand has people resorting to other risky measures such as taking tanning pills.
These sorts of pills often market themselves as being a safer alternative to sun bathing because they claim to help you achieve that sun-kissed glow without having to go out in the sun at all. Although you may not be exposing your skin to damage from UV rays these pills can be harmful in many other ways. They contain the ingredient canthaxanthin, which is a food colourant that can be harmful if taken in large doses. It basically means that you are essentially ingesting a type of dye, and some of the reported side effects are vision and eye damage as well as gastrointestinal and liver issues – really not a risk worth taking; let’s face it nobody needs a tan that badly.
All the above may sound quite negative but this doesn’t mean that you have to forgo the glow, there are some fabulous fake tan options available. Faking it is something which has become more popular in recent years as the risks of sun exposure have become all the more evident and it is the perfect option for those with a desire for a tan on demand. We see more salons providing spray tan treatments, whilst many established beauty brands have also jumped onto the fake tan bandwagon and have released their own tanning ranges.
There are also brands which have focused on this very area alone and built themselves up around the lucrative fake tanning concept. Enter James Read, who pride themselves on being the only tanning brand which has been entirely formulated and lead by a tanning expert. The brand boasts an enviable variety of multipurpose tanning products with an aim of catering to all skin tones and types whilst delivering a natural looking glow.
The conclusion? The safest bet is most certainly to ‘fake it’, a catch phrase which would have negative connotations when used in relation to pretty much any topic other than tanning! However, our summer lifestyles here in Gibraltar do mean that we cannot hide from the sunshine altogether, traditionally our summers are dominated by beach going and a natural tan is often an unavoidable consequence of this. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t stay protected, there are a plethora of fabulous SPFs in all shapes, sizes and textures. So if you just can’t bring yourself to fake it then remember to tan gradually and apply SPF generously.
James Read Fool Proof Bronzing Mousse 100ml – £18
This is the perfect product for anyone after quick results as a tan will develop in 3 – 5 hours. The product not only claims to deliver streak free results but is also said to be formulated with 72hr hydration technology which will keep your skin soft and hydrated.
Balance me: gradual Tanning drops – £30
These drops are really potent and are suitable for both body and face. Tanning drops are a great choice for fake tan beginners as all you have to do is mix them in with your daily moisturiser, which makes it far easier to apply. Literally one to three drops a day is all you need, depending on how intense you like your tan. Within days a natural looking (and safely acquired) glow will be revealed. Although as with all fake tanning products wear a mitt when applying or wash your hands thoroughly after use to get rid of any tan residue.
Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops 30ml – £34
It is no surprise that skincare powerhouse Drunk Elephant also wanted an invite to the fake tan party and formulated their own fake tan drops. These too are to be mixed with your daily serum or moisturiser. This product however also boasts some handy anti-pollution properties which will protect your skin from environmental nasties, what’s not to love?
Best For: Protecting Your Face
Bobbi Brown Primer plus protection 50 40ml – £24.50
This product works twofold, it acts as a primer but it delivers all the protective power of an SPF. It’s a thick consistency but it does melt into skin nicely, leaving you with a smooth (and protected) canvas on which to apply your makeup.
Nivea Shine Control SPF 50 50ml – £8
Effective doesn’t necessarily equal expensive. This anti-shine formulation by Nivea will only set you back £8. Its non-greasy, does not leave a white residue and can even be worn under makeup. It’s no surprise it has become one of my firm SPF favourites.
Best for: Head to toe protection
Nuxe Sun Milky Spray Face and Body SPF 20 150ml – £19.50
This widely sold French pharmacy brand is renowned for their range of nourishing body and hair oils. However, they have now brought this same approach to their sun care range by formulating a range of deliciously scented SPF’s that will give you those holiday feels all summer long!