Remember the 80’s, when people used to slather themselves in pure virgin olive oil and lie in the sun on the beach for 7 hours, alternating between granadilla lollies and Dunhill Lights, while reading the latest Sidney Sheldon novel? Good times.
Now though, we know so much more. We have a really good understanding of how the sun damages our skin and we take precautions, because we want to live long, healthy lives. We are also way more active than we were back then and prefer to be DOING things in the sun, rather than just lying there.
Because of this, we have better products, from UV-proof clothing and hats, to sunblocks and aftersun lotion, to that white stuff cricketers put on their lips. We are far more respectful of the sun now and those of us with tattoos are probably even a little bit more precious about our skin and even more respectful of the sun. We don’t want our ink to fade, but also don’t want to stay indoors.
The solution is obviously to use the very best products available, remember to apply, treat the sun with respect, re-apply and re-apply – in other words, make it a habit to look after our tattoos the way we look after other things we care about.
How do you know a sunscreen is effective? Two things to look out for – ingredients and SPF.
The mineral zinc oxide is generally considered one of the safest and most effective sunscreen ingredients on the market. But not just any zinc oxide – specifically, non-nano zinc oxide. Why? Because nano particles (being that they are so microscopically small) are absorbed into the skin and bloodstream, as well as by marine life. Non-nano zinc oxide contains bigger particles and the sunblock therefore sits on top of the skin, creating a barrier. Barrier good. Absorption bad. Of course, our sunscreen is made with non-nano zinc oxide – we did a lot (like, a lot) of research before we hit on the right ingredient combos. The fact that zinc oxide offers natural broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays makes it the safest UV filter available at this moment and is recommended by scientists as a safe alternative to chemical UV filters. Not only does non-nano zinc oxide protect cells from being damaged, it also halts the aging process and prevents skin dryness.
You want to use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 – 50. Any less and you aren’t blocking out enough of the harmful rays; any more is unnecessary - as long as you apply properly and regularly, SPF 30 is enough. Studies have actually shown that people who use a 100 SPF think they don’t need to reapply or that they can stay in the sun longer. This is not true and the sunburn will be just as bad as if you were using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30. Golden rule – apply 30 minutes before you hit the sun, and reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
As South Africans, we have a long history of sun worshipping – and rightly so! We love the sun, being outdoors, enjoying water sports, hiking and all sorts of outdoor exercise and activities. But the only time the sun is the enemy is when it comes to our skin and our beloved ink. Simply apply a high quality non-nano zinc oxide-based SPF 30 sunscreen (phew, what a mouthful) regularly and properly, and your ink will look bright and vibrant for much longer.