Why does my fat butt burn?

It is not often that I go ‘sun baking’ due to the fact that my transparent whiteness is actually quite scary when nearly naked and even more scary (and painful) when burned.  But having kids and being someone who wants to at least TRY to enjoy summer type activities I do, on occasions get my kit off and last week was no exception as you see here:

Sensing that a moment of almost nakedness creeping up on me I whip out my invisible shield of factor highest-I-can-get-my-hands-on and rub it in. Yes I make sure that I rub it in lightly to get the maximum SPF coverage and yes I also wait the required 20 minutes to give it time to get working….

Then I go outside and play.

Sometime later (not too long as being a nerdy calculator type of person I know that my great whiteness has an absolute max of 4 hours total sun time a day with factor 50 and more sensibly 2 ‘good hours’ of beach time before I start to burn)  I go inside to assess the damage and…….. low and behold my fat butt burned.

As much as I love sharing all of my embarrassing life with you I will not be posting a picture of that. Instead I will describe my little issue in words and let you draw the mental picture if you so wish.

I always, always burn in a half moon-ish shape following the line of my swimming bottoms on the fleshiest (and fattest) part of my thigh – I think they call them ‘saddle bags’ but being allergic to horses I prefer to think of them as ‘side impact bags’.   The burning isn’t severe but it […]

The Chemistry of Coconut Oil

There is no disputing the fact that coconut oil has a long history of safe use as a skin treatment, sun protector and all-round good guy but as I discussed in my article – Would Coconut Oil make a good sunscreen for me – that doesn’t mean that it will suit everyone.

With that in mind I thought it would be wise to look into the chemistry of this oil a little more and find out what (if any) protection coconut oil could offer me.

Oh and I also wanted to find out if the benefits are best gained by slopping it on or eating it as I’m sure there is a difference!

So, here we go!

The Chemistry.

Coconut oil is classed as a saturated fat because of its chemistry.  Saturation (in terms of fat terminology) relates to double bonds and hydrogen which might sound like TOO MUCH INFORMATION for some so I’ll leave it in favour of what the oil looks like and how good or bad it is to eat.

Saturated fats are usually harder than their unsaturated brothers and sisters and were given a bad wrap in the 80’s and onwards after a blanket labelling of them as ‘artery clogging’ – a statement that is partly true.

Commonly used saturated fats include beef tallow, butter, lard, ghee, cream, cottonseed oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil and suet.

The ‘artery clogging’ message was endorsed by manufacturer of unsaturated edible fats who were developing and selling alternatives such as your synthetic spreads, margarines, butter replacements and cooking oils.

The only problem with that being that not all saturated fats are created equal.

In recent years coconut oil has had a revival as the saturated fats it contains have been found to be […]

Would Coconut Oil Make a Good Sunscreen for me?

Google says it does

Generations of Islanders say it does

But is it a good choice for me?  Let’s look deeper……

I’m a 38 year old white girl with a diet of dubious merit in as much as I eat far too much sweet stuff and not enough veggies!  However, I do have a healthy, fit lifestyle otherwise. I live in a beautiful part of Australia a part that can heat up to 40C and cool back down to around 3, a part where the UV index reaches extreme on many a summer’s day.

I work indoors mainly, only getting outside for leisure, fun and the odd shopping trip (Ihateshoppingmalls.com!)

I have eczema. Badly on my hands (due to my unfortunate choice of career – dermatologist told me NOT to become a chemist, ppppffffhh  what do they know)

I get a few yucky spots and have had issues with pigmentation marks since the birth of my lovely children (no, I don’t hold that against them :))

So that’s me.

But what’s with the detail?  Is all of that ‘need-to-know’ or did the over-share fairy just sprinkle magic dust over the keyboard?  Yes and No.

Our age matters.    Babies have VERY thin skin when compared to an average adult and on top of that they are growing fast with hyper active systems making it likely that any problem, irritation or disease encountered could become a big issue for them very quickly.   This changes slightly throughout childhood with skin getting slightly more tolerant on average (all other things being equal) until young adulthood is reached.  Again all things being equal a fit, healthy  adult (18-45 ish) should be able to tolerate the most sun of their life as their skin is mature, major […]

The Lowdown on the Tan in the Can

While us lot down under are freezing the rest of the world is getting their sunny groove on and for many that means it’s tan-in-the-can time.

Fake tans are seen by many as a sensible and convenient alternative to the human barbecue and knowing what we know about the sun, that assumption seems sensible enough. However, every year at around this time reports come out about the safety of fake tanners and every year wannabe bronzed gods and goddesses freak out.

So, what is the fuss about?   

Rashes and itching following a tan.

The very nature of fake tans make them more likely than say a lip balm to cause a reaction.   One application of fake tan however applied far exceeds any other dose of personal care product that we come across (unless you make a habit of swimming in concentrated bath milk).  For this reason even if you are not particularly sensitive to any of the ingredients you may find yourself on the wrong side of an itch.   The best way around this is to do a patch test before each application.  Your skin is constantly changing to reflect both internal and external stimuli and so a cautious, sensible approach will ensure you can show off your rash free and fab tan every time!

Stressed out skin.

The fake tan season also helps up the anti in terms of potential skin irritation.  Hot, sweaty skin can quickly become irritated and applying a tan all over that is just asking for trouble.   As a rule if you are sunburned,  already itchy, extra dry (skin) or have open sores don’t apply.

Brand swapping can also cause problems if you don’t do your patch testing.  Although pretty much all […]

Zinc Hunting – The Nano Sunscreen Diaries

Last year I was one of the guinea pigs in a study looking at Nano zinc in sunscreens and skin penetration (you can read more about that here).   After the preliminary results were presented at a nanotechnology conference in Sydney earlier this year showing that small amounts of zinc had penetrated the skin interest in this area has been growing.  Government bodies, regulators, product developers and the public  want to know if the use of nanoparticulate zinc in sunscreens is safe – after all, the guys in Europe recently ruled that nanoparticles should be declared on labels as part of a ‘precautionary principal’ approach.  This labelling is not a requirement in Australia currently.

Anyway, in light of the growing interest in this are the Macquarie University published a statement recently aimed at re-iterating the findings and drawing a line under what we currently know and don’t know. 

Here is the unchanged statement (or read it on their website here):
A technique developed by Macquarie University has proven for the first time that a tiny amount of zinc from sunscreens is absorbed through the skin into the human body, but is not yet able to discern whether the zinc is in nanoparticle form.

Professor Brian Gulson of Macquarie University conducted the research – published online in the current edition of the journal Toxicological Sciences – with collaborators in CSIRO and the Australian National University and the Australian Photobiology Testing Facility. The research was widely reported on in February 2010 following a presentation by Gulson at a scientific conference.

The team traced the skin absorption of a highly purified and stable isotope which allowed them to distinguish the zinc from the sunscreen from that which is naturally present in the body or environment. Zinc is absolutely […]

Tanning your hide

When I was a teenager back in grey old England hopping on a sunbed to ‘prepare’ yourself for your two weeks on the Costa Brava was THE thing to do.  Go to any health club, council run gymnasium or spa and for around five of your English pounds you could get your hide tanned!   In fact, they became so popular that we even had one at home and I remember my friends queuing up at lunch time to have a few minutes of tanning time (I lived next door to the high school). Nice!  BUT it is looking increasingly un-nice as study after study find out what we all suspected, sunbeds are killing us. I stopped using one over 15 years ago in my case, the damage may already be done…….

Sun beds or solarium use powerful ultraviolet lights to simulate the suns rays and while the ones that I used back in the early 1990’s took around 30 minutes to give you a tanning dose,  modern machines can tan you in as little as 6 minutes which shows just how powerful they have become.  The main problem with solarium tanning from a scientific perspective is that the mix of UVA and UVB is not always ‘natural’  – they typically dish out more UVA than regular old sun (the tan without burning scenario) and this can cause problems. UVA light penetrates much deeper into the skin than UVB and has the potential to damage the skin from within. At the very least it is one of the main causes of premature ageing!  But going back to the mix of light used, our skin has adapted to life on this planet and as such ‘tells’ us when we have […]

If you go down to the beach today.

You are going to get an earful of Ben Lee. Well, that is if you go to one of Sydney’s beaches any time soon! The Cancer Council NSW have commissioned a 5 second jingle which will play every hour to remind people to apply or re-apply their sun tan lotion.  Having listened to the mini tune on the radio today I think that it will do the trick.  Hearing that more than twice would send me packing!

You can hear the tune by clicking through here.

Having said that the tune sucks I have to say that skin cancer is no joke. Melanoma is one of the most difficult cancers to treat and often has tragic outcomes. Safe sunbathing is about much more than just suncream as no cream gives 100% protection.  Unless you are lucky enough to have the darkest of skin naturally our beaches should really be avoided between 11-3pm and used with respect between 10-11 and 3-5pm.  At other times a hat, sunglasses, clothing and sunscreen should do the trick.

So, while the new sunsafe tune is a trifle tedious if it manages to remind just a handful of people to slip, slop, slap then it may just be worth it. 

Let us just remember though that the sun is NOT our enemy and should not be feared. We can all embrace our place under the sun by engaging the best sunscreen that we possess – our brains. 

The Naked Sunscreen article “Come Outside” is available by clicking here.

Taking the smell out of fake tan!

The fake tan is a must for many of my melanin challenged brothers and sisters (self included)  but if you are anything like me, the smell is an unwelcome and off-putting side effect. Well,  I for one was happy to find out that the bad smell may be a thing of the past!

Fake tans make you brown in a couple of ways:

a)  They paint your skin by containing brown coloured pigments and dyes that stick to the stratum corneum and give you an instant brown (or orange/yellow) appearance.

b) They contain ingredients such as DHA  (Dihydroxyacetone) and/or erythrulose which undergo chemical changes when applied to the skin to develop a brown colour over time. DHA works by reacting with the amino acids that are present on the skin surface. DHA can’t get through the top layer of skin and is plant derived making it acceptable to most people.  Erythrulose is another plant based ingredient that works in the same way as DHA. When the DHA and Erythrulose are combined the resulting colour is said to be less orange and more natural looking than DHA alone. Many brands now use both – they should both be listed on the label.

C) A combination of the above.

The smell seems to be a unwanted bi-product of the above chemicals reaction with proteins in the skin. Chemist Tim Whitely of UK based CPL Aroma’s identified between 250-300 different molecules originating out of this reaction – and some of these smell bad. This article was reported in New Scientist – see it here.

The good news is that CPL Aroma’s have developed a product called Aromaguard which interacts with these smellies and turns them into longer molecules which can’t be detected by […]