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Here comes the sun

Jonathan van Bilsen – You’ve got to be kidding!

Now that summer is finally here, I spent an hour digging through my cupboard to find a tube of sunscreen. I looked at the instructions and discovered it was six years past its due date. Who knew sunscreen had an expiry. Off I went in search of a new bottle, and boy, did I discover a few things I did not know. First off, most people do not think to apply sunscreen to their eyelids, but 10% of skin cancers occur there. Of course for this area, I had to get a zinc stick (fairly new product). I was surprised to hear that tanning beds are still being used by 10% of the population. People under 35, who use tanning beds, increase their risk of developing melanoma by 75%. You should also be grateful to your parents, if they covered your skin with sunscreen. Studies show that people aged 18 and up, who used sunscreen as a child, lessened their risk of melanoma by 40%. So how much of the gooie stuff do you smear on? Well, this depends on the type, the sun intensity, your skin, and of course, if you’re Dutch, like me, the cost. Fortunately, there is an app out there called Violet. It considers your skin type and the sun’s intensity and tells you how long you should be out in the sun. It will even measure your vitamin D intake. Another app, Sunface, lets you upload a selfie and it will show what you will look like, if you don’t use any SPF in the future. Did you know that sunscreen was developed in 1944 by a WWII airman? It was a deep red petroleum jelly and was part of water survival kits for soldiers. Since then, the product has developed into a mass market necessity. A major breakthrough came earlier this year when a zinc oxide-only product, was launched. Why is that important? Previously Zinc oxide products were mixed with other stuff, which can be harmful to your skin, and the environment. Zinc oxide keeps out UV rays, which otherwise tend to turn you into an apple doll. More and more countries are banning traditional sunscreens (those which contain oxybenzone and oxtinoxate) as they are very harmful to coral reefs. If you go to Hawaii or Florida, remember these two products are not allowed. The FDA (the Big Brother of drugs) ruled last year that only sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are considered effective and safe for your skin. Skin cancer is rising at an enormous rate, and companies are changing formulas to make us healthier. Another, really good alternative is to wear sun-protective accessories (shirts, etc.). That way you don’t have to bother with using sunscreen as often. If you care about the environment, remember that each year, up to 13,000 ton of sunscreen are released into our oceans. If you’re anything like me, the more you cover up, the happier people around you will be. Jonathan van Bilsen is an award winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at .

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