Weight Loss with Saxenda

Today’s blog post is brought to you by one of our female customers who is struggling to lose extra flab around the belly. Sound familiar?

Well to make matters worse for this lady she has PCOS aka Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s a terrible cluster of issues leading to:

  • irregular periods or none at all
  • pimples
  • hair loss on head/hair overgrowth on arms and body
  • infertility
  • high cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • weight gain

It’s thought to be a genetic problem in the ovaries and its tough as hell to fix.

One of the indirect ways of dealing with PCOS is losing weight which is the focus of today’s blog.

(Other treatment modalities include: metformin, contraceptive pills to rebalance hormones, hormone blockers like clomiphene)

Saxenda is the new kid on the block and is one of three main players. It’s a surprisingly empty field because like anything complex, there is no silver bullet. Diet and exercise help but if you want something more, read on…

Saxenda is a GLP-1 analogue (if you’re a nerd, search it up on Wikipedia) which basically slows down your stomach contents causing you to feel fuller for longer; it also acts at the brain level to alert you to feel that enough is enough; finally, it tells your pancreas to pump more insulin for each meal you have.

It’s an injection done to the thigh, abs or upper-arm ONCE per day (there’s actually another one on the market called Byetta but that’s twice daily with similar results). A pack will set you back $400-500/month (not on the

To be eligible for a script from your GP you have to have a BMI of 30+ (or 27 with diabetes, heart problems, and/or PCOS)

So how long does it take to work? Best results happen at the beginning thankfully…with most of the weight loss during the initial 20 weeks or 5 months. People tend to lose 5-10% of their starting weight.

If you haven’t lost at least 5% by week 12, then chances are it won’t work much further-stop and save your money.

Side effects include nausea and vomiting-50% of people experience this as mild to moderate in severity. In studies people actually have vomited-which ironically for the drug company…is probably a factor in helping with weight loss. Thankfully for us mere mortals it does improve with time. Other side effects can include: irritation, pain, bruising at the injection site. Other things like gall stones and allergies are quite rare.

Risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas) is very, very rare but hey we don’t know the complete picture because it’s a relatively new drug. There is concern that it may be associated with cancer of the pancreas. Watch this space.

Apart from the weight loss benefits, it also helps to reduce your chances of diabetes by reducing things like your HbA1c  and your sugar spikes after a meal.

I hope this has been informative for our customer and for others like her who are going through PCOS which is a dreadful disease.

As always speak to doc about your personal situation.

Best

xoxo Vien

 

 

You’ve taken a fall and now you’ve got scars to show Q: What’s the best scar treatment?

This question comes from Iman who asks what scar creams are available apart from Vitamin E and Silicone?

This is an age old question and surprisingly it’s still a new field of dermatology that is yet to be revolutionized.

We’re still using old technology from the 70s aka the humble silicone gel sheets. But that’s because it works.

Scars are bothersome to us humans because they affect our self-esteem in public. Scars can be large, look red, itch like hell, and  feel hard to the touch which can affect our dexterity.

Scarring is the end process of skin healing following trauma be it a cut, burn, graze etc. Skin goes through three stages:

1) inflammation (things get swollen through extra blow flow to the area, pus forms as a by-product)

2) granulation (new blood vessels form, the structural components are laid down) and

3) matrix remodeling (a fancy word for collagen being packed down)

It’s this third stage that causes often gets out of hand and produces excess collagen and hence the raised look of a scar. The story gets worst in the case of keloid scars as they not only regrow but grow beyond the border of the original damage. See images :

 

(Left) Keloid Scars often overgrow the border of the damage site whereas (Right) Hypertrophic scars stay within the border and are less aggressive in growth.

Why do scars even occur? From a cave-man survival perspective…should we ever get a laceration or trauma, the best thing to ward of infection and ensure quick receovery is to have an inflammatory response that tells the body to lay down plenty of collagen to fill up the exposured areas. It’s a biological response. I read somewhere that only certain reptiles can actually rebuild skin to the exact specifications as the original!

So back to humans. Silicone gel sheets are the go-to. They work by occluding (form a protective barrier) the scar and adding hydration. Left on for at least 12hours a day for 6-12months. Downside is the impracticable nature of strapping on a silcone sheet to your body. Especially if it’s on flexure points like elbows or chin.

Compression Garments/Pressure therapy has been proven to reduce the size of scarring especially those across large areas of the body.  They are thought to work by mechanical pressue on the underlying blood vessels thereby restricting blood flow and hence collagen formation at the damage site. Another theory is they provide the shear forces to help re-organize new collagen. The downsides include the tedious nature of putting them on and off-they’re tight!; must be worn for 23 hours each day for up to one year; needs replacing every 2-3 months to maintain their pressure ~25-30mmHg. Here are some photos:

The combination of compression with silicone is superior to either alone and so there are brands they incorporate silicone into pressure garments.

Now for the white elephant in the room: Vitamin E oil. Known as an antioxidant, the main one in the skin in fact, people including doctors have always used it on anecdotable eveidence that it helps scars-but does it? I read lots of articles on it and nowhere is there solid proof that it works.

If anything it may cause some irriation. If used too early on fresh scars it can actually weaken the scar and cause the scar to widen. Its possible the type and strength of Vitamin E count for something…one study was using 320 IU per gram of cream. Typical Invite E cream in pharmcies is only 100IU per gram (Invite E oil is 25IU per drop).

Not surprisingly scientists decided to use Vitamin E with silicone gel sheets to see what wopuld happen and results blew them away-the combo dramatically improved scar colour, size and appearance.

invite e

Source: http://www.pinsdaddy.com/pure-vitamin-e-oil_6yJEc3SKpc4Ur*0Wu55Ru*QT3cKaAHw5FtCj1eyhdtU/

Now I could go on about the various other remedies out there but not much evidence exists so I’ll just briefly list them here:

  • Onion extract (only slightly better than using Vaseline!)
  • Imiquimod 5% (needs more research, some promise)
  • Vitamin A (aka retinoic acid; reduces scar sizes, can be a teratogen if absorbed into the body, needs more research)

 

More invasive options do exist however…

  • surgical excision (cutting it out) but for keloids, they recur in 45-100% of cases (reserve for resistant scars)
  • Steroid injections (corticosteroids): first line therapy for keloids. Response rate 50-100%, Recurrence of 9-50%. Painful. Side effects: discoloration, dimples, spider veins.
  • Radiotherapy: most effective treatment for keloids but high exposure to radiation. Response rate: 10-94%, Recurrence rate: 50-100%.
  • Laser (carbon dioxide, argon, flashlamp-pumped pulsed-dye): conflicting results. more research needed.
  • Cryotherapy: flattens keloids after two sessions. Side effects: permanent skin discoloration, pain, skin shrinkage. reserved for small scars.

An unusual observation is the use of paper tape to hold together fresh incisions made by a surgeon, used for several weeks, seemed to be “useful”. albeit not as effective as silicone, it could serve the purpose of prepping the skin prior to silicone gel sheets.

So for our friend Iman, I think sticking to silicone gel sheets like Scar FX or Cica-Care is her best bet with the addition of some Vitamin E oil (optional) and a pressure garment.

Sources:

http://voltaicplasma.com/keloids/#scars

http://burnsurvivor.com/portfolio_page/pressure-garments/

https://www.regionshospital.com/rh2/specialties-and-doctors/specialties/burn-center/garments/index.html

http://stellarpo.com/burns-scars/

http://www.smith-nephew.com/key-products/advanced-wound-management/cicacare/

https://www.directdermacare.com/products/scar-fx-1-x-22-self-adhesive-silicone-sheeting

 

 

Recognizing Signs of Asthma Attacks

 

The reason some children suffer asthma and not others isn’t 100% clear but its partly genetics. Of course this shouldn’t cramp your child’s playtime! Speak to your doctor about safe and effective medications tailored just to your child’s needs and remember to write up an asthma action plan-a simple step by step guide to walk you through times of emergency-just as you has an evacuation plan, this is a plan for your child.

This video is made upon request by one of our Instagram followers who asked me what signs she should look out for during as asthma attack beside the skin tugging (which I’ll explain later). For everyone else watching, it could be a life-saver because recognizing the signs of an asthma attack and acting quickly is the goal of the day.
Asthma attacks occur when the body recognizes foreign particles entering the body and as a natural defense mechanism, limits the air flow to minimize further exposure. This air flow limitation causes the difficulty breathing, the wheezing sound you hear and the coughing fits.

Triggers include viruses or bacteria (the same ones as during a cold),passive cigarette smoke, weather changes (even when the air is coldest such as early morning or late at night), the reflux of acid and food from the stomach, and environmental irritants such as saw dust from daddy’s man cave.

Minor Signs

Where do you look to recognize the signs of an asthma attack? Immediate ones that may come to your mind include: 1) rapid breathing 2) wheezing and 3) coughing. And you would be correct. These are the early signs of MINOR attack. SIT THEM UP STRAIGHT, Pull out the Ventolin and Spacer.

Severe signs

A SEVERE attack would look a little different. Your child may or may NOT be coughing and wheezing because by now they’re exhausted from all that coughing! Think of the last time you coughed so hard it hurt! Another reason they’d be tired is because the air flow is so limited, your child will be using every muscle they have in their chest to expand those lungs. So look for signs of 4) tiredness on the face-your child may even tell you their 5) tummy is sore because of their abdominal muscles being utilized. 6) Now our friend on Instagram mentioned skin tugging, what is that? It’s when those same abdominal muscles are working over-time expanding and contracting so much so that the surround soft skin gets stretched taut giving rise to the term tugging. The medical term for this is retractions. It’s most obvious around the neck area and ribs (I’ll stick a picture here for you to see). In a SEVERE attack, call ambulance 000 SIT THEM UP STRAIGHT and give Ventolin whilst you wait.

Life Threatening Signs

Now this third and last stage during an asthma attack is rare but is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY! It is life-threatening and you must call ambulance 000 SIT THEM UP STRAIGHT and also give Ventolin whilst you wait. Signs to look out for: exhaustion, gasping for air, NO cough or wheeze-remember you’re too tired to even cough or breathe so if there’s no air flow, there’s no wheezing sound, confusion and blue lips.

If there’s ONE thing you took from this video, it’s to call 000 even when you’re unsure of the degree of asthma. Delays can be deadly.

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Your baby lacks Vitamin D from the Breast

Did you know that babies cannot rely on breast milk to get sufficient vitamin D for their growing bones?

Instead they get Vitamin D through the maternal blood supply-which if low, means your baby is born low.

It’s the reason why doctors frequently check Vitamin D levels and why IVF mums get put on high dose vitamin D.

How much vitamin D do you need?

If you’re living in Sydney during spring, summer, or autumn: 6-8mins at 10am or 2pm; and during winter: 15 minutes at midday. No need for sunscreen for this purpose.

If you’re planning on extended outdoor activities, check the UV index. UV Index 3 or above, use sunscreen. Below 3 not to worry generally speaking.

UV Index 3

Source: Council Council Victoria

Where do you check the UV index? On iPhone it’s built into the weather app. Load it the swipe up.

For Android it’s probably the same. There’s also an app called SunSmart that gives you alerts for when the UV index rises above 3. Download it here: http://www.sunsmart.com.au/tools/interactive-tools/free-sunsmart-app

Finally,  for the like-minded geeks out there here are statistics on UV Index across major Australian cities over the four seasons.

UV Index calender

Source: Council Council Victoria

Soak up that sun fellow sunseekers!

xoxo

Vien

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Kid’s Hives: the most frequent concern among Young Parents

The most common issue I see in pharmacy no matter where I work is hives aka rashes-both in kids and adults.

It’s the freakiest thing-to see your kid’s skin angry and red, blotchy and spread.

In the video above I’m gonna share my personal experience with never before seen photos of my hives.

I’ll explain why hives occur and a simple method to find the root cause.

“Often it’s rarely what you did today, but rather the factors leading up to it. The stresses on your immune system.”

Our immunity is like a battery and it can quickly run flat. Charging it up is simple but so many times we get it wrong. We try quick fixes like buying a new battery!

The pillars for charging this battery are: 8-10hrs sleep , good nutrition , hydration .

Where a boost is needed, I always turn to a good probiotic powder* for kids. (*See below for my recommendations)

Watch out for unwitting stacking of stresses on our kids. These include recent colds, ear infections, gastro, off ones food, dehydration.

On their own the stresses won’t cause hives but together they set the scene for a weakened immune system.

When our body reaches a tipping point, that’s when it will “react” with inflammation aka hives aka redness, itching, swelling.

This is when we reach for anti-histamines (anti-inflammation) but notice the initial gap in treatment. We haven’t dealt with underlying stresses when we pop a Zyrtec or other.

The pillars for charging this battery are: 8-10hrs sleep, good nutrition, and hydration.

That’s why I always take a full history whenever mums and dads come in with their kids. Sure I’ll give them the quick fix but I always address the underlying issues too.

If you found this informative leave a Reply below and Share it on. Bless ur health.  Vien

 

*There are so many brands of probiotics now, some kept in the fridge others outside. Exciting indications exist claiming to fix eczema, improve allergies, moderate cholesterol etc..I stick with what I know and that’s: Inner Health for Kids Powder 0-12yrs. It’s got the three main bacterium that normally colonize our guts.

Would like to know where to get probiotics?

Call us on 02 8068 7131

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What if you COULD will away disease?

learned optimism

I was reading the book: Learned Optimism by world renown psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman and he thinks you CAN improve your health just through changing the thoughts and feelings you have when you encounter failure and challenge.

Known as the father of positive psychology, Dr. Martin and his colleagues found that optimists live longer, experience less illness and infection, have better social relationships. And you guessed it, pessimists experience the opposite!

Four reasons why optimism should improve health:

1. Immunity is affected by psychology

When we are feeling depressed, helpless, stressed…our immune system’s T-cells (responsible for removing specific invaders like measles) and NK cells (responsible for removing anything foreign) no longer multiply as fast and lose their attacking abilities respectively.

2. Sticking to the plan

Optimists are more likely to seek medical advice and professional help where as pessimists will believe “it’s meant to be; nothing I do will help; why bother.” A study of 100 Harvard graduates showed that pessimists are less likely than optimists to give up smoking.

3. Shit happens (and all at once)

Statistics show that the more bad events happen in a given period, the more likely you are to have illness too. The odds of having a heart attack and cancer increase in the 6 months of a bad life event like getting fired, divorced, sacked, widowed.  The moral here is to get a physical check up at these pivotal times. Might save your life.

4. Better social support (not the Medicare variety)

When people are sick it’s natural to hide away at home to recuperate. What is important is having people you can call upon (or in today’s world, Whatsapp I presume). The friendships and love wards away isolation and depression and ill health.

To wrap up I want to share the results of a British study of sixty nine women with breast cancer who were followed for five years. Those who did not get a recurrence of the cancer came at it with a “fighting spirit,” whereas those who suffered a recurrence merely accepted the doctor’s diagnosis and were “stoic”.

It pays to have that fire in you!

5 Quick Hacks to Soothe your Baby’s Teething

teething

Photo Credit: www.babycenter.com.au

They always said your baby would grow up fast. Who knew teething would be one of the headache milestones. Fun fact: adults have up to 32 teeth! That’s 32x the fun lols

Growing teeth is a gradual process and as parents it’s good to note that signs and symptoms and start up to one month before the actual teeth “cuts” through the gum.

Signs your baby is teething:

  • more irritable that usual
  • tugs and the ear lobe
  • drools more
  • runs a fever/temperature
  • has watery diarrhoea (as he/she swallows the excess mucus)

Sample the chart below to see the different milestones for teeth:

Without further ado, 5 Hacks to Sooth your Baby:

1. Warm baths + Body Lotion

As simple as it sounds, it may just do the trick. Try body lotions with lavender or chamomile which can soothe and calm jittery nerves.

2. Chilled Teething Ring/Frozen fruit+veg

Throw the teething ring into the fridge for half an hour and that will provide soothing cold relief for inflammed gums. Another one is a cold carrot or an apple core

3. Teething Gel

Bonjela or generics of it will give fast relief. Apply every three hours as required. Only use from 4months+

4. Analgesics

Panadol and Nurofen for infants are a mainstay. Keep these handy. Use either one first, if no relief after one hour add the other. Keep in mind that Panadol can be given every 6hrs (max 4 times per day) and Nurofen given every 8hrs (max 3 times per day)

5. Amber

Amber is a long fossilized tree resin formed millions of years ago. I’m personally kind of skeptical but if all of the above hasn’t worked for your child…then it won’t hurt to try. Comes in beads on a string for use as a bracelet or necklace. When buying these make sure individual beads are glued to the string to ensure safety such as when the string breaks-minimizing choke or slip hazard.

Bonus tip

rub on some Sudocrem or Pawpaw around the chin area to form a nice barrier against excess drooling which can macerate the skin (sudocrem is the better of the two at this).

Teeth Care and Maintenance (aka user manual)

Under 1.5 years

Clean gums daily with a dampened cloth or face towel. Gaps in gums are hotspots for food chunks and thus bacterial growth.

At 1.5years

Start a low-flouride toothpaste once daily

At 2 years

Low-flouride toothpaste brush twice daily.

At 6 years

Use adult’s full strength fluoride toothpaste twice daily

Handy tips:

Avoid putting bubs to sleep with the bottle in mouth. Milk after all contains natural sugars (including lactose) which bacteria just love and will cause teeth decay. Once I saw a young boy no more than 7years of age have four teeth removed because of this.

Make going to the dentist a familiar experience by bring baby along to your own dental appointments. Once bubs has his/her own teeth, they can be individually booked in.

See your doctor if:

  • bubs is inconsolable
  • runs a high fever for two or more days
  • Is age 18 months and has not had any teeth come in.
  • Has visible signs of tooth decay.
  • Has permanent teeth coming in before the primary teeth are lost, resulting in a double row of teeth.
  • Has a small jaw or a birth defect of the mouth or jaw, such as cleft palate.
  • Has any facial injury that has damaged a tooth or gums.

Further Reading:

https://www.babycenter.com.au/a6574/developmental-milestones-teething

Indiana State Department of Health

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/teething-when-to-call-a-doctor

Sleep Apnoea: the snorer’s risk

devilbiss man sleeping

Think snoring was just a harmless nuisance? Think again.

Snoring is one possible sign of sleep apnoea (in Greek apnoia means ‘breathless’): a condition where you can stop breathing for anywhere between 10 seconds up to 1 minute!

Why should you care if you or your partner snores? Imagine holding your breath for a minute…….doable but not easy right? Now imagine all that oxygen you missed out on, depriving your organs of this essential molecule. The brain and heart suffer most when this happens.

It isn’t any wonder that sufferers experience fatigue, poor mental focus, daytime sleepiness and waking up un-refreshed.

Long term, the stress on the heart and brain leads to high blood pressure (7-fold higher risk)

This is what Wikipedia says: Sleep apnea can affect people regardless of sex, race, or age. However, risk factors include:

  • being male
  • excessive weight
  • an age above 40
  • large neck size (greater than 16–17 inches)
  • enlarged tonsils or tongue
  • small jaw bone
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • allergies
  • sinus problems
  • a family history of sleep apnea
  • deviated septum

A simple home test can help determine if you have sleep apnoea. Our pharmacist will help set up the kit and all you need to do is go home, hook up, and press a button. The test looks for hours slept, number of times you woke, and then give us a print out at the end when you return the kit.

To book a kit, ring a pharmacist on: 02 8068 7131

To read more about it…head to:
http://www.snoreaustralia.com.au/obstructive-sleep-apnoea.php

 

Nurturing our children’s courageous curiosity

Is dinner time still family time at your household? Or are your kids glued to an iPad whilst mum and dad chit chat the day’s events or themselves watch TV?

What is this digital revolution doing to our kids? Should we hand iPads to kids during their tender years? Does all these use of technology make our kids less sociable with their peers and later life? Is technology a band-aid solution to parenting? These are questions I’ve had for a few years now..

Technology is a necessary part of life..it’s impact widespread-a Digital is disrupting whole industries: Uber and taxis, AirBNB and hotels..rather than just feeling left behind..should we as parents be preparing our children for this revolution? Jobs like drivers, cleaners, data analysts…are going to be gone in the next few years. New industries built atop of: 3D printing (challenging manufacturing jobs), artificial intelligence (challenging data processing jobs) are actually available today..SpaceX rockets, IBM’s Watson Supercomputer, respectively. Heck I’m simply amazed that Woolies practically has no cashiers anymore!

…so what careers should we guide our children towards? Rather than answering that question I would like your permission explore the idea of nurturing our child’s inborn curiosities.

Albert Einstein said “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious”

The reason I was inspired to write on this topic is because I had read somewhere in the USA that a 16 year old boy had made a nuclear fusion reaction in his grandma’s garage. I thought OMG! At what age did he start learning this stuff? Who influenced him? Did his parents not stop him?

You can watch the whole story at :

Wonderment: the state of awe or respect. In school and home we can foster this state where no questions are stupid and it’s okay not to know the answer…for the void of knowledge is the basis of curiosity. Take your child to the err library (seriously I still do because who has money for magazines) it encourages exploring new genres…or simply Google…you literally ask questions like “How do I…”, “How much does it cost to…”, “Why does this….” With 7 billion people on this planet there’s bound to be someone with the same questions.

Curiosity some say is a skill that’s like a muscle….use it or lose it. Use it on the daily and it grows into a tool that we can rely upon to push through hard times. Back when I was a student sitting there I would often have questions to ask but because I was too shy to seem like the idiot…I would hope some other kid had the same question in mind. Half the time they did, the other half I was resigned to silence. As adults, it’s not like these bad habits die away…imagine though the world of possibilities if you just had that bit of courage?

To start building courageous curiosity…try:

  1. Letting our kids go wide: read/watch/study a wide range of things..rockets to volcanoes, role playing police and butcher, save the whales and ask why snow is snow. Branch off down the rabbit hole.
  2. As the parent, ask lots of questions: rhetorical and non-rhetorical. Children will learn by modelling. Curiosity starts with an unknown and a question sets the stage for finding the answers.
  3. Be patient. Learning can seem a struggle at the start when new jargon needs to be picked up or when the answer is obvious to you but not your child. Guide them with further questions.
  4. Stand in the other person’s shoes: it can teach a different perspective on touchy subjects like politics and religion and build invaluable tolerance for other culture’s.
  5. Challenge the status quo. Like Taylor, the kid who believed he could produce greener energy and built the nuclear reactor in his garage
  6. Travel: this ones self explanatory
  7. Go BIG: dive into unsolved mysteries of the world, try to tackle the hard issues which can be the most rewarding

Remember that kids will learn at their own pace. Just because your friend’s child started talking at two doesn’t make your child any less effective a person if he/she starts talking at three. Be observant of times when your kid is flexing their new brain power…like devouring higher level textbooks, being more pre-occupied with a certain musical instrument, or drawing sketches on the margins of the exercise book =p

Links to stimulate those minds:

Wikipedia

Khan academy: learn economics, calculus, physics etc…

Learn to code: https://code.org/

Science Comps: https://www.asi.edu.au/about/

DIY Science Projects: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/

Inspiring young scientists: https://www.googlesciencefair.com/en/

Science competitions: Physics/Chemistry/Science Olympiads, Big Science, Curious Minds Winter Camp

 

State of Australia: http://www.pwc.com.au/pdf/a-smart-move-pwc-stem-report-april-2015.pdf

 

Sunscreens: the down-low

After a mother came into the pharmacy to ask about how effective MooGoo SPF 15 sunscreen+moisteriser is for her baby…I took to research journal articles on Google Scholar to get at an answer!

Honestly, I came out with more questions than answers.. lols.

Image result for sunscreens

Photo credit: http://www.womenshealthmag.com

 

First some basic terminology:

SPF = Sun Protection Factor….the time it takes for your skin to turn red

Here’s the definition from HowStuffWorks.com (this site saved my HSC btw)

To determine a sunscreen’s SPF, testers round up 20 sun-sensitive people and measure the amount of UV rays it takes them to burn without sunscreen. Then they redo the test with sunscreen. The “with sunscreen” number is divided by the “without sunscreen” number, and the result is rounded down to the nearest five. This is the SPF.

SPF numbers start at 2 and have just recently reached 70. To figure out how long you can stay in the sun with a given SPF, use this equation:

Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number = maximum sun exposure time*

e.g. if it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen…using SPF 30 means 10mins x 30 = 300mins before you burn*

*WARNING this formula isn’t applicable once you past SPF 30! See this table:

SPF % UV absorbed
2 50
4 70
8 87.5
15 93.3
30 96.7
50 98

So that SPF 70 that you saw at your Myer store is giving you a false sense of protection if you think it gives you 700 minutes of protection (10min x70). So how much time do you enjoy in the sun with SPF70? it’s anybody’s guess unless you called the company itself.

Further…how many times do we slip, slop, slip, half-assed? C’mon Hands up! To get the supposed 300 minutes of protection from the earlier example, you will need to lather to a thickness of 2.0 mg/cm. Erm what? Most folks apply only a quarter (if at all) that thickness. Research in China showed that SPF 15 not slapped on properly drops to only SPF 2! So the lesson is to slap on generously. Try the teaspoon rule: 

TEA SPOON RULE:

Legs, chest and back: 6mL aka a tad more than one teaspoon

Arms, face, and neck: 3mL or a tad less than a teaspoon worth.

Second thing, UV radiation has two main forms:

UV A: causes that goddess-tan look; long term causes premature aging and wrinkling

UV B: causes sunburn, skin cancers, cataracts (eyes)

Because SPF only measures UV B levels...you’re going to be misled if you simply look at SPF numbers. What you should look for are the words: “Broad Spectrum” which means it covers both.

The stuff in MooGoo SPF 15 is Zinc Oxide….the white stuff cricketers have on their noses and the same ingredient in nappy rash cream. Zinc is an excellent blocker of both UVA and UVB. Now a lot of us don’t like the “white” look and so companies have come out with “microfine” versions that are invisible to the eye. Great! I hear you say. Here’s the catch (like that pun?), the smaller “microfine” particles are not as good at protecting you against UV A…Alas!

Third, a sunscreen ain’t gonna work if it doesn’t stay on you through water, sweat and rubbing. Re-apply after every swim or every hour to be sure. Here’s what those other labels mean:

  • Sweat-resistant: protects up to 30 minutes of continuous heavy perspiration.
  • Water-resistant: protects up to 40 minutes of continuous water exposure; and
  • Waterproof: protects for up to 80 minutes of continuous water exposure.

Finally, between chemical and physical blockers, what’s safer for our kids? Physical blockers sit atop the skin and don’t get absorbed. Chemical blockers absorb into the top layers of the skin and some can cause dermatitis. Both are safe to use in adults but in young infants its best avoid because they have a larger surface area to weight ratio meaning they’re more likely to absorb chemical blockers in minute amounts and be susceptible to possible irritation.

For infants under 6 months, the FDA recommend not using any sunscreen-but if you’re at Bondi Beach and just spent an hour finding parking…try sunscreens made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. From 6 months plus, you’re quite safe to try any on the market. Just spot-test a small area to check for allergies in either case.

UV B Chemical Blockers Comments
Para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) Can cause contact dermatitis. Avoid in children under 6months as it may absorb through skin.
Cinnamates* Can cause contact dermatitis
Octyl salicylate
Octocrylene
Phenyl benzimidazole sulfonic acid
UV A Chemical Blockers
Benzophenone Can cause contact dermatitis
Anthranilate
Avobenzone
Terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid or Mexoryl SX
Bisethylhexyloxyphenol methoxy phenyl triazene
Physical Blockers (UV A and UV B)
Titanium dioxide ideal for infants as it won’t absorb through skin
Zinc oxide ideal for infants as it won’t absorb through skin

*don’t bring these if you’re watching Fifty Shades Darker =P

So what would I recommend to that mum with the baby? Seek shade for her infant, avoid the hours of 10am to 2pm if possible. If you’re at the beach, try a physical blocker such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Summary Points

  • Apply sunscreen 15-30mins before going in the sun.
  • Re-apply every 15-30mins
  • Apply a thick layer (you’re allowed to be wasteful in this instance)
  • Wear a shirt, hat, sunnies
  • Seek shade between 10am-2pm esp for infants under 6months
  • Physical blockers are ideal for infants…just apply to exposed areas and keep use to a minimum

References:

Melissa Jeffries. 2017. What do SPF numbers mean? How Stuff Works: Link
Schneider J. The Teaspoon Rule of Applying Sunscreen. Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(6):838-839. Link
Rai, R. and Srinivas, C.R., 2007. Photoprotection. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 73(2), p.73. Link
Liu W. et al. 2012. Sunburn protection as a function of sunscreen application thickness differs between high and low SPFs. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 28(3), p.120-126 Link
Wulf, H.-C., Stender, I.-M. and Lock-Andersen, J. 1997. Sunscreens used at the beach do not protect against erythema: A new definition of SPF is proposed. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 13: p.129–132. Link
Commonwealth of Australia as represented by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). 2015. Ultraviolet Radiation. Link
More, B.D., 2007. Physical sunscreens: on the comeback trail. Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, 73(2), p.80.
US Food & Drug Administration. 2016. Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually Link