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Should We Be Listening to Gwyneth Paltrow's Sunscreen Advice?

  • "Clean", "non-toxic" beauty and skincare is BS
  • Choose sunscreens which are: broad spectrum, minimum SPF30, ideally water-resistant
  • If you’re concerned about ageing, look for sunscreens with P+ ratings, more + equals more protection from UVA
  • Slather on sunscreen. Two fingers length for your face, ears, neck and décolletage
  • Think about the motivations of the person giving "advice"

Gywnie’s been in the headlines several times in the past couple of months, but not exactly for the right reasons. First with regards to her stance on the Covid jab and now with SPF-gate. So, should we be listening to actress-turned-businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow?

What’s with Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversial stances on health?

Ok, so it’s not exactly the start of Gwynie’s controversial outbreaks, but if you didn’t catch the news around it, one thing she did recently was talk about her long Covid symptoms. “Ok”, I hear you say, “what’s wrong with that?” But it’s not the symptoms that were the issue. It was her solution to them. She claims that her path to recovery was helped by eating a mostly keto and plant-based diet, that she didn’t consume sugar or alcohol, and that she fasted every day until 11 am, claims which medics worried would impact the health of fans who might be easily influenced by her.

And now, just weeks later, she’s upset medics again after her Vogue Guide to Everyday Skin Care and Wellness video. In the video, the A-lister goes through her morning beauty regime, starting with a smoothie, moving on to using a dry brush, all over the body, and meditating. Then, she exfoliates, applies a serum, uses eye pads, moisturises...and then...the controversial part. Out comes the sunscreen.

Gwyneth explains that she uses the “clean mineral sunscreen” Unsun in SPF 30. Great! Well, almost...until she actually starts applying it. First up, she says, “There are a lot of really harsh chemicals in conventional sunscreen, so that’s a product that I really want to avoid.” Some of you may be sitting there thinking, “um, harsh chemicals?!” Yup - so were millions of skin experts and skincare enthusiasts around the world (check out the comments under the Youtube video).

Then, she shocks viewers by applying what can only be described as a pitiful amount of the sunscreen. She takes a miniscule amount and dabs it gently over just her nose and “the area where the sun really hits.” I hate to break it to you, Gwynie, but the rays from the sun hit pretty much everywhere exposed, and the damaging component of those rays, UV rays, do too! Ahem!

What do the skincare experts think?

Well, rightly so, there’s been a huge fuss kicked up about Gwneth Paltrow’s comments on sunscreen, and that’s mainly down the fact that A) she’s just got it so wrong, and B) she has a huge following and those people may be influenced by what she says and suggests. Giving out unsound medical and skincare advice is really not a good move when it could, potentially, affect so many people and their skin health.

We, technically, should be using a high SPF every day - yep, even on the cloudiest of days - because it protects us from the sun’s harsh rays, including UV rays. However, now, with the good weather starting to creep out, more and more people will be wondering which SPF they should be using - or even wondering whether they need it at all. The answer is, of course, yes, you do. We all do, regardless of age, gender or colour.

Aesthetic practitioner and all round fabulous lady Dr MJ Rowland-Warmann of Smileworks, says, “Sunscreen shouldn’t be ‘dabbed’. It’s not highlighter. It’s there to protect your skin from the harmful rays on the sun. There to stop skin cancer, sun damage and premature ageing.

With great power comes great responsibility. And I wish celebrities and influencers would think twice about giving duff advice to millions of impressionable followers.” Amen to that!

What does “clean” mean with regards to skincare?

The term “clean” is batted around a lot in the world of skincare and well-being, but what does it actually mean? Well, some define it as free from chemicals and toxins, but the problem (well, not really a problem at all, actually) is that everything is made of chemicals. You, me, water, food, skincare. Chemicals are not "bad"! It’s the chemicals in so much of the skincare that we use that actually get to the root of many issues within our skin, and help improve its function.

Don’t even get me started on "toxic". Unless you’re getting your skincare off the back a lorry, and have no idea of its provenance, the chemicals within skincare products are rigorously tested. ‘Non-toxic, clean’ skincare is BS.

And let’s not forget, the best part of all of this is that while Gwyneth Paltrow talks about wanting to use ‘clean’, ‘non-toxic’ skincare, she seems to have forgotten that she is the face of a major brand of botulinum toxin that helps combat lines and wrinkles. So, is she simply in it all for the money, or is she just a bit ignorant to the skincare and treatments she markets and promotes?

How do I know if my sunscreen is safe?

We have an amazing article here that talks all about SPF and what it actually protects from, so I’d definitely check that out to find out more, but, essentially, sunscreen goes through rigorous testing before it’s brought to market. The key is to use a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or above, every day. Anything else just isn’t going to cut it! And you need to really slather it on to make sure you get good coverage because the sun really doesn’t just lightly touch certain areas of your skin as Gwynie suggests. You should be bringing it down your neck, and, in the words of skincare legend Caroline Hirons, all the way “down to your tits”.

Yes, many sunscreens have chemicals in them, and that’s fine. In fact, that’s good. They are there to do a job: protect you from harmful rays that can lead to skin cancer, which, unfortunately, is responsible for thousands of deaths each year in the UK alone.

With regards to how we should be applying our sunscreen, Dr MJ says, “SPF 30 is a minimum. I use 50. EVERY DAY. It’s two fingers covered in cream (or about the size of a 10p piece). Make sure you cover [your] face, neck, top of the forehead, ears, eyelids, sides of the neck, and put it down your chest [if you’re wearing a low cut top].” You can check out MJ’s video to accompany her top tips here.

So, should we be listening to Gwyneth Paltrow’s advice on sunscreen? It’s a big, fat no. As with anything related to health and skincare, listen to the experts. Doctors, derms and research scientists aren’t influenced by product sales or sponsorship deals. They rely on peer-reviewed evidence to inform their practice. Gwyneth relies on what the marketing teams at Goop and Merz tell her. Your health is too important to take risks on. And as Baz Lurhmann said…”If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.”

Main blog image credit: Wikipedia

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