Reef-friendly suncreams

Many thanks to Hattie Webb for her help researching this post. Go and check out her Instagram for more on sustainability! Post contains some affiliate links, which are the only way I monetise my blog. These do not impact which products are chosen for this piece. 

As we move into summer, it becomes more and more important to take care of our skin. While up to 20 minutes in the sun without protection is great for achieving our recommended vitamin D levels, too much time in the sun can wreak havoc on our skin, both immediately (burns, sun spots) and long term (elevated risk of skin cancer, breakdown of elasticity, wrinkles etc).

Many people recommend we wear suncream year round, even on cloudy days (as up to 80% of UV radiation can pass through cloud cover), but with around 25% of the ingredients in the suncream we apply ending up in our waterways, what’s the environmental impact of this?

First off, how do suncreams work?

Sunscreens have one of two “modes of action”. Chemical sunscreens absorb ultraviolet radiation like a sponge, while mineral sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reflect it back from the surface of the skin like a mirror.

Which is better?

Either can work well, but the latter is better for the environment. Dermatologist Dr Catherine Borysiewicz says:

“Mineral sunscreens with a high sun protection factor, UVA and UVB protection (the former penetrates the skin more deeply but the latter is more intense and the chief cause of sunburn) are as effective as chemical sunscreens, great for people with sensitive skin or inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, and kinder to marine life,” she says. “They went out of fashion because they tended to leave a chalky white layer on the skin, but they are slowly becoming more popular again.”

What are the problematic ingredients?

Certain chemicals, found in many mainstream suncreams, have been found to be damaging to waterways and marine ecosystems. Octinoxate and Oxybenzone have been linked to coral bleaching, actively decreasing our fragile corals’ defences against climate change, and reducing their ability to reproduce and propagate.

Research suggests that coral reefs in Hawaii are exposed to 6,000 – 14,000 tons of sunscreen lotion every year, leading the island to ban suncreams containing Octinoxate or Oxybenzone, due to come into effect on 1st Jan 2021. These ingredients aren’t just harmful for corals though – they have also been linked to endocrine disruption in humans, as they can move through the skin and mimic hormones in the body, damaging sperm and reproductive hormones.

So what can we do?

Understanding why certain ingredients are harmful and choosing to avoid them is the best thing we can do to limit the impact our suncream has. Avoid aerosols too, as most of this doesn’t actually make it to the skin, instead coating everything around, including your lungs. Choosing to wear protective clothing to limit the amount of suncream you use not only saves money but will also help protect the environment.

Haereticus Environmental Laboratory also publishes a list each year of what sunscreens are safe for the environment, and the Environmental Working Group rates products with SPF values – including around 650 sunscreens and 250 moisturisers – on their environmental impact.

These are my three favourite brands and products that I try to buy whenever I’m in need of suncream. We may not be heading on holiday any time soon, but the sun is the same sun all around the world, so don’t think that it’s any weaker just because it’s cooler in the UK than your usual holiday destinations! So stock up and let me know your thoughts on these faves.

 

REN SPF 30

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This is the suncream I use on my face every morning if I’m spending time outside. It’s one of the few I’ve found that is truly mattifying (I like dewy, but there is a limit!), and REN really take their environmental credentials seriously. The bottle is made with recycled plastic and is fully recyclable, and the product is vegan and cruelty free, without any ingredients that are harmful to the environment. I cannot recommend this more as your go-to face suncream!

 

Tropic Great Barrier SPF 50

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Tropic’s entire range is certified reef-safe, vegan, cruelty free and has incentives for returning packaging too, to increase circularity. The brand is carbon neutral and sends very little (if any) waste to landfill), although I couldn’t see whether their packaging was recycled or not. Having used their other products before (though not this one), I can thoroughly recommend!

 

Green People SPF 30

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Green People use plant-based, carbon neutral packaging that is fully recyclable, and 30p from each of their sales goes to the Marine Conservation Society, a UK charity protecting our oceans and wildlife. This suncream is obviously certified reef safe too. Its texture takes a bit of getting used to, especially if the suncream is cold, and if you’re used to nicely scented suncreams this may be a bit strange, as it has no perfumes in. However it does the job – I’ve never burned with this suncream and love their aftersun and daily protection (SPF 15) too!

 

 

 

 

Hvar & Split, Croatia

I was recently lucky enough to travel to Croatia with one of my closest friends for a beautiful holiday for good food, sunshine and relaxing, and we had SUCH an amazing time!

It seems that this year, Croatia is a very popular destination for tourists, and rightly so, so I thought I’d list the best places we visited both on the island of Hvar and Split, on the mainland.

The food recommendations are primarily places that offer excellent vegan and vegetarian options, but none of them are fully vegan/veggie. I’ve just put them down in the order we visited them 🙂

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Zoe and I had an amazing time in Hvar!

Food

Giaxa – When we first arrived in Hvar we headed to Giaxa for a light lunch, upon recommendation that it does great vegan food! It was certainly not a light lunch (we ended up getting a full three courses!) but the food was delicious. You can get everything from mixed veg to full gnocchi and meat, so there’s something for all tastes. The staff are also lovely, and the chef was a vegan Argentinian, which explains the great variety of food!

Lola bar and street food – For a ‘good night’ we were recommended Lola bar and street food. The staff here are the most energetic and smiley waiters I’ve ever seen! Options were good – both the veggie curry and falafel and hummus were great 🙂 If you’re vegetarian go for the veggie burger and don’t forget sweet potato fries (we got 2 portions). These guys also know how to mix drinks. Not sure what to have? Ask them for a recommendation.

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Veggie burgers are always a winner. I had the falafel!

Fig restaurants – Fig have restaurants in Stari Grad (Hvar), Hvar Town and also in Split, and you can see why it’s so popular! I was told to book in advance and am glad I did – queues were stretching down the street! Zoe recommends the chicken wrap and I would recommend the roast veg. Apparently brunch is great too! Also, get the sweet potato fries (ask for garlic mayo on the side). Fig in Split (yes we went to both of them) is in a beautiful courtyard and one of the only vegan places there. Head inside and see an ancient drain from the original building – it’s cooler than it sounds!

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You can’t go wrong with the food from Fig!

Spice – Final recommendation from Hvar was Spice, a pan asian restaurant situated in the main square. I was worried that it would be over priced, but it wasn’t bad at all. My recommendation would be the veggie pad thai and definitely the spring rolls! If you’re not a fan of Asian cuisine, they also have a ‘western’ menu that you can choose from, so something for all! Excellent service too.

Things to do

Hvar adventure – We were told that one of the best things to do on Hvar was to leave Hvar and visit the nearby islands of Paklinski. Hvar Adventures is a tour company recommended by google and well situated just off the main port. We went on a day tour (9am-3pm) on one of their beautiful yachts (not a massive group party boat!) to visit nearby deserted coves with the most beautiful water you’ll ever see, and go snorkelling and cliff jumping in various places. The day was truly idyllic and if I could repeat it 10 more times I would! They also offer sunset tours and various other adventure options.

Spanish Fortress – If you get the chance, run (or walk) up to the Spanish Fortress. It’s free to go up and you’ll be greeted with amazing views of the whole town and nearby islands. You can go in the Fortress too, but the views are the same out the front. It’s 50kn to get in.

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Not a bad view to hike/run up to!

Hvar Cathedral – You’ll definitely walk past this if you’re staying around Hvar town, but it is worth stopping and taking a good look at! If you eat at Spice restaurant for dinner you’ll see the sun setting on the cathedral and it’s beautiful!

Split old town – Split is home to one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world, the Diocletian Palace. Wander around dodging tourists and taking in everything that the town has to offer. It’s busy but beautiful, so enjoy!

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Look up in Split old town and you’ll see the remnants of the original palace! Spot Zoe!

Marjan Forest Park – If you’re less of a people-person and more of a nature-person (like me), the Marjan Forest Park is perfect.

Drinks

Carpe Diem beach/bar – if you’re into clubbing, head to Carpe Diem nightclub at 12:30am for a night of dancing on the beach. If, like me, you’re more of an evening drinks in the sun kind of a person, take a water taxi over at around 5pm to grab some drinks on the island. Make sure not to leave it too late – the beach shuts at 7pm to turn it into a club for the party-goers later in the evening.

Carpe diem bar is situated on the sea front in Hvar Town. It is picturesque but potentially overpriced for what you get. The island is more unique (although still pricey).

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At the beautiful (but expensive) Carpe Diem nightclub

Beaches

Dobovica – a short bus ride from the centre of town is Dubovica beach, which has a lovely bar (Dubo Beach Bar). Thoroughly recommend for an intimate homemade feeling (not surprising as the owner, Ivek, serves drinks out the front of his house)! This is a really lovely beach which is much less busy than those closer to town. We had an amazing day here! There’s a long, steep path down, so probably not suitable for anyone who may struggle to walk (see pic)

Pokonji Dol – Much closer to the main town is Pokonji Dol, a small beach that is often packed, but still very beautiful. Many people recommended this to us when we went out!

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The rocky part of Pokonji Dol is a lot less busy, but also somewhat less comfortable!

 

Almyra Hotel – Cyprus

I’d use three words to describe Almyra hotel in Cyprus: friendly, relaxing and refreshing. I had the pleasure of being invited to return to Cyprus (after my trip last year) in order to review the beautiful hotel that is Almyra. With a focus on wellness and a chic, modern interior, I knew that it was exactly where I wanted to spend what was bound to be a rainy April weekend in London.

The great thing about Cyprus actually is that it’s warm so much earlier than the rest of the med, at a warm 26 degrees everyday we were there! 🙂 In my opinion we were there at the best time of year – before everywhere else was warm and before it got too busy! Apparently September/October is perfect too.

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Rooms

We stayed in one of the seaview rooms closest to the spa, away from the hustle and bustle of the main hotel (K18 to be exact). The room looked out onto the sea with a private outdoor area with two extra sunloungers. I was actually amazed at how light and airy it was – the doors onto the outside terrace were floor to ceiling glass, letting in as much light as possible. We didn’t spend much time in the room (there was too much sunbathing and eating going on) but it was nice to come back to a large room big enough for two girls’ clutter.

Food

Almyra has a lot of options when it comes to food. It’s situated along a row of hotels and a little bit away from the main town, so the easiest place to eat is in the hotel, which usually has me a little worried, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the delicious options! The hotel itself has three main restaurants – Notios (Japanese with a Cypriot twist), Eauzone (the main breakfast and dinner buffet) and Ouzeri (a classic Cypriot restaurant on the seafront). For half board guests, breakfast and dinner at the Eauzone were included. The buffet was a fairly standard buffet – nothing special but good quality food and (thankfully) a decent selection of healthy vegetarian and vegan foods. We enjoyed breakfast at the spa one morning too and I was very impressed with the food. We got the set menu (minus pastries and cakes), which contained a pleasing amount of fresh fruit and a smoothie (of your choice). We visited the local-style restaurant, Ouzeri, for a mezze lunch – we were encouraged to get 4 hot and 4 cold dishes and couldn’t finish, so I would give a 10/10 for quantity and everything was absolutely delicious. The Japanese restaurant had to be my favourite – after all, it is my favourite cuisine. The food there was top quality – probably better than any of the other restaurants in the area, and it was a gorgeous place to sit for drinks at sunset!

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Drinks at Notios

Amenities

The hotel has a separate spa complex that is pretty serene and relaxing, with a myriad of rooms I was unable to explore in the time we had. I was told that there were many treatments that could be had, and met multiple people who had travelled from other hotels for use of the spa. The prices were not unreasonable either, and the relaxation factor was just perfect. I can’t speak for the quality of treatment, as I didn’t have any. On the top floor of the spa is a gym – basic by London standards, but with a wide selection of free-weights, a few machines (though no squat rack!), soft mats and cardio equipment. I never saw it so busy that people had to wait. It was also the best view I’ve ever had whilst running on a treadmill! If you have boxing gloves, bring them, as there’s a balcony with a bag for free use. This is also where I filmed lots of my bodyweight workouts.

In the area

Other than sunbathing, eating and gymming, there were plenty of activities to do in the area. The main town is just a short walk away (max 10 minutes) and has lots of cute, as well as touristy shops (and a strip, like any other European city). In the other direction, along the coast lies Suite 48, a fantastic bar and restaurant serving up cocktails and snack, often to live music. I went to Suite 48 last year, and was not disappointed on my return. The staff are so welcoming and many of the drinks are really special, if you pick the right ones (they have a lot of the cheap, sweet strip classics, too). My recommendation if you like G&T would be the ‘Monkey Business’, though plenty of the other gin cocktails are also delicious. A short drive away is Muse restaurant, up a hill and looking out over Paphos and the sea. 100% would recommend this restaurant for sunset – it’s a view you won’t want to miss. Don’t forget to book though – it gets full quickly! At the bottom of Almyra is a watersports shack with a new pier, offering activities such as waterskiing, sailing, jetskiing, parasailing, paddleboarding and, of course, a pedalo with a slide (a childhood favourite). I tried the first two, and got to know men runnin the show pretty well. The man who drove the boat for water/mono-skiing clearly is really passionate about teaching people, which was very helpful for me, as it was only my second session mono-skiing, and improvements were made within our two 10 minute sessions! Would thoroughly recommend if you’re looking for lessons or just a fun trip out.

Visit the website and check out Almyra’s instagram.

 

Holiday fitness – how to stay on track

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Holidays are a great time to pick up something new – waterskiing KILLS my glutes

Holiday time! The moment we can get away from everyday life, relax and enjoy ourselves. But for people on a fitness and health journey, holidays can sometimes be a time of anxiety, getting away from the everyday routine that they’ve come to rely on to see results. For others it can be an excuse to abandon healthy eating and exercising, which can see you go back on months of progress.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love holidays, I love good food and I think it’s amazing to be able to take a proper rest from working out every now and again. However, I also have been in both positions here: where I have temporarily ‘fallen off the bandwagon’ and also where I overexercise in order to compensate for what I deemed ‘bad’ foods. After years of trying, I have finally got the balance of health on holiday right – I’m able to enjoy the holiday without feeling the need to overdo it – on either food or exercise.

 

You should return from your holidays feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. If you’ve got a rigid workout routine at home, think about this time as a chance to shock your body by doing different exercises, so that when you return you are able to continue seeing progress that perhaps wasn’t so fast before.

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Walk/run – it’s a great way to see lots of your destination in a short space of time

 

My top tips:

  • Eat three meals a day. It can be tempting to skip meals, or to graze throughout the day, especially if your accommodation is all-inclusive. Try to stick to regular meal times and not eat in between unless you’re actually hungry. The heat may make you feel less hungry, but having a health salad midday can help you to make healthy choices when it comes to dinnertime.

 

  • Move! Gymming is 100% NOT the only form of exercise. In fact, it is only one of almost countless ways to get your heart rate up. Walking and running are great ways to explore a city or the surrounding countryside. Ask your hotel for good running routes and don’t forget to take water. Even just walking around the local town for half a day or doing an hours swimming should be sufficient for a day’s exercise. Try not to spend entire days doing absolutely nothing.

 

  • Be wary of the buffet – fun though it may seem, buffets are an absolute killer when it comes to a healthy diet. Choose different foods everyday and try not to have a little of everything – four course breakfasts are not ideal if you’re having them everyday! Enjoy the variety, but don’t let it overwhelm you.

 

  • Try a new sport – if you’re in a hot country, maybe try horse riding, surfing or waterskiing, or maybe switch from skiing to snowboarding if you’re on the slopes. Using different muscles to normal can help you progress faster than you would usually. Not to mention it’s great fun to find new sports that you’re good at!

 

  • Drink LOTS of water. This will help keep you full and is super important, especially in hot countries even if you’re not doing very much!

 

  • Find a new gym routine. Often hotel gyms are very basic, with lots of cardio equipment and some light weights. Use this time to practise bodyweight workouts or workout different parts of the body – a 10kg dumbbell might not be much for squats but that’s plenty for an arm workout. Use this to your advantage!

 

Most of all, do what makes you feel good. If you find yourself dreading the even idea of the gym, head outside and do something totally different – it could be your body’s way of saying you’re burnt out. Spend the time remaining active and healthy, but also allowing your body and mind to rest. Enjoy your holiday!

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Maybe a little bit burned, but at least not burnt out.