Sunday, 11 June 2017

Baz Luhrmann's Sunscreen: do as he says, not as I do - plus wistful thoughts on Colladeen Visage, and other sunburn remedies

Burning in progress!
The other day, in the garden of a cafe in a Birmingham suburb, I aged ten years in a single lunchtime. It was a long and lazy lunch, but that's still some fast forwarding of the natural ageing process. Not even the delicious loaf of artisan baked rye bread I took home with me could make up for the damage I had inadvertently done to myself. And all because I forgot to apply sunscreen - or rather, I had applied a moisturiser with SPF30 that morning, which on closer - and retrospective - inspection of its crimped edge, turned out to have expired last September.

I had come down to Brum with my friend Gillie, to meet our new friend Maureen, a crime writer who lives nearby. The weather was intermittently sunny and cloudy, with a light wind. When the sun came out it did feel hot on my face, but I thought I was protected...or rather, I was so engrossed in our animated and wide-ranging conversation that I didn't really think at all.

A few days later, after a brief phase of redness on my cheekbones and under-eye puffiness, I was left with a lattice of new wrinkles under each eye that weren't there before. When I used to smile, I'd just have a little pouch of fat form under each eye, while the skin below that was near enough smooth. Ironically, the photographer at my godson's wedding the other weekend remarked on this very fact. Well, sadly that is no longer the case...or not when I smile. 'So don't smile!' volunteered ex-Mr Bonkers helpfully. And to be fair I don't really feel like smiling much at the moment. I am too busy kicking myself for this latest sun-related folly, the last one being in 2001 when I fell asleep in the sun on a bench, and woke up with swollen eyelids like angry red balloons. They eventually imploded - like punctured balloons indeed - but that incident kickstarted the crepeyness of my upper eyelids that is slowly worsening over time. Oddly it doesn't bother me nearly as much as what is now going on underneath my eyes.

Me (with makeup) a year ago. My skin certainly is 'dryer' now!

I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this latest lapse, for I am a person with appalling 'form' for self-abuse in the sun. In the 70s, a Health & Safety-free decade, as I recall, I used to use Factor 2 sun tan lotion on my body and Factor 4 on my face. As a hedonistic teenager I would spend all day in the sun, and when I went into the exam hall to sit my university finals, the staff jokingly asked me for my passport, a rather politically incorrect reference to the deep bronze colour I had turned thanks to my al fresco revision. In the early 90s, I remember being shocked and indignant on a visit to Australia to find that Factor 8 was the lowest strength of sun cream on sale over there at the time.

And now the laugh is on me...I should have listened to Baz, I should have had Undina with me(!), urging me to keep to the shade with her. My friend Suzanne is also very sun-aware, and would surely have plonked a big floppy sunhat on my head, after ensuring I was slathered in SPF50. As it is, I am slathered in coconut oil (at her suggestion) in a bid to rehydrate the taut, dehydrated delta where the new wrinkles lurk.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2007, wear sunscreen
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now"

Baz Luhrmann: Sunscreen

So yes, on to the wistful thoughts part...I recently started taking Colladeen Visage, which doesn't contain collagen, as the name might suggest, but rather a selection of collagen-boosting natural plant compounds that can supposedly 'play a protective role against the damaging effects of sunlight on skin'. The leaflet that comes with the tablets goes on to say: 'But please note: Colladeen Visage should only be used as an additional protection against sun damage. It certainly does not replace your normal sun protection regime.' Hmm, I think I should have listened to the makers of Colladeen too!

I should explain that the 'Visage' version of Colladeen differs from the regular one through the addition of lutein as well as anthocyanidins and OPCs. I know, I had to look them up too, They are bioflavonoids of some kind, basically plant extracts with antioxidant properties. Here's a link to all the different types, though I have to say it largely washes over me. The PR blurb for Colladeen Visage continues to mock and reassure the user in one deft (sun-) stroke:

"UV rays and over-exposure to the sun can be especially harmful to our skin, and it’s nice to know that there is a supplement which can help provide an internal SPF and help skin cope better with exposure to sunlight."

So I haven't half put it through its paces then!

Me, no makeup, not smiling - bags under the eyes!

Colladeen Visage does do well in consumer reviews: it got 88/100 in this survey in Good Housekeeping, for example. And I can honestly say I did feel my skin was smoother - (in a further ironic twist) particularly the under eye area - in the month or so that I had been taking it before this accident. In fact one day I woke up and the tautness of my skin actually looked as though I had had a face lift overnight! I have never seen anything like it, and though that effect kind of subsided somewhat over time, I really do think something was going on at a 'cellular level', as the dermatologists say. ;)

Me, no makeup, smiling - multiple wrinkles

(Editor's note: I promise I have other, grimmer-looking photos than these, but can't bring myself to show you in case the act of publishing them sets the wrinkles 'in stone'!)

And now it is a week and a half since that day in Brum, and I am carrying on with the Colladeen Visage, in the hope that it can mitigate the damage even after the fact, ditto the coconut oil, while also applying that Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue cream I mentioned in my eczema post. It is soothing and has the right amount of richness for my ultra parched skin. Finally, I have ordered some organic, cold pressed rosehip oil, which is supposed to have healing properties.

It may be too early to tell to what extent I can reverse the ill effects of that one act of thoughtlessness, though I will report back if these latest interventions seem to have helped. I think there may even have been a slight improvement since these photos were taken a few days ago, but I may be imagining it**. Meanwhile Gillie says I should be philosophical about the whole business, taking a leaf out of Buddha's book. You know, shit happens (those may not be his exact words), accept it and  move on.

Sali Hughes, my go-to beauty guru, also has timely wisdom on the matter in her book 'Pretty Honest', reminding us that the wrinkle count on our faces is still very much a first world problem:

"It's really important that you don't fall down the rabbit hole of self-scrutiny in your mature years because, truly, you will be fighting a losing battle. Each month, your face will show new evidence of the ageing process, much of it uncontrollable, and you will drive yourself crackers, like someone holding their hand over the leak in a colander. That way madness lies."

Oh, and in case I find myself in the sun again - though I shall do my best to avoid it now, despite my reckless past! - I will be slapping on my (brand new!) tube of Avene's Eau Thermale SPF50 Emulsion (see photo below)...

Hmm, going back to Baz, I think my knees - while not an attractive feature of mine as such, and once famously described by a boyfriend as 'serviceable' - are in good nick at least, and I am working on the jealousy and the flossing. ;)

Have you ever really burnt yourself and lived to regret it? Especially on a delicate area of skin?

I would love to hear about your tried and tested sunburn remedies, especially any that help reduce wrinkles caused by sun damage!


Here I am on Day 11, slathered in coconut oil, enormous hands, gormless expression, and with no makeup except lipstick. I think the oil may be helping a bit after all.


  1. I live in Scotland. What's 'sun'?

    1. And you have a great complexion as a result, despite being nearly a decade my senior. ;)

  2. I just don't care and adjust my foundation and concealer accordingly. Although to be fair I seldom burn. I do turn pretty dark though. My Dad once covered himself in olive oil, back in the sixties, and laid in the Californian sun. He ended up in hospital with third degree burns. I was a Coppertone child, minus the dog. CQ xxx

    1. Hi Val,

      Ooh, Coppertone, that takes me back! Like Hawaiian Tropic, which was Factor 2 at best if it was any factors at all. Your poor dad! I haven't done anything quite as dramatic as that.

      I am trying not to care, but as I say, that's a least worst photo I posted there. xxx

  3. Frankly I think sunglasses are the best protection for the eye area, but I seldom use them. I spend so little time outside that I need to take supplements of vitamin D,that's not a good thing either. I think a middle ground when it comes to sun protection is best.

    You do seem to have a rather bright eye area,without much dark circles so to me it looks fine.Sleepless nights will create wrinkles,so try not to worry.

    Are you sure coconut oil is not too heavy for the eye area? In my experience everything that will reducde puffiness also helps to prevent wrinkles getting deeper. And a hydrating light eye cream is a good thing to apply both morning and night if the skin is very dry (at least I have to do that).

    Just have to say, your picture of the matching Dior lipsticks (when meeting Undina), made me want a new colour for summer, so I bought a Dior lipstick in colour New World, a kind of muted pink.Happy to get it at 20 percent off the normal price, and it seems to be non-drying and still not glide off easily.

    1. Hi Ingeborg,

      It is hard for me to wear sunglasses as I already wear glasses, and I don't like the thought of those ones that react with the light. And prescription sunglasses would be a bit of an extravagance in our climate, as in yours. ;)

      I haven't been sleeping well lately for one reason or another, so that may not have helped. Coconut oil gets rave reviews on the Net, also from dermatologists as I recall, and it is just a temporary measure. Any other cream I have really doesn't cut it at the moment, except this Manuka Honey one.

      Am pleased to hear you got yourself a new Dior lipstick and that you are pleased with it. I will look up that shade.

    2. Will look into that link about coconut oil.I have seen dermatologists recommend the Manuka Honey as healing on infected skin, so I think I would sooner look for that if I get burnt, but that's just me.

      My sister hass prescription sunglasses and they are expensive, plus not all type of frames are suitable for sunglassses, so I understand your point of view.

  4. I suppose I am lucky: I have a reaction to the tiniest ray of sunlight and don't sit in it at all - my husband calls me his little vampire! I was severely burnt all over my body on one occasion when I was 6 when my parents let me run around on the beach, so I wonder if that made my skin sun sensitive? I remember the screaming ..... Any way, the upside is I think my face has benefited from never seeing the light (!) and being "plump" also helps; what is it Eamonn Holmes always says? "There are no wrinkles on a balloon."

    But back to protection: scientific studies show that lycopene (found in tomatoes, particularly when cooked) works remarkably well when consumed, and the best way to do this is by eating about one tablespoon of tomato puree daily. I actually like tomato puree so it would be no hardship for me to eat it just like that, but they say it works in food too.

    As for healing the damage - well, it's a bit too late now perhaps, but plain yoghurt just after the event is soothing (applied to the skin!).

    The Avene will be good. I am a huge fan of this brand and thoroughly recommend you try one of their creams/moisturisers; in fact they have a lovely balm which might be what you need right now, and a moisturising "mask" which is a cream consistency - you just put it on then wipe it off and it leaves your face feeling so much better.

    Remember we always look worse to ourselves - nobody else even notices. And you look lovely to me.


    1. Hi Jillie,

      Love the idea of your husband calling you a little vampire! I can understand how your childhood experience of sunburn might have traumatised you. Maybe it was worth the pain for the later gain. I hadn't heard that Eamonn Holmes quote - priceless.

      I think the tomato puree idea is worth a shot - I do eat quite a lot of cooked tomatoes in soups and stews and was aware that lycopene was a good thing. Not sure I fancy it cold off the spoon, but I should try first!

      I have all sorts of Avene products and am also a big fan. I have their Cicalfate cream - not sure if that is the balm you were meaning. Will check out their mask.

      That is so true that we are more critical of our own appearance. My mother used to say: 'Who's looking at you?' and she meant it in the best possible way. Plus the frames of my spectacles cover a multitude of sins as a rule. But thanks for saying it doesn't look too bad even so - I do believe there's been an improvement since this shot was taken.

  5. Eat more. The fat will push all your wrinkles out. You will remain taut indefinitely.
    From an Aussie non sunscreen wearing, soap & water with zero moisturiser yet hardly any wrinkles.
    Portia xx

    1. Hi Portia,

      You are a caution. ;) It is tempting. I could go back to that artisan bakery and get stuck into their range of fruit tartlets for starters. xx

  6. First - my deepest sympathies: I know exactly how you felt (both physically and "I-should-have..." mental self-torture). Do not overdo the remedies (I join a commenter above with the concern about the coconut oil being too heavy for the delicate eye area - though I do not know if it is, just a knee-jerk reaction). But keep moisturizing (from inside as well :) ) and hiding from sun (definitely sunglasses!) - and it'll get better in 3-5 months.
    My worst sunburn as an adult (as a kid I constantly had them since there were absolutely no sunscreens when I grew up) was while I was wearing a very strong sunscreen. Everywhere. Almost. Who could have thought that one needs to put sunscreen under the sleeveless top?! ;) That time I learned that sunscreens, when properly applied, actually work: my naked arms were perfectly white after a day in the amusement park under the Summer California sun - an impressive contrast to the bright-red sectors on my shoulders - right where the top portion of my blouse would move back and forth as I went through different activities exposing my unprotected shoulders to the above-mentioned sun. Those shoulders have never been white after that ;)
    But since then the sunscreen is almost a religion for me.

    1. Hi Undina,

      Thank you! How I wish you had been there that day. See those links above re coconut oil in my comment to Ingeborg. I really think it is okay - it feels just what I need at the moment. I am banking on the skin renewing itself somewhat in the coming weeks and months. And will try all the hydrating remedies I can think of, also on the inside as you say!

      Ooh, I know that one about getting sunburn on the edges of clothing - it has also happened to me with bikinis before now. I wince at the memory.

      I could do with taking a leaf out of your book and making sunscreen a religion too, hehe.

  7. I do feel for you, V. You were so good taking those tablets and applying the factor 30. It's just back luck it had expired. Think how much worse it would have been had you not done either! I really don't believe the effects you're seeing now will be permanent and as you say, it's already improving.
    Did you know in Aus they re-classify the SPFs if they don't meet their standards? Meaning what's classed as SPF 30 elsewhere, they may downgrade to 15.
    I had a facial on Saturday which I'll message you about.
    Please don't despair. Remember that time you went out without make-up and no one noticed?!

    1. Hi Tara,

      Thanks for your sympathy. I really was kicking myself like you wouldn't believe. Fingers crossed there will be further improvement - I am quietly hopeful, anyway.

      I did not know that about sun creams in Australia, though it doesn't surprise me. Thanks for your message about your facial. Interesting, though I think I will just carry on with my own remedies.

      Your last bit of advice is very sound. I just went into town for a sight test and contact lens check and nobody batted an eyelid at my naked face. (And slightly coconut oily, no doubt!)

  8. Thank you for reminding me to buy more sunscreen and check expiring dates before heading to Bologna and its 34-36 degrees C.
    My sympathies though, I can imagine that it must have felt awful. I try to protect myself, but if I discover I left out an area I always feel immensely guilty.

    1. Hi Asali,

      Wow, that is hot, but not a surprise for Italy at this time of year. You will need very new sunscreen where you are going, that's for sure. Hope you have a marvellous time with the gang!

  9. ActuallY I think Portia has a point, eating is fun and it does help to push out those wrinkles!

    So sunscreen, and butter in the diet, and that lovely British climate.

    1. Hi Blacknall,

      That does sound like a most congenial regime 'going forward'. ;)

  10. Lots of good advice already here or course, but please reconsider your view on prescription sun glasses. I really struggle with sunscreen near my eyes and wearing shades makes a massive difference, even in the UK. You can often get 2 for 1 offers for glasses, so it need not be an extravagance financially.

    1. Hi Sabine,

      Thanks for this! And funnily enough, just today I came across an old pair of prescription sunglasses from the early 90s. The prescription is way out of whack, obviously, yet I could see better with them than not. And wasn't unduly troubled by the darkness of the lenses - on the contrary. My new problem of dry eye syndrome makes me sensitive to light, it would seem!

  11. I have olive skin and tan pretty easily, so not too many horrible sunburn experiences. I do think the damage is done though - I grew up wearing SPF 4 on my body (Bain de Soileil for hte St. Tropez Tan!) and 8 on my face, so just slightly better than you. I was also a lifeguard for a summer, and nope, never put up that umbrella. My grandmother also made some much more un-PC comments about my skin color that year. I do recall one really bad burn above my bathing suit top/decollete - terrible blisters and I'm sure advanced that crepe-y look you often see around necklines :( I've read that sunscreen should be the last defense as it is not infallible as you learned - it expires, needs to be re-applied, etc. So hats, clothes, and just staying in the shade. Of course, I still sit in the sun but I do wear sunglasses everywhere - I wear contacts and live in San Diego, so it is pretty constant. My husband does have prescription sunglasses since he wears glasses. Hoping you can find some that are not too expensive!

    1. Hi odonata9,

      You live in San Diego! One of my favourite cities in the whole world. I had a bra fitting there (of all improbable tourist activities) and also fell in love with my hotel pillow. So I bought it from Housekeeping and took it home to England with me (after 11 more flights!). Indeed I am still sleeping on it, 13 years on, which is probably far from hygienic.

      But on to tanning matters! I would wear sunglasses -which suit me way better than glasses - if I wore my contacts more. But I have disposable ones and that could get quite pricy. I think Sabine's suggestion above may be the way to go. Actually, my elderly friend has lent me some sunglasses that go over normal spectacles! I though they would look terrible but they really don't. The might fall off my nose at the drop of a hat, that's the only thing with them, but it is another interesting concept.

  12. Vanessa, you are still very, very pretty. I second all the advice above and also suggest that you learn to love hats. Menopause (the gift that keeps giving) left me with a nasty case of Melasma. This type of hyper-pigmentation usually occurs in pregnant women of Mediterranean descent, not non-pregnant Celtic women who are normally as pale as death. If I don't wear strong sunscreen and a hat, it just gets darker. I love my collection of hats!

    1. Hi nbh,

      Thank you for the compliment. I have tended to think of myself as someone who scrubs up okay except on a very bad day, so to hear someone use the 'p' word is a bit of a boost! I am embracing hats, you'll be glad to hear. I bought a floppy one in khaki for gardening and casual wear, and a more stylish straw cloche with bendy-uppable brim for more formal occasions eg when wearing a sundress, say.

      LOL at the menopause being the gift that keeps on giving. Eight years in, I so agree with you on that! And I think I probably have spots of melasma on my left cheek - due to taking the pill for acne down the years, coupled with sun exposure. It is kind of spreading, so probably high time I adopted the hat habit!

  13. Hope I'm not repeating myself, V, but Omega 3 supplements have really helped my dry eye situation. Oh, and you can always be a trend-setter and bring the parasol back into vogue -AnnieA

    1. Hi AnnieA,

      Thanks for the tip - I do in fact take these, in the form of one high strength fish oil capsule a day and one of starflower oil. I might increase the former actually, as you can take up to three a day, even!