Sunscreen is one of the most critical elements in any skin care routine and rain hail or shine, should really be used daily. You may ask why you need to wear sunscreen when it’s raining, and this is because the sun’s damaging UV rays are still present, even during cloudy, wintery days!
Men, women and children of all ages can significantly benefit from applying sunscreen every day and dramatically reduce the risk of developing skin cancer and melanomas, particularly during summer when these harmful UV rays are at their strongest.
Excess exposure to the sun can cause:
· Pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions.
· Benign tumors
· Fine and coarse wrinkles
· Discolored areas of the skin, pigmentation.
· Sallowness — a yellow discoloration of the skin
· Telangiectasias — the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
· Elastosis — the destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue, causing lines and wrinkles.
UV Rays – What are the different types and how do they differ?
There are three subtypes of UV light: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is almost completely absorbed by the ozone layer and does not reach the earth’s surface. For this reason, UVC rays are generally regarded as safe. The rays however which we do need to pay particular close attention to are the UVA & UVB rays.
UVB rays cause sunburn and are absorbed in the epidermis. They do not reach the dermis, and so do not significantly cause wrinkles. UVA rays however penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin and is one of the major causes of skin damage, fine lines and wrinkles. Both UVA & UVB rays contribute to the development of skin cancers.
UVB rays which cause sunburn, do not have the same effect as UVA rays on the skin for example, because most of it is absorbed in the epidermis (the outer skin layer) and does not reach the dermis where certain conditions such as wrinkles form. UVA penetrates deeper into the skin and is the major contributor to skin damage and wrinkles.
All about SPF. What does it mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is a number that represents how long you can stay out in the sun without burning while using the product. It is a measure of the minimal erythemal dose (MED), which means how much time passes without the skin turning red from irritation.
Broad spectrum SPF-15 or higher sunscreens that screen both ultraviolet A & B rays should be used daily on all skin types but especially on ageing and sun damaged skin. If you’re going to be swimming this summer, be sure to use a water resistant broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 rating or higher.
The difference between a sunscreen that is broad spectrum & one that is not, is that broad spectrum sunblock will protect against UVA & UVB rays only whereas the latter will only block out UVB rays. It is very important to have protection from both UVA & UVB rays, as protection against only one means you are still exposing yourself to skin damage.
A common question we are asked is what is the difference between an SPF 15 and 30? Well let’s say your baseline, unprotected time limit for sun exposure is 30 minutes before burning, an SPF (sun protection factor) 30 sunscreen would allow you to remain outside for 30 times that duration, that means 30minutes x 30 = 900 minutes or 15 hours. If your baseline is 15minutes, an SPF 30 would allow you to remain outside for 30 times that duration, that is 15 minutes x 30 = 450minutes, so 7.5 hours of protection.
However this does not mean that you can apply your sunscreen in the morning & lie on the beach all day without getting burnt, you must re-apply every hour & if your skin has started to turn pink it’s time to get out of the sun as your skin has already started to burn.
Let’s take a look at the actual protection you get from different SPF’s:
· SPF 2 blocks 50%
· SPF 15 blocks 93%
· SPF 30 blocks 97%
· SPF 50 blocks 98%
· SPF 70 blocks 98.6%
· SPF 90 blocks 98.9%
Are all sunscreens created equal?
There are 3 different types of sunscreen, chemical, physical and hybrid.
Chemical absorbing sunscreens contain ingredients that absorb & neutralise ultraviolet rays. The advantages of chemical sunscreens are that they cannot be seen when you apply them to your skin, however they can be more reactive with the skin, particularly sensitive skin types.
Common ingredients in chemical sunscreens are:
Octinoxate, a UVB absorbing sunscreen ingredient.
Octisalate, a UVB absorbing sunscreen ingredient.
Oxybenzone, a UVB & UVA absorbing ingredient.
Avobenzone a UVA absorbing ingredient.
Physical sunscreens work by reflecting the light off the skin. Physical sunscreens are much less likely to react with the skin compared to chemical sunscreens, so if you have sensitive or allergy prone skin, this is probably the better choice. They are excellent sunscreens that block out large portions of both UVA & UVB light.
The most common ingredients found in physical sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
Hybrid sunscreens are a combination of physical & chemical sunscreens.
Sunscreens are available in a cream & lotion form, so it will depend on your skin type & texture preference as to which you will use.
Frequent misconceptions about sun damage & sunbathing:
1) You cannot burn or tan if the weather is cloudy or wet.
This is false, you definitely can, you can even get sunburnt at the snow, the suns always up there.
2) You cannot burn if you are in the water.
False, thus we have water resistant sunscreens.
3) Umbrellas or large hats will prevent sun damage.
These are a help but do not replace a good sunscreen.
4) Wearing sunglasses helps prevent sun damage.
This is only true if the sunglasses contain UV filters and only if they are worn constantly while out.
Make sure you apply your sunscreen generously all over exposed areas, 20 minutes before sun exposure & reapply every hour, especially after swimming, towel drying, exercise and perspiration. Don’t forget your ears & use a lip balm with an SPF rating as well.
If you’re seeing signs of sun damage on your skin there is a range of treatment options available. We offer Photo Rejuvenation, an exciting procedure that can help dramatically reduce the appearance of pigmentation, freckles, rosacea, broken capillaries & sun damage. Depending on the skin damage Microdermabrasion, Chemical Peels or Low Intensity Laser Therapy can also be an option.
It is always best to seek professional advice before deciding on a treatment plan.
Prevention is always easier than trying to reverse the effects of sun damage, so add a good sun screen to your daily routine.
To protect against future damage try skinstitut Age Defence SPF 50+, an advanced chemical and physical hybrid moisturiser for optimum protection from UVA and UVB rays. Lightweight and hydrating, skinstitut Age Defence SPF 50+ helps to prevent premature ageing and skin damage caused by the sun, including pigmentation. The antioxidant formula is suitable for all skin types, even sensitive, keeping skin hydrated, protected and beautifully youthful.
Come visit Victorian Cosmetic Dermal Clinics to look at our range of the highest quality skin products.
Mark Lees, Skin Care Beyond the Basics, Third Edition.