What’s the big deal about sunscreen?
The leaves are turning brown and cooler weather is on its way. All of your summer clothes are being relegated to the back of your wardrobe and the last of your sunscreen is going in the bin. But whilst most of us are good at slapping on the sunscreen at the beach, we’re not so good at protecting our skin whilst going about our day to day business.
The sun is responsible for 90% of visible skin ageing. This means that most of our wrinkles, crinkles and dark spots are preventable, or at least manageable. Whilst the heat of summer may be over ultraviolet rays are still able to damage your skin even through cloud. That’s why people who go skiing return with that odd goggle tan. You may be relying on the SPF in your moisteriser and foundation to protect your skin, but what if I told you that it’s not enough?
What is SPF and the star rating?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and higher the factor or number, the longer it will protect you from UVB rays. In a nutshell, UVB rays have a short wave length and strong energy levels, which means they effect the epidermal (superficial) layers of the skin. This causes burning and most types of skin cancer.
However, SPF does not protect our skin from UVA rays, so choosing a sunscreen based purely on this may not offer the protection we need. UVA rays have a longer wavelength and weaker energy, so they penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin and cause tanning. Because UVA penetrates the deeper layers it is the biggest cause of premature skin ageing. On top of that UVA can pass through windows!
To protect your skin from UVA you need to seek out the star rating which is usually noted somewhere on the bottle. The star rating refers to the level of protection a product has from UVA and is graded 1-5. The more stars a product has the higher percentage of protection from UVA it offers.
But you love a tan? I’m sorry to say that tanning is the bodies inadequate way of attempting to protect your DNA from being further damaged by the sun. It is, in fact, proof that your DNA has been damaged by UV rays.
Different types of sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens are very popular because they are easy to apply and do not leave any white residue on the skin. They are available as lotions, oils and sprays. These products take about 20 minutes to be effective, penetrate deeper layers of skin. They work by absorbing UV rays, turning them it into heat and then releasing the heat through the skin. Many chemical sunscreens may not protect against UVA rays adequately, if at all. They are not great for people with sensitive skin, rosacea, acne or hyperpigmentation and can exacerbate these conditions. There is also the possibility that the chemicals are absorbed into the blood stream, but research is ongoing.
Mineral or physical sunscreen often have that white or chalky look and are available in creams and lotions. These products sit on top of the skin surface and deflect UVA and UVB rays in the way a mirror would reflect light. They are effective as soon as they are applied, and because most people can use them without it exacerbating any skin conditions, they are recommended by dermatologists and skin specialists. High end brands are usually less chalky than others.
Choose a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher and use it daily all year round.
Check that the star rating is 4-5.
Make sure it is a mineral or physical product. Look for the main ingredients of zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide.
If you are out in the sun reapply every 2 hours or sooner if you are sweaty or swimming.
Don’t forget to apply it to your neck and décolletage