We all know the importance of using sunscreen and hopefully it’s a regular in your daily skin care routine! As they say, prevention is better than cure and a good sunscreen can help prevent against damage to the skin which can wreak havoc later on in life. But, nowadays we are inundated with choice and sometimes it’s so hard to decide which protection is best and why…
What is sunscreen? How does it work?
Sunscreen contains a number of chemicals that filter light from the sun. It can’t block all of the light, rather it reduces the amount that can reach deeper into the skin. Normally sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide, both of which reflect the light rays, preventing them from penetrating the skin.
Ultraviolet Light has three components:
UVA (A for aging) which goes deep into the skin and is responsible for premature aging and can lead to cancer
UVB (B for burning) which is involved in the tanning and burning of the skin
UVC (C for care-free) which is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere
UV rays damage DNA and create free radicals which harm the skin, accelerating aging and damage cells. The molecules in sunscreen absorb this Ultraviolet radiation, releasing it as heat, and reducing some of the damaging effects of UV radiation.
Premature aging: This truck driver of 37 years, had his left side of his face exposed to the relentless sunlight through the window of his truck.
What do the symbols mean?
The most important symbol to look for is the SPF. This is the Sun Protection Factor.
It is a guide to how long you can stay in the sun for before getting burnt.
Remember that SPF only protects against UV-B radiation, the one that affects the burning of the skin, unless otherwise stated. Look for one that also protects against UV-A. Depending on how much melanin you have, or how dark your skin is will determine your own natural SPF – that is how long you can stay out in the sun without burning.
The SPF factor is multiplied by your own SPF to give a gauge of how long before you burn. If you can normally take 10 minutes of sun without burning, then an SPF of 15 gives you 10 times 15 = 150 minutes without burning. Regular application is important!
You can also look at SPF as %’s. SPF 15 will filter out around 93% of the UVB rays, SPF30 around 97% and SPF50 approximately 98%. Small differences, but the details count…those differences in % makes a big difference if you are sensitive to light.
Also remember that sunscreens have a use by date – look for the symbol to tell you how long the product will last…in this case 12 months.
How to find right level of protection?
It depends on the level of exposure that you anticipate – if you plan to be at the beach then you will need a higher SPF than if you are working in an office….but I would always recommend a level of SPF25 or above. Many cosmetic products already contain SPF’s of 15-20, but it’s always important to add extra protection in the form of a good sunscreen, even if you are just in your normal daily routine at work.
If you are very active and will be swimming or taking part in sports where you will sweat, then get hold of a water resistant sunscreen….but remember you will need to reapply this as well.
What ingredients to look for?
Sunscreens combine different active chemicals to ensure a broad-spectrum protection. Look for:
- PABA derivatives, salicylates and cinnamates to prevent against UVB
- Benzophones such as oxybenzone or sulisobenzone for UVA protection
- Titanium dioxide or zinc oxide for UVA protection (this gives the white pasty look)
There are a few products that I always recommend to my patients, because of their quality and efficacy, which is backed up by research, without causing breakouts, the white chalky look or skin sensitivity.
1. Heliocare (from £35) – these products are light and don’t give a chalky or white appearance. They offer great protection, backed up by science, with a broad spectrum of UVA and UVB protection.
2. ZO sunscreen and primer (£48) – SPF30 – great for oily or acne prone skins. It has “pheomelanin” which is “fake” melanin, absorbing the UV rays instead of your own melanin doing the job. It has a lovely tint which goes with most skin colour type.
3. Oxygenetix (£50) – if you want to wear makeup, this foundation contains SPF25 and gives an amazing coverage and is healing, water-resistant and has a fantastic finish. I absolutely love it! You have 14 colours to choose from which is great. This is what I use on a daily basis.
I hope you found this blog useful.Do let me know what your favourite sunscreen is and why? And if you don’t wear sunscreen, why not?
Wishing you a wonderful summer this year and remember to enjoy the sun responsibly.
To your beautiful skin,
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