"I am as devoted to wearing sunscreen as I am to brushing my teeth."
How many of us can truly say that?
Now that the nights are drawing out and 'some' days are looking brighter, we may be starting to think about getting 'summer ready', including wanting a sun-kissed glow on day one of our beach holiday.
On the other hand, what about all these adverts and campaigns that are telling us that we should be using sun protection every day as part of our normal skincare routine and these daily foundations/BB (blemish base) creams that promote their sun protection factor (SPF) ratings.
Do we really need to be wearing a daily SPF regardless of the weather and if we are just going to be inside all day?
As well as the obvious sunburn damage to the skin’s superficial layers caused mainly by UVB, there is a skin cancer risk from both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B (the sun’s radiation measured as a spectrum of wavelengths). Also UVA penetrates deeper in to the skin’s dermis, damaging the collagen and elastin fibers, causing fine lines and wrinkles. Pigmentation (age spots) and a suntan are actually the body’s response to the rays to prevent further damage!
Even on cloudy days, a percentage of UVA and UVB radiation reaches our skin. Also UVA, which is not blocked by glass, can be causing skin damage when you are inside, sitting by a window or in a car.
So if sunscreen is important for exposed skin, what type/strength should we be wearing?
It is a minefield with SPF now added to BB creams, moisturisers and foundation! Firstly, lets look at SPF ratings: The advice from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) is that factor 15 can provide adequate protection if applied correctly. When sunscreens are tested, they are usually applied at a thickness of 2mg of product for each 2cm2 of skin! This would mean ‘caking’ on the foundation to get the factor 15 rating on the tube! Going further, i.e. wearing at least a SPF 30 or above, does go some way to counteracting the problem of coverage that is too thin.
Also, look for a ‘broad spectrum’ SPF or for the UVA sign in a ring/with four stars. These sunscreens provide protection across the spectrum of wavelengths.
What are the active ingredients in sunscreen?
There are two main ways that UVA and UVB are blocked – by chemicals that absorb the rays or mineral sunscreens, which are physical barriers. Chemical sunscreens are adequate for two weeks in Florida but are not advisable for daily use all year round especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies. Mineral sunscreens; namely zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are gentler on the skin. These used to be chalky, thick and sticky but they are now more user friendly with new formulations including some that are tinted.
In conclusion, a suntan is tempting but to prevent sun-damaged skin and reduce your skin cancer risk, a year-round SPF is advisable. A high factor goes some way to counteracting the effects of not applying enough product and mineral ingredients are preferable to harsh chemicals being applied daily to the skin.