KEEPING YOU AND YOUR SKIN SAFE FROM THE SUN
The sun isn’t all bad. Aside from making us feel happier and altogether friendlier the sun provides us with vitamin D which helps us build healthy bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also needed to enhance the intestinal absorption of essential minerals from our diet.
Current guidelines advise us not to bare our skin to more than 15-20 minutes of daily sun exposure without sunscreen. During this time our skin absorbs sufficient amounts of vitamin D to last us all winter. Any more than this appears to effect its absorption.
So why is the sun a health risk for us?
I’ve seen more clients with skin cancer over the past two years than I ever have. These are people who enjoyed the sun in their younger days and now twenty years on are seeing the damage its done to their skin and ultimately their wellbeing and appearance. I’ve seen individuals who have lost the tips of their ears, and nose and chunks of their face and body to skin cancer. Looking after your skin now is an investment into your future.
How do the sun’s rays effect us?
Sunlight is basically electromagnetic radiation. Its divided into three wavelengths, UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is filtered out by the ozone, oxygen and dust from the atmosphere but UVA and UVB reach the earth (us). Radiation burns, so exposing your skin can be likened to roasting a joint!
UVA is the strongest form and penetrates the skin causing damage to the dermis triggering cell mutations (cancer) and premature ageing. Ageing occurs due to the metabolic changes within the cells triggered by exposure to sunlight resulting in free radicals attacking your healthy collagen and elastin. The UV light also attacks Vitamin C in the skin needed for collagen regeneration and new collagen production. As lovely as the sun feels on our skin, it causes pigmentation (age spots), skin thickening, vascular damage, crinkling of the skin and can cause skin cancers.
UVB reaches only the top layer of skin, the epidermis, and causes reddening which is a sign of the skin cells burning. You don’t have to feel sore and have blisters to be burnt. As soon as you’re ‘pinking’ you’re burning so cover up! Pinking indicates changes in the status of the cells that could lead to mutations, particularly if repeated burning takes place.
You can remember which UV Ray is which when selecting your suncare by the last letter. UVA = Ageing, UVB = Burning. You need to ensure you’re protected from both rays with a broad spectrum lotion. Ensure you see a superior or ultra star rating (UVA) and level of SPF (UVB) on the bottle and select the highest SPF factor (UVB) you can find for maximum protection against long term damage.
What is SPF?
All sunscreens carry a Sun Protection Factor, usually abbreviated to SPF. This is followed by a number: 15, 25, 50, etc.
But what does this mean to us?
The higher the SPF value, the longer we will be able to stay in the sun without visibly burning. It is the ability of the product to screen out the sun’s harmful rays. If someone would normally start to burn after 5 minutes in the sun when unprotected, by using an SPF15 sun cream they should be able to stay out for 75 minutes (5 minutes x SPF15) without visibly burning.
“I only use SPF when its sunny”
The sun rises every day and that means that you are being exposed to UV light everyday even when its cloudy. You should therefore use UV protection every day. I personally wear an SPF 50 on top of my daily moisturiser. You can get some really effective light textured ones and ones with a tint like those from Skinceuticals that can replace foundation over the summer.
Should I wear a physical or chemical sunscreen?
This is a bit complicated. Physical sunscreens or ‘sunblocks’ contain ingredients such as titanium dioxide which physically block UV radiation. They protect against UVA and UVB rays. But they can be messy, leave a whitish colour on the skin and can cause sensitivities in people who are sensitive to UV rays. Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients that filter out the rays and can be invisible on the skin but have only recently been effective in protecting against UVA. The preferred aesthetic choice for many but concerns have been raised about the effect certain chemicals are having on our skin. Ultimately, its a matter of choice. If you do have any concerns however, research the ingredients listings on the side of the package and make your judgment from there. There are some lovely organic, mineral sunscreens available like those from The cialisfrance24.com Green People which contain beneficial flower extracts.
Keep Hydrated and Moisturised
The sun can be drying to the skin so its important to keep hydrated with water and nourished with a good moisturiser. Apply your SPF on top of your moisturiser or if your sunscreen has the benefits of a moisturiser too use it alone. Don’t assume just because your moisturiser or foundation has an SPF that you’ll be protected adequately, all day or from both UVA and UVB rays. Its unlikely that you’ll be protected from both types of radiation so keep topping up with a specially designed sunscreen. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and becoming unwell. The warmer weather causes our bodies to lose water through perspiration and evaporation at a faster rate than normal. Avoid thirst, dizziness, sunstroke and feeling faint by replenishing your body with plenty of water. Make ice lollies with water and fruit for the kids if they refuse to drink plain water and provide them with plenty of water rich foods such as watermelon and cucumber.
How to wear Sunscreen. Wearing a moisturiser with an SPF at night time is pointless (there’s no sun in bed!) and can aggravate your skin. There are some really good SPFs out there that you can use in place of your usual daytime moisturiser like Thalgo’s Age Defence Sunscreen Cream available at Soothe.
Keep topped up! Reapply sunscreen regularly, every two hours or so to ensure you’re covered. This can be impractical if you rely solely on your moisturiser or foundation for sunscreen which one of the reasons why I don’t recommend it. Its highly unlikely you’re adequately protected.
Repeated reddening or burning of an area causing changes in the skin cells which could develop into cancers you might not see for twenty years! So bear that in mind next time you see your skin turn pink or red. Red equals danger!
To help soothe your skin after sun exposure you can use an aftersun which will infuse the skin with a little moisture to stop the skin from drying and may contain cooling ingredients. However, it will NOT reverse any damage caused by burning nor will it reduce any chances of skin cancers.
Enjoy the beautiful weather, top up your Vitamin D but be sensible. Keep your children and yourselves nourished, hydrated and protected.
Health and happiness