As we happily head towards summer, we’re beginning to get more questions about sun protection and how to pick the right sunscreen. The easy answer is that the right sunscreen for you is the one you’ll wear religiously. There are a few caveats though, your sunscreen has to be broad spectrum and should have an SPF factor of at least 30. We’ll explain why these are important.
The sun’s rays take a toll on your skin; in the short-term, it can mean dealing with a painful sunburn or hyperpigmentation, and longer term, it can lead to photoaging (premature aging) and skin cancer.
What Causes Photoaging?
In addition to visible light, the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) light rays. UV light rays while invisible to the naked eye and represent only about 3% of the sun’s rays, they are responsible for 90% of the skin’s premature aging. The two kinds of UV light rays that reach the earth’s surface are:
Ultraviolet A (UVA) which represents about 95 percent of UV light that reaches us. It can penetrate deep into the skin, causing damage at all levels. Because the damage caused is deep in the skin’s layers it may take years to become visible. UVA rays damage the collagen and elastin fibers that give the skin its youthful firmness and elasticity, resulting in loss of firmness and wrinkles. It also play A good way to remember what damage UVA rays cause is to think of the “A” in Aging.
Ultraviolet B (UVB) makes up the remaining 5% of the UV light and does not penetrate as deeply as UVA rays but is very intense in energy. It causes sunburns and damage to DNA and the DNA repair process in skin cells and may make skin cells mutate into cancerous cells. It’s also the part of the sun’s rays that you can feel- think of the heat you feel on a sunny day when your face is turned in the direction of the sun. A good way to remember the type of damage UVB rays cause is to think of the “B” in Burn.
How Do Sunscreens Work?
A sunscreen is typically in a lotion or cream form and acts as a barrier to reduce the amount of UV radiation that penetrates the skin. Chemical sunscreens use filters that absorb UV light, rendering them harmless, while physical/mineral sunscreens use filters that reflect UV light away from the skin, thereby preventing them from penetrating the skin. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB light rays.
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) describes how well a sunscreen protects you from UVB radiation. It measures how much UVB gets through the sunscreen. No sunscreen can filter out 100% of UV rays but the higher the SPF factor, the less UVB rays can pass through. An SPF of 30 filters ~96.7% of UVB, while an SPF of 50 filters 98% of UVB.
Sun Exposure and Hyperpigmentation
Sun exposure triggers melanin production in the skin. It is the skin’s mechanism for protecting itself from the sun’s UV rays. It is what produces the suntan effect. Unfortunately, this same mechanism exacerbates hyperpigmentation and the extra melanin makes the skin look darker especially around injured or inflamed skin cells which is what happens for example, after an acne breakout.
How to Protect Your Skin
We have 3 simple rules to follow to ensure you’re protecting your skin from UVA and UVB damage.
- Wear a Sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 that offers UVA & UVB protection daily: get yourself a sunscreen that works for your skin and wear it every single day! Even if you work from home or even if the day does not seem sunny.
- Our recommended use is about one teaspoon applied to the face, neck and ears.
- Make it a part of your daily routine by wearing it after cleansing and toning your face in the mornings.
- Carry a travel size in your handbag so you have a backup plan should you forget.
- Store your sunscreen below 30ºC so it maintains its efficacy. Do not leave it in extreme heat (e.g. outdoor bathroom in the hot summer). Check out our bestselling Brightening Moisturizer with SPF 30.
Avoid exposure to the sun for long periods.UV radiation is at its highest intensity between 10am and 4pm so keep outdoor activities to a minimum during this time. We know the sun is a great source of Vitamin D, especially for people with darker skin tones. However, we can also get our Vitamin D from foods including salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, as well as red meats and eggs.
- If you must spend time in the sun, wear protective clothing that shades the face and covers the top of your body.
Finally, don’t be lulled into complacency because you do not get sunburns, sun damage occurs even in the absence of sunburn. Do future you a favor and wear your sunscreen daily.