Summer is on its way – and we need to know how to protect our skin from the harsh sun. Beauty Editor Jade Leggat-Smith gives us a breakdown on the new rules of SPF.
Sun’s out, buns out, right? If you look forward to a summer spent basking in the sun like a lizard, you might want to reconsider. Gone are the days when we used to lather our bodies with oil and have tanning line contests: We know more now than ever before about the havoc the sun can wreak on our skin, the two main concerns being skin cancer and skin damage (ageing).
So here’s the bad news – there is no such thing as a ‘safe tan’. The darkening of the skin or tanning is a result of a chemical reaction in your body as it tries, and fails, to protect itself from UV damage. So that tanned appearance is really just a sign of DNA damage. Not so sexy, hey? To top it off, most sun damage happens in our teens and 20s – and that’s the pigmentation we see showing up in our 30s and 40s.
Before you throw your hands up in defeat, there are things you can do now to prevent further damage. When looking for a sunscreen, you want broad spectrum, which protects from UVA (causing brown spots, fine lines and pigmentation) and from UVB (causing burning and DNA cell damage, which can result in skin cancer).
Physical sunscreens protect the skin in exactly the way the name suggests: by physically creating a block on the surface of the skin and deflecting UV rays off it. These sunscreens are usually ‘natural’ products that contain
one of the two most common ingredients: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They may leave your skin looking chalky because of the high concentration of zinc oxide. Rather than soaking into the skin, these sunscreens act as a shield, so they must be applied often, especially if you’re sweating a lot or swimming.
Chemical sunscreens penetrate the epidermis and dermis of the skin, functioning within the skin as well as on the surface to absorb the harmful rays and scatter them before they can penetrate the dermis and cause damage.
‘Do I need it during winter, when it’s cloudy or when I’m in the office?’
Walking from your car to your office or driving in your car, for example, all require daily sun protection. The sun’s harmful rays are always present and you need to apply sunscreen every single day of the year – come rain, cloud, and even snow.
‘I’m not sweating or swimming, so do I only need to apply it once a day?’
Most people don’t realise that we are always perspiring to some degree. It’s known as ‘insensible perspiration’, and it evaporates as fast as you produce it, so it doesn’t accumulate on your skin and you don’t feel it. Keep in mind you need to reapply sunscreen every 2–3 hours, even when you are reading your book under an umbrella.
‘Will it block my pores?’
Not necessarily – there are many oil-free formulas available that are perfect for acne-prone skin. Don’t use a cream with built-in SPF at night – it’s totally pointless. Another way to prevent clogged pores is to cleanse your skin twice in the evening, to ensure that every trace of sunscreen is removed from your skin.
For the full article on SPF and sun protection, get your September issue of Balanced Life.