Are You Sunshine Savvy?
Britain is three weeks into one of the warmest heatwaves on record. The sun is basking the country in glorious warmth and we are making the most of it. From lidos to festivals, summer is here. But are we doing the most to keep our skin safe? Here are our tips on being sunshine savvy.
1. What's so bad with a Tan?
When UV radiation hits the skin, two things happen. UVA radiation, which forms over 90% of the radiation that gets past the ozone layer, oxidizes melanin that is already present in our skin. This oxidation leads to a rapid darkening of skin colour. Importantly, UVA doesn't cause any more melanin to be produced, so the tan that forms doesn't protect the skin from more sunburn.
When UVB radiation hits the skin, direct damage to DNA happens. It is this photodamage that triggers the production of more melanin. This results in delayed tanning, which gives a tan that lasts for weeks to months. This tan protects from further sun damage. It's important to note that to get a good tan, you actually need DNA damage. Let that sink in.
2. All rays aren't created equal.
Think of UVA radiation as AGEING. These rays penetrate the skin, destroying the elastin and collagen to cause wrinkles, leathery skin and brown pigmentation.
Think of UVB radiation as BAD. This is the radiation responsible for sunburn and has strong links to malignant melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
2. Sunblock vs Sunscreen.
Even I was surprised to note that sunblock isn't the same as sunscreen. Sunblock literally does what is says on the can. It PHYSICALLY blocks UVB from penetrating into the skin. Sunblocks usually consist of reflective agents such as titanium dioxide and zinc, which give a silvery tint when applied to the skin. Think of a cricketer's sunblock.
Sunscreen CHEMICALLY absorbs the harmful effects of UVA radiation, mopping up free radicals preventing long term damage. They consist of agents such as oxybenzone and avobenzone.
It may help to think of sunblock as a mirror and sunscreen as a sponge. We need them both.
3. What is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and this refers to how much UVB radiation is blocked. For example, and SPF of 30 gives you 30x more sun protection than if you had nothing on at all. SPF only refers to UVB. The degree of protection from UVA is judged by a star system. The stars range from 0-5 and indicate the ratio of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB.
Look for a sunblock that has high SPF as well as a high star rating e.g. SPF 30+ and UVA rating of 4+.These are usually called broad spectrum.
Though I've been a sunscreen fanatic for several years, I recently encountered the Obagi Professional C range and fell in love. It is a broad-specturm product protecting against both UVA and UVB but it also contains 10% of Vitamin C. Vitamin C should be a key ingredient in most skin care regimes as it is a powerful antioxidant that combats the free radicals produced by radiation, pollution and inflammation. Remember that free radicals damage collagen! Vitamin C also regulates melanin and contributes to an even skin tone.
Funnily enough, these reasons aren't why I love this sunblock/sunscreen. I'm a fan of what it FEELS like to put on. Incredibly velvety and non-shiny it actually gives the skin matte effect. No more greasy skin. The complete opposite of most sunblocks. It is such a pleasure to put on, I know you will be happy to apply over and over again.
4. Cover all the bases.
So wearing sun protection prevents wrinkles and drastically reduces the chance of skin cancer... but only if we use it correctly. How many of us remember to apply sunblock to the tips of our ears, along the hairline, hands, feet or lips? This is particularly important because the ears, hands and feet are often exposed to the most sunlight . Lips are especially vulnerable to UV as they don't have very much melanin. It comes as no surprise that these areas are most prone to skin cancer.
5. Once is not enough.
Ok, so you apply sunblock AND you make sure to cover all the vital areas, but do you reapply? After two hours sunblock loses its efficacy due to sweating, towel drying and activity. To get the maximum benefit use a shot glass full for the entire body, apply every two hours and after every dip in the sea. This is one case when more is better.
6. When the foundation is weak.
Most of us use a foundation or moisturiser that claims to have sun protection. Unfortunately these don't cut if, for several reasons. First, anything under SPF30 isn't enough protection for UV levels in the UK. (as per the British Society of Dermatologists, not just me!). We don't usually apply foundations in layers thick enough to get the sun protection benefit and we don't reapply every two hours either.
7. Not safe indoors.
I've got some scary news for you. UVA radiation, the radiation responsible for wrinkles and age spots... penetrates glass. This means when we are driving or sitting next to a window the sun's rays can still get to us. Seems like there is nowhere to hide. Even sitting under an umbrella only gives the equivalent of SPF 3, so the shade won't save you.
And now you're in the know. Sunshine (and sunblock) savvy! If you would like to try the Obagi Professional C Sunscreen or have just have skincare questions, do Get In Touch. Stay tuned for more tips and tricks on skin health during the summer months and check out our blog Is Your Body Crying Out for The Beach?