Why we all need an SPF everyday. . .
Sunscreen isn’t just for summer holidays. Dr Zara Kassam PhD explains why you need it every day – by Harley Street Emporium
When you pack for a summer holiday, no do doubt your sunscreen has its spot next to your beach wear. But good sun protection isn’t just for the beach. No matter where you are a daily Sun Protection Factor (SPF) all year round is vital for protecting the skin against the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.
And if you are not wearing sunscreen every day, it’s time to rethink that decision. Unlike many of us, the sun doesn’t take a break and neither should you from protecting yourself from its harmful rays as they are the number one cause of skin aging and skin cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK the rates of skin cancer (melanoma) in the UK have increased by 119% since the early 1990’s. Betweeen 2004-2015 there was a 45% increase in incidence. It’s usually found in older people – the 70+ age group, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disease of the aged – it’s the sun exposure that these people got when they were younger that has caused the melanoma years later.
How does this happen?
Ultraviolet (UV) rays come in three forms – two of which are the predominant cause of sun damaged skin including everything from sunspots to skin cancer:
- UVA –UVA rays are present throughout the day and are the most significant cause of premature aging of the skin including of fine lines and wrinkles and are a key contributor to various types of non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) as well as other pre-cancerous conditions like actinic or solar keratosis.
- UVB – UVB rays are the rays that burn and are strongest between 10 am to 4 pm. They are responsible for sunburn and the potentially deadly skin cancer – melanoma. UVB rays are heavily dependent on cloud cover and atmospheric conditions, but even when it’s cloudy and grey, they can get through.
It’s frightening to think that globally 2-3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 130,000 malignant melanomas are diagnosed each year according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as a result of exposure to these harmful rays.
The photo-damage it causes to our skin is also well documented. Prolonged sun exposure leads to:
- Premature wrinkling
- Sagging skin
- Leathery texture
- Hyperpigmentation (solar lentigos, age spots, liver spots, freckles etc)
And even though the sun in Northern Europe isn’t as strong as in the tropics, it can still cause skin damage. Studies done on identical twins in a variety of countries show that those who spend more time in the sun have deeper wrinkles, saggier skin and have aged much more than their shade-seeking sibling.
Luckily we have a strong defence against the sun’s dark arts: broad-spectrum SPF.
If you aren’t using a SPF it only takes about 20 minutes for skin to burn. Sunburn, the most immediate and obvious example of UVB damage. When you burn immune cells called mast cells to race to the injured skin site where they dilate the blood vessels and produce reddening, swelling, and burning sensations, even blistering, as part of the healing process.
This burning damages the cell’s DNA and can be the first step towards skin cancer.
Reddening of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting. Plenty of damage can be done without the red flag of sunburn being raised.
According to Harley Street consultant dermatologist, Penelope Tympanidis, it’s as though our skin has a memory and it stores all the damage and later in life it comes back to haunt you in the form of sun spots, premtaurely aged skin and BCC’s and SCC’s.
Even when working work inside you are exposed to UV radiation for brief periods throughout the day when you come and go from the office – and remember, UVA can penetrate glass, so if your desk is by a window or you drive a lot, put your SPF on regularly.
But which sunscreen to pick?
Sunscreens are commonly rated and labelled with SPF that measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin.
Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB but most cancer authorities recommend an SPF of at least 20-30. SPF is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. No sunscreen can block all UV rays. Those that claim to block out 100% of the sun’s rays have not been shown to be much more effective than a SPF 50.
- SPF 15 filters out approximately 93 % of all incoming UVB rays.
- SPF 30 keeps out 97 %
- SPF 50 keeps out 98%.
- As a guide an SPF15 can prevent you from burning for around 15 times longer than unprotected skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.And remember: No sunscreen, irrespective of strength, should be expected to stay effective for longer than two hours, so it is vital that it’s reapplied every couple of hours.So now we know that a cloudy day is an excuse to skip the sunscreen. And as Dr Tympanidis says, it doesn’t have to be a separate product – there are plenty of moisturisers that have a good SPF in them.So even when it’s overcast, reach for moisturisers, serums, and other skin care products containing an SPF of at least 15. These products can help protect your skin from UV damage and prevent your skin from premature aging.
Remember, the best defence against sun damage is prevention.
(If you’re worried about your Vitamin D levels – please see our article on Vitamin D. )
Here at Harley Street Emporium we recommend:
- Exuviance Age reverse Day Repair SPF30:It fights the daily stressors that age skin and so skin appears firmer and younger.
- UV filters and a triple antioxidant complex of Pomegranate and Vitamins A and E, help repair and protect the skin
- A triple firming complex of Peptides, Retinol and patented NeoGlucosamine® boost collagen for firmer, smoother looking skin
- Retinol and NeoGlucosamine® lightly exfoliate, increase cell renewal, diminish the appearance of uneven pigment and fine lines
An ultra-sheer, mineral-based matte skincare treatment that is formulated to provide photostable, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection with a universal tint that blends with skin’s natural tone. It protects the skin and its powerful antioxidants help protect the skin from further sun damage as well as helping repair it.
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