Stay protected in the sun

Skin Analysis
6 Jun 2014

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Sunscreen should be used by everyone every day to protect skin that is exposed to the sun. Our skin is the largest organ in the body and it is the first barrier that provides protection from the harsh environment. Without sunscreen, our skin is directly exposed to the sun?s dangerous ultraviolet rays, which leads to sunburn and therefore an enhanced risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 1 million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed each year in the US. To make sure you stay protected, the research journal recommends that a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 should be used for all skin types.

Different types of sun rays
Sunlight consists of two types of rays: UVA (Ultraviolet A) and UVB (Ultraviolet B) and excessive exposure to both can lead to the development of skin cancer.

UVB rays are known as ?sun burning? rays; the primary cause of sunburn. Most good sunscreens have good protection against UVB rays and these rays can be blocked by window glass.

UVA rays on the other hand are more harmful to the skin as they can penetrate the epidermis (the thickest layer of the skin), causing substantial damage. UVA rays can interfere with our body?s immune system and suppress its function, leading to signs of premature aging of the skin such as wrinkles and age spots.

How to use sunscreen
All sunscreens come with SPF, which is a label that refers to how well the product protects against sunburn (UVB rays). Most sunscreens and sunglasses concentrate on blocking only UVB radiation. The SPF label can vary from 2 to 50, with 50 reported to provide the highest level of protection.

SPF ratings are calculated by comparing the measurements of the amount of time taken for unprotected skin to burn, compared to the amount of time taken for sunscreen-protected skin to burn. For example, a sunscreen with SPF15 would extend the time usually taken for skin to burn by 15, for example from 10 minutes to 150 minutes. It has been scientifically proven that SPF15 can protect skin from UVB rays by 93% and SPF 30 by 97%.

Researchers also state that the frequency of application of sunscreen and the amount applied is more important than the actual SPF rating of the sunscreen, as sunscreen degrades two hours after application.

While high SPFs protect your skin for longer than low SPFs, there is no evidence yet that higher SPF sunscreen protects skin any more effectively than lower SPFs, hence great care of skin is required during sun exposure no matter how high your level of sunscreen.

When to apply sunscreen
? A sunscreen with a good SPF rating should be applied everyday even when there is no sun, as 80% of the sun?s UV rays can pass through the clouds.
? Ideally, sunscreen should be applied to dry skin to all exposed areas of the body, 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.
? Apply it to common areas of sunburn such as face, hands, ears and any other area of the body that is uncovered.
? Most sunscreen can be applied under makeup and there are currently many cosmetic products that contain good SPF levels for added sun protection.
? Skin exposed during outdoor activities such as swimming and hiking should have sunscreen re-applied at least every two hours to ensure you remain protected.

Extra tips
? Remember that sunscreen does not provide UVA protection and regardless of SPF ratings, does not provide a complete protection against UVB rays. Using a higher SPF sunscreen should not give a false sense of security for people to stay longer in the sun.
? Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers and premature ageing.

Ingredients to watch out for in sunscreens
Many sunscreens contain chemicals and metals that may cause skin irritation and there are scientific reports suggesting that some of these ingredients can actually disrupt hormones and cause cancer.

Common ingredients include:
? Titanium dioxide
? Retinyl Palmitate (a form of vitamin A)
? Oxybenzone

The FDA has conducted a study on mice to investigate Retinyl Palmitate, which suggested that there was a higher risk of skin tumors in mice when sunscreen with retinyal palmitate was applied in the presence of sunlight. If this is a concern to you, there are other sunscreens to choose from that don?t contain retinyl palmitate.

Oxybenzone is another ingredient found in some sunscreen and cosmetic products and is viewed as a potential hormone disruptor. Sunscreens without oxybenzone can be chosen to avoid the risk of having negative health effects.

Be sun smart
If you are concerned about sun protection and need help to choose the right sunscreen for your skin type, a consultation with natural skin specialist Claudia Louch can help you decide what is most suitable for your skin. Alternatively, you can try our natural sunscreen based on zinc oxide. Please contact us 0207 467 1539 to discuss a consultation with Claudia Louch or to ask about our customized sun protection skincare line.

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