The importance of every day sun protection
Most of us are familiar with what SPF means-Sun Protection Factor-, but what is frequently misunderstood is the scope of an SPF and the possibilities that cosmeceutical ingredients can offer. They can help prevent dermal penetration of damaging UV light as well as support the skin to withstand and avoid changes which accompany photo ageing and photosensitivity.
The primary aim of an SPF from a medical viewpoint is to limit sun exposure to damaging UV rays, which are the principle cause of skin cancer. UV is known to cause 90% of non-melanoma skin cancer and 67%of melanomas. However, most clients do not apply sun protection for this aim. They use it more in the hope of acquiring a more even and longer lasting tan and to reduce the ageing effects of sun exposure.
SPF can be divided in to two main categories-these are chemical sunscreens and physical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens such as titanium dioxide work by scattering and blocking UV rays from penetrating the epidermis. It has been a challenge for manufacturers to formulate a cosmetically pleasing sunscreen that has no trace of white when applied. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV radiation, and this can lead to skin sensitivities occurring. Chemical sunscreens are themselves damaged by exposure to UV light which is why they need to be constantly reapplied. Most sun protection products will be formulated with a wide selection of both chemical and physical factors in them.
As a result of changes in Europe and the US there will hopefully be more information available to the general public regarding the scope of SPF. Very few people understand than an SPF only protects against UVB rays, the ones which burn skin. The new broad spectrum categorisation that specifies a minimum of one third of the SPF rating to be UVA, and the balance to be UVB protection should highlight this to the consumer.
While it’s understood that taking sun safety precautions during the summer months is a must, many people don’t realise they need to protect their skin year-round – even when indoors. The temperature may drop and the sunlight may be less intense, but the amount of ultraviolet solar radiation that reaches earth remains very strong, even during cooler weather.
While UVB rays, the main cause of sunburn, are the strongest in the summer, UVA rays remain constant throughout the year. UVA rays account for up to 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are 30 to 50 times more prevalent, and go through glass, making sun protection necessary indoors as well as out.
The need for sun protection indoors was reinforced in a recent report published in Clinical Interventions in Ageing. Eight women and two men had significantly more wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging skin on one side of the face, even though they worked indoors. The side of the subjects’ faces that was regularly closer to a window exhibited more signs of sun damage (“asymmetrical facial damage”), and UVA rays are believed to be the culprit. While both UVA and UVB rays can harm the skin and lead to skin cancers, UVB is effectively blocked by glass. However, at least 50 percent of UVA radiation can pass through windows. (Car windows have been proven to let in more than 60 percent.) This is important news for people who habitually sit near a window – whether at work, at home, or during a long commute by car, train, or bus.
Here is a photograph to prove the point.
This image depicts twins. They both worked for many years as staff in a large private house. One worked inside, the other in the gardens. I bet you can tell which is which! This shows that there is a great external influence in the ageing process. We can’t just rely on good genes.
Convinced? Apply an effective sunscreen EVERY day, not just the sunny ones!