Sunscreen... never start your day without it

Sunscreen....never start your day without it’s one of the best ways we can protect the health of our skin and prevent irreparable damage and ageing. Yet many people will "only wear it on holiday" or "if it’s really hot".

Since my first training session about protecting skin I’ve become an absolute convert to sunscreen. I have to admit 12 years ago, before I began my aesthetics career, I was also someone who only wore it when it was really sunny.

This all changed when I was shown a picture of a lady who worked in the same office for 20 years. She sat at the same desk with a window on one side. She didn’t wear sunscreen in the office. Her skin on the side facing the window was significantly more sun damaged, lined, leathery, dotted with sun spots and lesions, than the less exposed side. It was really quite shocking and an image that has stuck with me. I will try and dig it out for you to see!!

People assume sun can’t reach you through glass......they are wrong. UVA rays are responsible for causing irreparable skin damage and can penetrate through glass. Our computer screens and phones emit HEV (high energy visible light) and this can also cause damage to our eyes and skin. Along with the UVA, UVB and IR-A (infrared) from the sun, our skin is exposed to a toxic concoction of harmful rays.

So sunscreen needs to be applied as a matter of course EVERY day. Even if you are not leaving the house. It's as important as brushing your teeth. In fact I aim to get all my clients reporting that they would feel ‘naked’ leaving the house without their sunscreen on. That’s when I know my message has got through and they have been converted! Job done ✅.

How do I know which sunscreen to buy??

There are many types and brands of sunscreen on the market. The main differences are the SPF (sun protection factor), the spectrum of rays they protect against , and the ingredients which make them a physical or chemical sunscreen, or both.

One of the crucial things you should look out for is that your sunscreen is broad spectrum AND high SPF. This means it covers a broad range of the above rays and provides a high level of protection against burning. So in short, the broader the spectrum and higher the SPF the more protection your skin will get from your sunscreen.

Many people are drawn in by the ‘star’ ⭐️ rating on sunscreens. Yes this does provide a useful starting point but not as important as checking it offers broad spectrum AND high SPF protection. The 5 star UV system was actually developed by Boots the chemist so it is only a UK based system. It shows the level of UVA protection as a ratio in comparison to the level of UVB protection in the product. So the more equal they are, the more stars it has. It’s crucial to note that you can have sunscreen with low SPF but rated 5 stars. That’s not telling you it will provide a high level of UVA protection. It’s merely saying that the ratio of UVA to UVB protection is about the same. Which is great, but without the high SPF too it’s not going to give your skin the protection it needs. So a high SPF with 3 stars would be better protection than a low SPF with 5 stars. You need both for that ultimate protection which your skin will thank you for in the future.

What is a Physical sunscreen?

This provides a ‘physical barrier’ between your skin and the harmful rays. It acts to block and reflect them away from your skin. Ingredients to look out for which indicate a sunscreen is physical are ones that end in ‘oxide’, eg zinc oxide, titanium dioxide.

Physical sunscreens are great for those with sensitive skins such as acne, rosacea, pigmentation, babies/children to name a few. Or for those who prefer to limit the chemical elements on their skin. They are an excellent choice post aesthetic procedure when skin may be a little sensitive and inflamed. Many have been put off physical sunscreen as they can be thicker and whiter in consistency so harder to apply. However with advances in skin care you can get ones that rub in beautifully and don't leave the skin with that ‘whiteish’ tinge.

What is a Chemical sunscreen?

Chemical sunscreens protect the skin by creating a tiny heat reaction as the rays hit the skin. This triggers the protection by effectively mopping up the UVA radiation. As a tiny heat reaction is created you can see now why a chemical sunscreen is less desirable for skin which is very sensitive or compromised in any way. Ingredients to look out for which indicate a sunscreen is physical include oxybenzone , octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone.

Chemical sunscreens are often the first choice for many who want a lighter, more dewy sunscreen to apply daily. They often don’t feel as creamy and matt as some of the physical sunscreens can and can be less greasy.

You may also opt for a mix of chemical and physical to get the best of both worlds!

The most important thing with sunscreen is that you are wearing it! Applying it everyday. And reapplying it frequently, especially if you are exposed for longer periods or are in water/perspiring. You should always attempt to keep covered as much as possible with a wide brimmed hat and shade. The face just doesn’t need sun, it is not going to do anything good for you at all! You will get plenty of vitamin D absorbed by the skin in other ways, so just keep your face well away and protect as much as you can.

What is SPF factor?

The SPF number given to a sunscreen indicates the amount of protection it offers from UVB rays. These cause the skin to burn. It indicates how much longer skin would take to burn when the cream is applied compared to its burning threshold wIth no sun screen. For example an SPF 50 means it will take the skin 50 times longer to burn with the cream on than it would without it.

We would always recommend choosing an SPF of min 30+. I personally like to go for an SPF 50 for my face and min 30 for my body. On my kids I always use an SPF 50+. And you must apply the correct amount stated on the sunscreen, otherwise you are reducing the SPF number significantly.

I am always asked about my favourite sunscreen. I won’t say I never veer from this one but it has always been a firm favourite of mine.... Heliocare SPF 50 gel. I love it and have used it for many years. I am however about to give the ZO Skin Health sunscreens a try. So watch this space and I’ll report back on whether I can be swayed from my trusty Heliocare!

If you take away one thing from my blog today please let it be the importance of getting into the habit of wearing a good sunscreen EVERY day. It is the easiest and most effective thing we can do to help protect and prevent damage to our skin. And it’s so much easier than trying to repair sun damage once it’s already happened. Or worse still it’s caused skin cancer to develop.

✅ Stay safe

✅wear your sunscreen

✅high SPF

✅broad spectrum

You have one skin.....look after it!!

If you would like to know more about how to protect your skin or would like any product recommendations please reach out to me and it will be my pleasure to assist you. Protecting the skin is one of my passions in skincare!

By Emma York

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