There is much confusion about protecting the skin from harmful Ultra Violet Radiation (UVR), and despite overwhelming scientific evidence it still surprises me how naïve people behave!
I am inwardly outraged when I drive down by the local lakeside. Even now (May), when summer is not in full swing yet, people are roasting out there on the ‘beach’ building on their tan, probably thinking that it will give them protection during the summer months.
The reality is that a tan is actually the result of an event that has ALREADY occurred! If you are over 35 years of age, you have already lost 10-15% of your functioning melanocytes.
Melanocytes are the little cells responsible for making the pigment you are relying on to ‘protect’ you, but with tanning you have put this very cell that is meant to protect you at risk.
Why does that matter? Because every other skin cell has a stem cell resource. Melanocytes are long lived and slow cycling cells with limited regeneration and no stem cell resource. This means once the melanocytes received at birth are damaged, or destroyed, there is no future resource of new cells to replace the old or damaged melanocytes.
With tanning you are not only not preserving this fastest ageing but a longer living cell but there is overwhelming evidence that tanning causes skin cancer. The fairer you are the higher the risk. It does not matter that your great grandmother did not use sun protection and looked no older than 20 when she passed away. We are now living in a very different environment due to industrialisation, pollution and many other factors resulting in UVR exposure harsher than what our grandmothers were subjected to.
In terms of total energy, the ultraviolet radiation (UV) in sunlight amounts to approximately 5 %. In terms of the energy type, we are dealing here with specifically high energy that can break down chemical bonds in organic substances. As a consequence, oxidative stress and free radicals will form which, among others, cause premature skin aging and pigmentation disorders. Due to hereditary protection mechanisms and depending on the individual skin type, every person has his individual time span during which he is protected against burning. In other words, this is the span of time un-tanned skin can be exposed to the sun without developing redness (referred to as your minimal erythema dose).
Your environment is more polluted, your pace of life faster, and hence stress levels elevated. All of this leads to higher levels of lipid peroxidation (a compounded form of oxidative stress) happily contributing to more free radicals breaking down skin barrier defenses.
Whenever the skin gets exposed to bright sunlight, the natural protective mechanisms of the skin will no longer be sufficient. Sun protection creams or powders are inevitable in order to protect the skin against the negative effects of UV radiation.
Nucleic acid (DNA) components helped the first organisms on our earth to protect against UV radiation of the sun. Besides the melanin of the skin and fine body hair, they are the most important natural protection against UV radiation. Sun protection creams complement this natural protection.
My grandmother looked great when she passed away at the right old age of 83, but if I want half a chance to age so gracefully I’ll have to put in a little bit more effort.
I will say that the one thing these older generations had in their favour is that they covered up a little more. In those early days showing your skin was just not as socially acceptable as it is today, but maybe they knew something we do not.
If you are now in your 60’s, you might be forgiven for sunbathing slathered in some oil that you were told will enhance the tan. And you may be suffering the consequences with some level of skin disorder related to sun damage. But if you are in your 30’s like I am, you have no excuse. You are well informed about the dangers, and if you are still old school using tanning beds despite overwhelming statistics, then you are just asking for problems.
With this all said and done, you know must protect, and I will give you one thing: It is confusing! Here is my short list of suggestions to protect yourself from over exposure to harmful sun rays:
Limit time in the midday sun
This is when the UV rays are the strongest
Watch the UV index
There are apps and sites telling you when the UV index is at its highest. Plan around this and adopt sun safety practices during peak times.
Use shade wisely
Remember that umbrellas and trees, and other shade don’t necessarily offer full protection. The shorter your own shadow, the more important it is to seek shade.
Wear protective clothing
Nothing like a good old-fashioned hat with a brim and sunglasses to protect your ears, face, neck and eyes. Loose fitting clothes also go a long way to providing extra protection, as these are all physical forms of sun protection.
Use sunscreen liberally and re-apply it every two hours and after sports and water activities and exercise.
Avoid Tanning beds and sunlamps
There is no elaboration on this point, just don’t.
Why do you ask? Well, here is the lowdown on UVR:
Sun protection should cover UVA and UVB radiation. Until recently requirements only had to fulfill protection against UVB radiation.
This change is welcome because, the UV spectrum of sunlight includes further wavelength ranges with different effects:
UVA radiation | 320-400 nm– amounts to about 90 % of the UV radiation. It penetrates as far as the dermis, forms radicals and damages the collagen structures of the skin. Hence, it accelerates skin ageing. There is only a slight risk of erythema; however, there is a serious risk of specific forms of skin cancer due to DNA damage.
UVB radiation | 280-320 nm -amounts to about 10 % of UV radiation, penetrates as far as the epidermis and is responsible for sunburns (erythema) and the increased risk of skin cancer. On the other hand, UVB also induces the formation of melanin and thus leads to increased individual protection. Low doses of UVB even have health-promoting effects due to the formation of vitamin D3.
UVC radiation |100-280 nm – also contained in sunlight but absorbed in the upper atmosphere.
For sunscreen products to be effective, they have to cover both relevant wave ranges of UVA and UVB.
We recommend that you carefully consider your sun protection options. While some chemical options have great formulations and certainly protect the skin phenomenally, they are hard to reapply during a normal working day. As an alternative, and if you are sensitive to sunscreens, in general, try a mineral option.
With this update on skin protection in consideration there is one more thing that should be said here; the same protection is likely not adequate for all life situations.If you are an office worker there might be days where you don’t need more than the protection that is already in your makeup, or may not need anything more than an SPF 15 (Sun Protection Factor of 15). However, if you are gardening or participating in outdoor activities, you might want to consider an SPF 30 or higher. I am also a fan of dry sunscreen as it affords immediate sun protection since it is made of physical filters, and wonderful to make re-application every two hours super easy even over make-up. I also love the dry sunscreen for young kids at is not absorbed into the skin, unless you are lucky enough like me to have access to great formulations that contain non-controversial ingredients. On that point, remember that not all ingredients are made equal, and it pays to do some investigation.
It is with this that I’d like to introduce you to dermaviduals® Day Cream S – with sensitive skin in mind. I could type a thousand more words, but all you really need is this chart (below) to explain it clearly.
(Sunscreen chart credit: www.virtualbeauty.co.nz)
Dermaviduals® Daycream S is available immediately.
Lastly, and because I cannot resist cute. If my toddler can do this, so can you!