Updated: May 5, 2020
I’m sure we have all heard the PUT YOUR SUNSCREEN ON preach, but let’s take a few minutes to explore the why behind that statement. I promise you after reading this article you will never roll your eyes when someone says this to you.
If you aren’t aware of this fact already, here is your chance to pay attention and make some really easy changes that are going to help you preserve your youth without investing any big bucks!
FACT: Unprotected sun exposure is the NUMBER 1 ENVIRONMENTAL CAUSE OF PREMATURE aging
Damage from the sun’s UV rays can cause your skin to age prematurely, and can ultimately lead to sun cancer. Over time, repeated unprotected exposure to the sun can cause fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, freckles, scaly red patches known as actinic keratosis, as well as tough, leathery skin and other discolouration's. With proper protection and avoidance, you can help yourself maintain that youthful glow for as long as possible.
How does the sun cause damage?
The sun emits radiation which reaches the earth in the form of UV rays. The earth’s ozone layer has broken down over the last few decades, and offers less protection than ever before. Today, more UV rays reach the earth’s surface than ever and even on a cold, overcast day you are still being exposed to those harmful UV rays.
Let’s explore a few of the important UV Rays causing skin damage:
UVA - these rays cause our skin to brown when exposed to sunlight - they excite the natural melanin in our skin along with causing wrinkles and premature aging. UVA rays are more powerful during summer months, and are also more powerful the closer to the equator you are.
UVB- these are the rays that cause our skin to burn and can also lead to skin cancer.
HEV- these are part of the high energy visible light spectrum. They cause free radicals which stimulate your skin to produce enzymes that break down collagen and elastin - the fiber's in our skin that give us that plump and youthful appearance. Unprotected HEV exposure can cause uneven pigmentation, age spots and can worsen pre-existing melasma.
When UV rays come into contact with your skin they interact with natural chemicals on the skin known as melanin. Melanin absorbs UV rays in an attempt to protect your skin against sun damage. The chemical reaction between UV rays and melanin in the skin is what gives the appearance of a tan.
So, How do we protect our skin?
Always use a broad spectrum, physical sunblock in the morning after your normal skin care routine. This should be applied daily, year round and reapplied as necessary throughout the day.
Use proper protection such as wide brimmed hats, sunglasses and protective clothing when exposed to harmful UV rays
Avoid peak sun hours - stay in during the hottest parts of the day if possible. If you are exposed, be sure to reapply sunscreen after getting wet, excessive sweating or every 2 hours.
What about the difference between sunblock and sunscreen?
Physical Sunscreen AKA Sun Block
Physical sunblock provides a physical barrier which prevents the skin from absorbing UV Rays. They use mineral based ingredients such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide which block the UV Rays from penetrating the skin. Physical sunblocks are known as BROAD SPECTRUM - which means they offer protection from UVA, UVB, (HEV and IRA: brand dependant). They are safe to use during pregnancy as well as on babies.
With a physical sunblock protection begins immediately after application. They tend to be less irritating for those with sensitive skin, and also people with conditions like rosacea. In the past physical sunblocks have been known to have a white, chalky consistency, however brands such as ZO Skin Health, TiZo and Skinceuticals have revolutionized sunblocks and offer a wide variety of light weight, matte finishes.
One thing to note is that physical sunblocks are more likely to be sweat off, rinsed off or worn off. If you are out in the sun during a day with a high UV index, you should ultimately be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours.
Chemical Sunscreens AKA Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens contain compounds such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate and avobenzone. The chemicals in the sunscreens convert UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin and scattered.
Chemical sunscreens typically feel “thinner”, and they have an increased risk of causing irritation to the skin. If you happen to find a broad spectrum chemical sunscreen what this actually means is that there are a multitude of different chemical products in the lotion. The more chemicals, the more chance of irritation to the skin. People with rosacea also tend to have increased flush with chemical sunscreens due to the heat conversion that causes the UV rays to scatter. Those with acne and sensitive skin tend to have an increased risk of breakouts, and clogged pores when using chemical sunscreens
So, In Summary
If you want to maintain your youth wearing sunblock daily, year round is by far the EASIEST step you can take
Try to choose a physical broad spectrum sunscreen for optimal protection.
If you don’t know what sunblock you like - find a local skincare clinic and ask for a skin consultation. An expert will walk you through the importance of sun protection and will let you try some really great products to help you find a sunblock that you actually like to wear.
Be cognizant of the UV index! If you’re sweating, getting wet or out for prolonged periods of time, reapply every two hours.
Always bring your hat, sunnies, and protective clothing with you if you’re out in the sun. They aren’t just fashion accessories, they’re also the secret to youthful skin ;-)