Saving your skin with sunscreen
These days we see more and more people becoming more educated about skin health. But even with this increased awareness, not enough attention is being paid to sun protection.
In spite of increased public health campaigns about the risks of ultra-violet (UV) radiation, people continue to expose their unprotected skin to the sun. As a result, we are increasingly seeing effects such as premature ageing, hyperpigmentation and skin cancers.
So why is this important aspect of skincare being ignored? Following are some of the most common reasons given:
1. Sunscreen feels too greasy on my skin, or it irritates my skin. In this case, it would be important to check the sunscreen’s active ingredients, to see which UV filter is being used. There are two main types of UV filters: chemical and physical. Physical sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, reflect UV radiation, scattering it and therefore preventing it from being absorbed by skin cells. These are great for sensitive skin, because they are very non-irritating. However, they often have a greasy feel.
Chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone and octocrylene, absorb UV radiation and release the energy as heat. The higher the SPF with these types of sunscreens, the more of an irritant they tend to be.
Look for the word oleosome in the sunscreen’s ingredient list to find a product with which you may be more comfortable.
2. “Applying sunscreen is another step in my routine that I don’t have time for.” That’s why there are so many products that have multiple uses combined into one package. Moisturisers fall into this category as well, as it is not hard to find a moisturiser with SPF included. The good news is that there are myriad options available for every skin type. Failing that, if you already have a moisturiser that you use and love, feel free to mix it with your preferred sunscreen. Just bear in mind that this can lower the SPF, so start higher, such as with an SPF 50.
3. “Sunscreen makes my acne worse.” Again, the trick here is to make sure that you are using a product designed for acne-prone skin. Look for keywords on packaging, such as oil-free, or added ingredients such as niacinamide or yeast extract.
4 . “I’m indoors all day; I don’t need a sunscreen.” This is probably one of the greatest myths related to sunscreen use. UVA radiation has the ability to penetrate glass, and although outside may appear cloudy, the amount of UV that reaches the Earth is still the same. UV radiation damage is still possible when sitting by a window in the car, at home or at work. So it is essential to protect all exposed areas of skin, especially the face and upper limbs, at all times.
5. “My make-up has SPF, so I don’t need extra.” While cosmetics with SPF can provide some protection, it is often not enough on its own. Additionally, the amount of make-up that would need to be applied to equal the SPF number seen on packaging is rarely ever applied in practice. Sunscreen incorporated in make-up should be seen as the second line of defence, and so a moisturiser containing SPF 30 or higher should be applied under make-up.
Remember, it is never too late to prevent tomorrow’s damage today. Wear your sunscreen.
Additional general tips for sunscreen use:
• Don’t forget your lips. Wearing a lip-gloss alone in direct sunlight may actually encourage sunburn. Wear a protective lip balm of at least SPF 15.
• Choose the right sunglasses. Avoid metal frames as these can reflect more light onto the cheeks and nose. Plastic frames with UVA/UVB lenses are best.
• Touch up. Reapplying sunscreen during the day is ideal, but often this is not an option. Touch up make-up with an SPF 20+ infused mineral powder.
• Check expiration dates. Sunscreens typically expire after one year because by then the UV filters break down.
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