23 Jan Why SPF is so important!
“I always feel so much healthier with a tan…”
How often do we hear this in clinic – often accompanied by a request for anti-wrinkle injections, and therein lies the problem! It is well known that the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes premature ageing of the skin, and worse – skin cancer. So why oh, why do we still fail miserably when it comes to using ‘Sun Protection Factor’ (SPF)?!
Most of us have experienced the short-term damage the sun can cause in the form of sunburn. What we don’t tend to think about is the long-term damage of unprotected exposure which is called ‘photo-ageing’. This is caused by UVA and UVB rays and shows up as fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation spots, thinning skin, loss of elasticity and skin cancer. In fact, that beautiful tan is as a result of injury to the skin as it tries to protect itself from further damage!
So, what is actually happening to damage our skin when not using SPF?
Well two things; direct damage by the incoming UV rays and secondary damage caused by free radicals that are generated by these rays. These combined are thought to cause a massive 90% of the skin’s ageing!!!!
Now, most of us know about UVB – B is for burning rays when the sun is out, that is how I remember it! These rays are what causes us to tan (and burn!) because they damage the more superficial layers of the skin, they also play a big part in the development of skin cancer. They are more prevalent throughout the summer months. With a thinning ozone layer over the last few decades more of these rays can get through the atmosphere and therefore we are at greater risk of UVB damage.
UVA rays I think of as A for ageing! These rays can pass through glass and cloud and are present every day of the year during daylight hours. They actually make up the majority of UV rays that reach the earth (95% as opposed to 5% UVB rays). They are able to penetrate much more deeply into the skin reaching collagen, elastin and blood vessels. This means that they play a major role in photo-ageing as well as damaging the lower layer of the epidermis where most skin cancers arise. Unfortunately, UVA is also used in tanning booths, so these are very definitely not a safe alternative and cause the same damage as natural sunlight.
The last few years has also seen a rise in interest in blue light and IR rays and their contribution to photo-ageing.
Help! What can we do about this?
Thankfully the answer is a few very simple steps;
- Always make sure you wear your SPF – every day of the year, rain or shine! We recommend that you use a sunscreen that offers protection from UVA and UVB rays. They are called ‘broad spectrum’ sunscreens. They also need to be at least a factor 30 which will block around 97% of UV rays. The AlumierMD range has fantastic SPF’s that suit all different skin types – get in touch to find out which would be best for you!
- Use antioxidants in your skincare regime to protect against free radical damage (sunscreen will also help with this but only to around 55% so additional products are recommended).
- Cover up – wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, long sleeved shirts and trousers
- Limit your sun exposure. Stay out of the sun at its strongest between 11am and 4pm. If you are outside, try and stay in the shade or under a large umbrella.
- Make sure you are using your sunscreen correctly (you need at least 6 teaspoons to cover face and body). Reapply every few hours and after swimming.
- Never, ever, use tanning beds!!
Now you know why SPF is so important!