by AUTUMN PENDLETON
If you grew up in the same era I did, you may remember seeing people sunbathing for hours using baby oil and a spray bottle of water to get that extra dark bronze. No sunscreen in sight. Seemed pretty cool at the time, but 25+ years later those whom participated may be singing a different tune. Sun damage is a huge factor, not only in aging skin, but in the development of some types of skin cancer. Scary stuff when you take into consideration that it can be almost entirely prevented by taking extra precautions to protect yourself from damaging UV rays.
When you think about sun damage you most likely get visuals of freckles and dark spots. Maybe you start picturing the faces of an aging friend or relative with large clusters of darkened, maybe even rough textured patches of skin on the high points of the face; the forehead, cheeks and nose. Sun damage doesn’t just stop there. It’s also a major cause of wrinkles, sagging, leathery feeling and looking skin, and redness or ruddiness caused by dilated capillaries.
For the better portion of the past decade we have seen a lot of information flooding television, magazines, and the news recommending the use of sunscreen for the face and body. You can purchase it almost anywhere these days for a fairly low price, in a variety of SPF levels (most dermatologists will recommend an SPF over 30 for better protection). You may even use facial cosmetics that have an SPF of 15 built right in to product. What you might not know is that you may not be getting full UVA and UVB spectrum protection from your sunscreen or makeup! What’s the difference? Let’s go over some information.
UVA vs. UVB
- UVA rays are always present, even when it’s overcast, and no matter what the season is. These rays or deep penetrating and are the main cause of sun damage, premature aging due to sun exposure, and sagging of the skin.
- UVB rays are the most prevalent in the summer. They are the rays that are the cause of sunburns and skin cancer. Though they are less severe in cooler weather, they do reflect off of surfaces like snow, so you still need to protect yourself year round.
So how do you know if you have a sunscreen/sunblock that is giving you full spectrum protection? Read labels, look at your ingredient list, and know the difference between physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. Most of what you see in stores is a chemical sun protectant. These absorb the damaging rays of the sun instead of blocking them. They work just fine but can cause irritations for those with more sensitive skin, sting the eyes, and need to be applied prior to sun exposure. Physical sunscreens use ingredients like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide to actually block harmful rays from touching your skin, and are natural rather than chemical solutions. Zinc is really what you are looking for in high amounts for full spectrum, natural coverage. Think lifeguards with thick layers of white Zinc on their noses. It can leave a visible opaque residue, but is well worth it to avoid skin cancer and sun damage later in life.
As an esthetician, one of my first questions for guests during a service is about sunscreen, and it almost always goes as follows:
Me: Are you using sunscreen regularly, especially on your face?
Guest: Not always but my makeup/lotion has sunscreen in it.
Me: Is it SPF 30 or higher?
Guest: No, it’s SPF 15.
This is not what your skincare specialist wants to hear. It’s great that so many cosmetic products have SPF right in the mix, but you really need to make sure that you are also using a sunscreen designed specifically for the face (this ensures it will not clog pores and cause breakouts) with an SPF of 30 or higher as well as your protectant cosmetic products. If you’re worried about that ghostly white look from sunscreens that are high on Zinc there is no need to worry. There are several products currently on the market that are also lightly tinted to allow for full coverage protection, hydration, and an easy to blend pigmentation. Try Tizo3, available in the A La Mode boutique. Not only does it meet the broad spectrum protection needs, and have the tinted color to avoid ashy looking skin, but it’s also SPF 40 and water resistant!
So, let’s review:
- Use sunscreen every day, every season, everywhere your skin is exposed. Especially your face!
- Choose a sunscreen that has full UVA/UVB protection.
- Try to choose a product with Physical blockers like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide for safe and natural protection.
- Use an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Find a facial sunscreen to add to your daily routine and apply it along with your cosmetics. Post serums and moisturizers, but before makeup.
- Don’t forget about your hands! Think of how much time they spend in the sun when you’re driving versus how often you protect them with sunscreen.
Get outside and have fun this summer, or any season, just be sure to protect your beautiful skin before you walk out the door! You’ll thank yourself later.