Sunscreen isn’t just for summer holidays. Dr Zara Kassam PhD explains why you need it every day.
When you pack for a summer holiday, no do doubt your sunscreen has its spot next to your beach wear. But good sun protection isn’t just for the beach. No matter where you are a daily Sun Protection Factor (SPF) all year round is vital for protecting the skin against the harmful effects of the sun’s rays.
And if you are not wearing sunscreen every day, it’s time to rethink that decision as sun exposure is the number one cause of skin aging.
According to Dr Adam Friedmann from the Harley Street Dermatology Clinic says: “Almost all the signs of ageing are caused by photo damage through ultraviolet exposure. Ultraviolet light damages the collagen in skin, which causes it to thicken in an abnormal fashion and then gradually fragment over time. This abnormal collagen causes increased wrinkles, frown lines, crow’s feet and so on. All UV light ages you, but deep-penetrating UVA rays probably contribute more to collagen damage than UVB rays.”
But it’s not just aging. Skin cancer rates are rising.
The Cancer Research UK says the rates of skin cancer (melanoma) in the UK have increased by 119% since the early 1990’s. Betweeen 2004-2015 there was a 45% increase in incidence. It’s usually found in older people – the 70+ age group, but that doesn’t mean it’s a disease of the aged – it’s the sun exposure that these people got when they were younger that has caused the melanoma years later.
For that reason Dr Friedmann, whose special interest is skin cancer, says it’s vital to protect skin from a young age.
“It’s particularly important children and teenagers stay safe in the sun as skin damage from UV light that occurs in childhood usually won’t show up until many years later. Wearing a high factor SPF sun cream with 5-star UVA protection is imperative and those with fairer skin should consider covering up their exposed skin when in direct sunlight.”
He says coloured sunscreens are great for children as you can see where you’ve put it and where you’ve missed.
How does the sun damage us?
Ultraviolet (UV) rays come in three forms – two of which are the predominant cause of sun damaged skin including everything from sunspots to skin cancer:
- UVA –UVA rays are present throughout the day and are the most significant cause of premature aging of the skin including of fine lines and wrinkles and are a key contributor to various types of non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) as well as other pre-cancerous conditions like actinic or solar keratosis.
- UVB – UVB rays are the rays that burn and are strongest between 10 am to 4 pm. They are responsible for sunburn and the potentially deadly skin cancer – melanoma. UVB rays are heavily dependent on cloud cover and atmospheric conditions, but even when it’s cloudy and grey, they can get through.
Globally 2-3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 130,000 malignant melanomas are diagnosed each year according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as a result of exposure to these harmful rays.
The photo-damage it causes to our skin is also well documented. Prolonged sun exposure leads to:
- Premature wrinkling
- Sagging skin
- Leathery texture
- Hyperpigmentation (solar lentigos, age spots, liver spots, freckles etc)
And even though the sun in Northern Europe isn’t as strong as in the tropics, it can still cause skin damage. Studies done on identical twins in a variety of countries show that those who spend more time in the sun have deeper wrinkles, saggier skin and have aged much more than their shade-seeking sibling.
SPF everyday: But which sunscreen to pick?
Luckily we have a strong defence against the sun’s dark arts: broad-spectrum SPF.
Sunscreens are commonly rated and labelled with SPF that measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin.
Dr Friedmann says there are two important factors – that it has a high SPF and that it’s broad spectrum – that is, it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
“When it comes to SPF’s, the higher the SPF the stronger the protection against the burning UVB rays. So, an SPF 50 means for every 50 minutes in the sun you’ll get the equivalent to one-minute unprotected sun exposure. All you’re blocking with a standard SPF is UVB (tanning) rays. However, UVA protection is just as important, as UVA rays have more long-term damaging effects on the skin such as premature aging and skin cancer. So always ensure you choose one with not only a high SPF, but also at least a 4-star UVA rating”, he says.
Even when working work inside you are exposed to UV radiation for brief periods throughout the day when you come and go from the office – and remember, UVA can penetrate glass, so if your desk is by a window or you drive a lot, put your SPF on regularly.
And remember: No sunscreen, irrespective of strength, should be expected to stay effective for longer than two hours, so it is vital that it’s reapplied every couple of hours.
According to Harley Street consultant dermatologist, Penelope Tympanidis, you don’t have to spend a lot on your sunscreen and it doesn’t have to be a separate product – there are plenty of moisturisers that have a good SPF in them.
Remember, the best defence against sun damage is prevention. Avoid the sun between 10 am -4pm and reapply your sunscreen regularly and generously. “A fingertip-sized squirt should cover an area of skin the size of a hand”, Dr Friedmann says.
He recommends using a minimum SPF30, reapply every two hours and wear a hat and long sleeves. And if you are worried about your moles, get them checked by your GP or a dermatologist – it could save your life.
Here at Harley Street Emporium we recommend:
- Exuviance Age reverse Day Repair SPF30:It fights the daily stressors that age skin and so skin appears firmer and younger.
- UV filters and a triple antioxidant complex of Pomegranate and Vitamins A and E, help repair and protect the skin
- A triple firming complex of Peptides, Retinol and patented NeoGlucosamine® boost collagen for firmer, smoother looking skin
- Retinol and NeoGlucosamine® lightly exfoliate, increase cell renewal, diminish the appearance of uneven pigment and fine lines
2. NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF50
An ultra-sheer, mineral-based matte skincare treatment that is formulated to provide photostable, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection with a universal tint that blends with skin’s natural tone. It protects the skin and its powerful antioxidants help protect the skin from further sun damage as well as helping repair it.
 Poon, Terence SC Poon; Barnetson, Ross StC; Halliday, Gary M (2003). “Prevention of Immunosuppression by Sunscreens in Humans Is Unrelated to Protection from Erythema and Dependent on Protection from Ultraviolet A in the Face of Constant Ultraviolet B Protection”. J Invest Dermatol. 121: 184–90
 Burnett M.E.; Wang S.Q. (April 2011). “Current sunscreen controversies: a critical review”. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine. 27 (2): 58–67.