There is one ageing factor which exists, we are all exposed to and to be perfectly honest, can’t get enough of. Sunlight. Knowing that this can accelerate your skins ageing process means it’s vital we protect ourselves from it. Remember, prevention is always better than cure. A little sun protection, a dash of SPF, can act as a barrier against the infamous UV rays.
UVA vs UVB (don’t worry about UVC)
The light from the sun contains natural light, but packaged within it are UV rays. They are a form of radiation and are harmless in normal doses. They come in three types; UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC gets blocked by the Ozone layer. Now you have 99 problems but UVC ain’t one #thankyouOzone
Let’s break down the differences.
- Make up 95% of the UV rays that reach us
- Main UV type that accelerates the ageing process
- Cause tanning and sunburn
- Penetrate deeper into the skin dermis causing genetic damage at a cellular level
- Steady exposure year round
- Can penetrate windows and cloud cover
- Protection – ‘Broad Spectrum’ / PA++++ system
- Cause tanning, sunburn and blistering
- Damages the outer layer of the skin
- Intensity fluctuates and is time / location / season dependant
- Do not penetrate glass/ windows
- Protection – high SPF rating
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. They have a number normally after them like SPF30 or SPF50. But what do these numbers mean? We’ve all heard rumours that the number stands for the temperature at the holiday destination you’re about to visit. Cute, but wrong.
The rating was made by a genius to make it easier for us lay people to understand how powerful the sunscreen is. They work it out by timing the number of seconds it takes for the skin to burn when exposed to UV light WITH sunscreen, DIVIDED by the number of seconds it takes to burn WITHOUT sunscreen.
For example, lets say it takes 300-seconds before your skin begins to show signs of redness or burn with sunscreen, but only 10-seconds to show signs without. The SPF rating would be 300 divided by 10, which gives a nice wholesome SPF30 rating. Comprende? Good, because ain’t nobody got time for maths.
Chemical vs Physical Sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing UV rays and converting them into heat. The contain active filters that penetrate the skin. You can often find them in pharmacies. Because you don’t need super high quantities of these chemicals, they can be administered on your skin giving a lightweight non-sticky feel. Also, because they penetrate the skin, they don’t leave white cast or a ghosting effect.
Unfortunately, they have previously gained negative press for containing sensitising molecules, for example Oxybenzone, with some research suggesting possible carcinogenic effects. But don’t fear, the govt has removed these products from the shelves. But for that piece of mind, simply look up the ingredients. Simples.
There are however, a number of other, newer chemical filter options slowly reaching the market. These have been proven to be more stable and provide better UVA protection. Such filters can often be found in Korean sunscreens, but are not FDA approved in the US currently.
Physical sunscreens sit on top of your skin and act as a physical barrier. They contain minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (ooh…fancy). Their mechanism of action is to deflect and scatter light from the skin surface, as well as absorbing and converting some rays into heat. Physical sunscreens are often favoured due to their stable nature and suitability for sensitive skin.
Unwanted features of some physical sunscreens include leaving a white cast on the skin and having a thicker matte texture. This can make such a product difficult to incorporate into a daily skincare routine. But we found that if you leave a good 30-minutes between applying physical sunscreens and applying make-up, you’re good to go. Whatsmore, things like water and sweat can rub them off because they sit on top of your skin. Not ideal, but still effective.
- Obagi Nu-Derm Physical SPF32
- Heliocare 360 Fluid Cream
- Khiels UV Ultra Light Defence Mineral Sunscreen
Which is better?
It’s important to weigh up the pros and cons when choosing a sunscreen. Wearing SPF daily is a must for skin protection and anti-ageing. We recommend that you do your research, read the INCI list and choose what works best for you!