The simplest way to prevent early ageing is to use an SPF everyday
When we think of sun protection we tend to think of holidays and summer days when we are out-side enjoying hot and sunny weather. We, rightly, focus on not getting sun burnt.
We are correct to consider the damage that getting burnt can do our skin and the risk of skin cancer. There is particularly evidence that sunburn before the age of 20 increases the risk of melanoma (a potentially deadly type of skin cancer).
But what about using SPF (Sun Protection Factor) with a UVA protection indoors, in cars, and on days when it is not obviously sunny?
More recently there has been more and more proof that it is not just when it is sunny that we should protect our skin from the sun.
UVA can penetrate through the ozone layer and through both clouds and glass windows. We are almost constantly being exposed to UVA as it makes up 95% of the UV radiation that reaches us. It also travels deeper into the skin than UVB. Although UVB damage is responsible for burning, both UVA and UVB can contribute to DNA damage and development of skin cancer.
UVA also, as it penetrates to the dermal layers of the skin leads to destruction to the elastic fibres and collagen in the skin and causes wrinkling and skin ageing. Over years this leads to dramatic effects that could be prevented by the use of sunscreen.
Visible effects of UV skin damage
This leads to visible effects of UV radiation as the the ageing effects in the skin are evident. The medical term is dermatoheliosis and shows as wrinkles, lines, brown ‘sun’ spots, dilated blood vessels and leathery thickened skin.
In the April 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Gordan and Brieva published a striking photograph of a truck driver from Chicago who had worked for 28 years with the left side of his face receiving UVA radiation on the window side of the cab whereas the right side of his face was relatively protected.
Twin studies also show this when one of a pair of identical twins has had obviously more sun exposure over the years than the other. In extreme cases, by the age of sixty a twin with sun exposure can look about twenty years older than an identical twin without!
Sun protection advice includes avoiding exposure during the hottest part of the day, seeking shade, wearing sun protecting clothes and a hat for shade. Sunglasses to protect the eyes are important too. Suncream protection is particularly vital for areas that are usually not covered by clothes such as the face, neck and the backs of the hands.
Choosing a Suncream
Check that the sunscreen has a high factor (at least SPF 30) and good UVA protection. It is important to put enough on and to reapply regularly.
There are sunscreens that offer protection by sitting on the skin’s surface and physically block-ing and deflecting the UV rays and there are sunscreens that work by chemical means to absorb the UV rays and change them into heat.
Considering chemical factors and environmental factors that are often debated, the conclusion I have come to is that whatever the various debates and evidence, the evidence that sun protection is good for our skin far outweighs any potentially negative evidence and we must not let concerns stop us protecting ourselves and our children from the known damage of UV rays.
However, for those still looking for the holy grail of sunscreen, as I have done for years, I found the IMAGE sun protection plus factor 30 SPF ticks all the boxes for a solely mineral protection formula with non-nano zinc oxide that is Eco friendly (ECOCERT). It also contains anti-oxidants to combat free radicals and help prevent DNA damage. It can be used on children over 6 months old . All suncreams, especially mineral ones need to be reapplied for full effectiveness and Image recommend that this is reapplied every 2 hours to make sure the benefit is obtained.
What about Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is also a consideration. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium for strong bones. Vita-min D deficiency is also implicated in many illnesses and conditions – and has been recently even suggested to be a factor in Coronavirus outcome. The skin makes vitamin D from the sun but this can be obtained without actively sun bathing. 15 to 20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day without the skin reddening or burning should be sufficient to produce the required amounts. Alternatively, Vitamin D supplements can be taken and a diet eaten with Vitamin D rich foods such as fish and milk.
1) Gordon JRS, Brieva JC. Unilateral Dermatoheliosis. N Eng J Med 2012; 366:e25
2) Farkas JP, Pessa JE, Hubbard B, Rohrich RJ. The Science and Theory behind Facial Aging. Plast Reconstr Surg 2013 May 7; 1(1): e8-e15