Understanding Sunscreen and UV Protection

You hear it all the time. Wear sunscreen. The sun causes damage and skin cancer. I tell my clients on a regular basis to use a sunscreen. But does everyone really understand what, how and why it is so important? Every day I have someone on my treatment table and when I ask, “what are your concerns and what would you like to focus on today?” they will commonly want to address their brown spots or sun damage. I will talk more about what you can do to treat this condition in the future but for now the most important thing I can tell everyone is to wear sunscreen every day and to reapply throughout the day. I hear various reasons for why people don’t wear a sunscreen and so I would like to address the most common misconceptions that are generally out there about sunscreens, their use and their importance.

You can spend money all day on expensive creams, lotions and potions (of course I sell them) but the best anti-aging treatment is simply sunscreen. Sun exposure is like cooking a steak out on the grill. All the collagen, elastin, humectants, hyaluronic acids, nature moisture binding factors, GAGS (Glycosaminoglycans) are cooked, destroyed, petrified, depleted and our bodies have slowed down the ability to replenish any of these. Also our body’s immune system includes cells in our skin called melanocytes (your skin plays a very important role in your immunity). These melanocytes produce pigmentation or coloration as a protective barrier to harmful UV rays. That beautiful golden glow tan is actually your body’s natural defenses working in overdrive to protect itself.
There is no need to go overboard now. We all do this, if SPF 15 is good, I’ll use an SPF 100, right. You only need an SPF 15 to 30 to give adequate protection. Higher SPF’s usually include chemicals which have their own harmful effects. Let’s look at what works best.

Skin Aging

Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays then alter them and disperse them. This chemical reaction generates heat on your skin. This is why so many of us have reactions to sunscreens and turn red. We are actually reacting to the chemical changes going on in the skin. Here is a list of chemical sunscreens that you want to avoid if they are listed in the Active Ingredient section on the back label that is required for products. Active Ingredients are pharmaceutical ingredients that give the product its purpose. They are then combined with other ingredients to suspend and carry or glide it onto the skin and may also include cosmeceutical ingredients that have skin care benefits.

• Octylcrylene
• Avobenzone
• Octinoxate
• Octisalate
• Oxybenzone
• Homosalate
• Helioplex
• 4-MBC
• Mexoryl SX and XL
• Tinosorb S and M
• Uvinul T 150
• Uvinul A Plus

Physical sunscreens reflect UV rays away from our bodies and are made from inert materials that have a very low reaction rate.
• Zinc Oxide
• Titanium Dioxide

Zinc Oxide has many medicinal benefits to the skin. The Diaper Rash cream Butt Balm is 100% Zinc and will relieve a baby’s rash within an hour. It will also alleviate swelling and redness from acne and absorb excess oil production. So this makes it a perfect treatment for oily acneic skin types. The obvious downside is that it can have a very thick chalky texture and leave you looking ashen. Many companies have created sunscreens with micronized zinc and tinted formulas to mask this effect.

The new FDA regulations do not allow a label to show more than a SPF 50, although they may say SPF 50+. This is because sunscreens that claim a higher SPF only add more chemicals to their formulas but the increase in protection is so low, only a fraction, that it creates a false sense of what the product is protecting you from. For example and SPF 15 gives you 93% protection from the sun and an SPF 30 gives you 97% protection. ALL sunscreens must be reapplied every two hours to maintain their effectiveness and as often as every 30 minutes if you are sweating or are in and out of the water.

Incidental sun exposure, such as the time you spend going to and from your home, your car, the grocery store, office, etc., is a large contributor to aging and developing those nasty brown spots on the skin. UV rays also penetrate through windows like at home, in your office or in the car. Clouds or cloudy days do not eliminate sun damage because 80% of the harmful UV rays continue to pass through to your skin. Likewise, sitting under a shade tree or wearing a hat only gives protection from direct sunlight but UV rays are bouncing off any reflective materials that surround you at any given time like concrete, water, or even your own light colored clothing.

Winter time is no exception to UV protection. The same UV rays are still shinning down on us, we just don’t feel the heat as much nor do we spend as much time outdoors during the winter months here in Texas. This is why I advocate using sunscreen every day of the year.

Spray on sunscreens are convenient and easy to apply, especially when using on children who like to squirm and run away from mom trying to rub lotion all over them, but be careful not to inhale the product or use close to your child’s face so they don’t breathe in the active ingredients. You can also spray it into your hands and then apply to skin but make sure you get an adequate coverage. I do recommend spray on sunscreens for daily use over makeup as an option. Since we don’t want to take our makeup off every two hours to reapply sun protection, a spray type sunscreen is a great option to use directly over makeup, just don’t spray upward into your nose or breathe in.

I have a lot of clients say their makeup has a sunscreen in it. My response is always, “that is great but it is not really enough.” Makeup companies will tell you the same thing. So I recommend applying a tinted sunscreen under your makeup and then use a powdered sunscreen as another alternative for reapplying sunscreen throughout the day. Powdered sunscreens are available through many cosmetic lines now and should be in every woman’s purse and are great for quick touch ups.

Most antibiotics and many other medications will affect your skin’s reaction to the sun and you will be more susceptible to sunburn and rashes for up to 2 weeks after finishing the last dose of your meds. Your pharmacist will put a warning label on medications that create sun sensitivity but you can also find the information easily online. Topical skin treatments can also cause your skin to burn and damage easier, so pay attention to labels and ask your skin care professional.

Daily clothing provides normal daily activity protection from UV exposure but if you spend a significant amount of time outdoors, look for clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). UPF is the rating system for clothing that provides protection just like a sunscreen would and the higher the UPF the better protection you get. Just don’t forget to apply your sunscreen lotion or cream to the areas not covered by UPF clothing.

So here are key points to remember:
• Use chemical free (look at active ingredients and select products that use zinc, micronized zinc oxide or titanium dioxide).
• SPF 30 is plenty of protection anything higher uses more and more chemicals.
• It takes one ounce or approximately a shot glass of sunscreen to cover your entire body from head to toe.
• Reapply at least every two hours and more often if you are sweating or in the water.
• Use sunscreen every day on exposed areas, face, ears, neck, chest, hands and arms.

I know this has been an abundance of information and there is even more that I could have covered. I appreciate you taking the time to read through and I hope you have found it useful and convincing to put your sunscreen on and continue to use it.

Have a safe and protected summer.

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