Most people with an interest in skincare will know that a ‘healthy’ tan, probably isn’t that healthy after all.
While the sunshine brings many benefits, it can also cause irreparable harm to your skin if you fail to protect it from the sun’s rays – including premature ageing.
As with everything in life, knowledge is power and knowing what you are putting on your skin, how long it can protect you and how to minimise the effects of the sun will allow you to enjoy the benefits of a sunny day while staying safe and warding off unnecessary wrinkles.
So serious is the effect of excessive sun exposure on the skin that it is right up there with smoking on the list of things to avoid to prevent premature ageing.
However, getting out into the sunshine is also great for your wellbeing so choose balance in all things to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Why does the sun age skin?
Known as photoaging, the sun ages the skin through the damage done by UV rays. As UV rays hit the skin, they cause melanin to be distributed to protect and repair the skin. It is this that creates a tan. However, UVA rays go deeper into the skin and also disturb collagen production. It is collagen that gives skin its volume and elasticity. As the cells are damaged, wrinkles can be formed.
When your skin is exposed to the sun, UVA and UVB rays damage its make-up, making skin battle to protect you and repair itself. The result can be a tan, freckles or age spots as well as dehydrated skin and the emergence of lines and wrinkles over time.
How can you protect your skin against ageing in the sun?
Attitudes to sun protection have changed and there is nothing you can do to change the past, especially if you have been a sun worshipper, but that doesn’t mean you cannot commit to protecting your skin now.
Every day that you spend outside, your face is in the glare of the sun – and that includes in the depths of winter when you may not think that UV rays are not a problem.
The single most informed decision you can take to protect your skin from sun damage is to wear an SPF cream on your face every day. Either incorporated into a moisturiser or as a standalone SPF cream.
In the hotter months, especially in the height of summer, it is essential to wear an SPF cream on skin that will be exposed to the sun. Obvious areas include the arms and shoulders, legs and the décolleté. Make applying an SPF cream part of your routine so it feels like less of a chore and more of a necessity. Always make sure you apply enough cream too – the recommended amount is seven teaspoons for the whole body.
SPF cream vs no protection
Using an SPF cream is not a cast iron guarantee against sun damage or photoaging. What it will do is allow you to spend longer in the sunshine without burning. While your skin will have a level of tolerance, it can take as little as 15 minutes of sun exposure before damage starts to occur.
The SPF (sun protection factor) of your cream will determine how much beyond this you can stay in the sun without causing damage to your skin. Using SPF 15 this will be 15 times longer, factor 30 is 30 times longer and so on.
So, if you love spending time outdoors invest in a high quality SPF cream that will lengthen the amount of time you can spend outdoors without risking damage to your skin. Make sure you apply it around 15 minutes before you head out to maximise protection, and frequently reapply if you are swimming, work up a sweat or inadvertently wipe it off.
What SPF cream is best?
Finding the best SPF cream is often a personal choice with factors to consider such as sensitivity to ingredients, what activities you are planning to do and the feel of the cream, gel or spray on your skin.
Many dermatologists, and healthcare organisations, such as The Skin Cancer foundation recommend using an SPF of at least 30. This, however, only refers to the amount of UVB rays that are blocked by the cream. UVA rays can also cause skin damage, in particular ageing and wrinkles. To protect against UVA rays, you will need to choose what is known as a ’broad spectrum’ cream. Some creams do list the coverage offered for both UVB and UVA rays, but this is not always the case, often it is just UVB rays.
Find a good lightweight cream that you are happy using on a regular basis, that offers good protection and does not react with your skin.
How can I protect myself against premature ageing in the sun?
While using an SPF is an important factor in protecting against sun damage and photoaging, this should be one of several measures you take to stay safe. During the sunny months or when on holiday try to:
- Avoid the hottest part of the day – Stay out of the sun between 10am and 4pm as this is when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- Cover up with light clothing – Protect your skin by wearing long, lightweight clothing that will also help to keep you cool.
- Seek shade – If you are outdoors, choose to sit or walk in the shade to avoid the intensity of the sun.
- Wear a hat – It will help to protect you against sunstroke as well as shield the delicate skin on your face and neck from the sun.
- Wear sunglasses – Not only will sunglasses help to avoid creases around the eyes from squinting in the sun, lenses that block UVB rays will protect the skin around the eye and your eye health.
- Stay hydrated – Water is vital to maintaining your health and wellbeing. It helps to keep the blood pumping around your body and works to keep your skin moisturised and subtle. Dehydrated skin will become dry and lose its elasticity.
Looking good and enjoying the sun should never mean compromising your health. It is never too late to change, so this year choose to protect your skin from harm and premature ageing with a decent SPF cream.
Dr Camilla Hill can offer advice on which SPF cream would complement your skin and help to protect it from ageing, as well as high quality and pharmaceutical grade skincare that can help to rehydrate skin and target pigmentation marks. This includes products such as Teoxane Advanced Perfecting Shield SPF 30, a tinted lotion loaded with anti-oxidants that will hydrate skin as well as protect it from sun damage.
If you are concerned about the appearance of sun spots or are interested in scientifically-proven skincare to improve the condition of your skin and to protect it, get in touch with Dr Camilla Hill.