The sun, SPF and the impact it has on our skin
As the weather is becoming increasingly hotter, it is important to know how to look after your skin in the process of all this heat. Let’s take a walk through the educational side of UVB, UBA, the importance of SPF as well as putting a few myths to bed.
What is the difference between UVA and UVB?
UvB=Burning-The potent rays that are at the highest from 10am-4pm
UVB penetrates and damages the outermost layers of your skin. Overexposure causes suntan, sunburn and, in severe cases, blistering.
UVB is connected to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) on labels of sunscreen products. The SPF number tells you how long the sun’s radiation (including some of the UVA) would take to redden your skin when using that product compared to the time without sunscreen.
UVB rays can be filtered and do not penetrate glass.
UvA=Aging- Responsible for 95% of UV radiation
UVA rays cause tanning, and the shorter wavelengths of UVA also cause sunburn. UVA radiation is proven to contribute to the development of skin cancer.
UVA is connected to the “broad-spectrum protection” you see on the labels of sunscreen products. Early sunscreens only protected your skin from UVB rays, but once it was understood how dangerous UVA rays were, sunscreen manufacturers began adding ingredients to protect you from both UVB and UVA across this broader spectrum.
UVA can penetrate windows and cloud cover.
What does SPF stand for?
Believe it or not, this is a common question asked for those who are not into their skin care, SPF stands for “Sun Protection Factor”.
Why do we need SPF?
We need a good SPF to protect our skin and body against the harmful rays that the sun produces. SPF reduces the risk of skin cancer, aging, wrinkles and discolouration of the skin. We use moisturiser and a wider range of skincare products to protect us from these issues, but sunscreen is the biggest preventer of all of these concerns.
Why do we need to use SPF year round?
The ozone layer helps shield the earth by absorbing some of the UVB rays that transmit from the sun's harmful rays, however as the earth ages, so does this layer, it is depleting, creating an increase in more and more people suffering with UVB overexposure, this is why it is important to be fully protected, not just in the summer months but also the winter months too!
What does sun damage do to our skin?
Sun damage is one of the most common causes of premature aging, resulting in dynamic lines, wrinkles, pigmentation and overall skin discolouration and sun spots and skin cancer.
A great example below, this is an image of a 69 year old truck driver who suffers with unilateral dermatoheliosis (photo damage) you can see the significant difference in his appearance from his left to his right side, his left side shows deeper lines and thickened skin as a direct result of sun exposure, the elastic fibers in the skin can clearly be seen as damaged due to the thickness and deepness of the lines and wrinkles on this gentleman's skin.
What strength SPF do I need?
The number on the front of the SPF bottle is not the strength of SPF, in-fact pretty much all SPF bottles are the same strength bar a few % increase for the higher number, however, this stands for the time period you are covered for before you would start to burn.
For instance, if you were to go into the sun not protected and it took you 5 minutes before you would start to burn, a factor 15 would give you 15 x longer protection so actually taking you 75 minutes to burn instead, 20 would be 20 x times longer (100 minutes) and 30 would be 30 x longer (150 minutes) and so on, typically many people get this number confused with the strength and not the length.
Have you ever been burnt after applying SPF?
This could be due to the fact that the SPF is chemically enhanced, it could also be due to the fact that there was not enough bonding time between applying the SPF and being exposed to the sun.
Chemically enhanced SPF actually absorbs the UV rays by causing a chemical reaction, if there is not enough time from the application to exposure of the sun, then you would definitely see a burning reaction on the skin. Apply your SPF 15-20 minutes minutes before sun exposure and reapply according to the time guide.
Does SPF have a sell by date?
Yes! All SPF should be replaced no later than 12 months after opening, anything longer then the product will not provide protection against the harmful rays.
There are TikTok videos and endless conspiracy theories on how the sun is good for you and how we have been lied to and that it doesn’t contribute to skin cancer etc, EXCEPT, this needs to be understood first of all.
Yes the sunLIGHT is in fact good for you and is great source of vitamin D which we all need for a healthy immune system, mood boosting, lowering the risk of certain health issues and a good bone builder, HOWEVER, it is NOT the sunlight that is the issue, it is the UV rays that transmit from the sun, I will stress that these are 2 different things! So do NOT go into the sun unprotected thinking that this will actually improve your health as you are exposing yourself to unseen harmful UV rays, Do not listen to this type of advice!
So…as the weather heats up, make sure you apply your SPF daily, if you are unsure what SPF you need to be wearing, talk to your beauty advisor, skin consultant or a pharmacist. If you have any sun allergies like Solar Urticaria or Polymorphic Light Eruption then I would suggest an allergy based sunscreen. If you suffer with prickly heat then make sure your skin is softly exfoliated in the evening as this is due to sebaceous glands being blocked with sweat, a skin buffer and a good aloe vera gel in the summer evenings will help with the irritation of this.
Grab your sunscreens and have a great summer!
Kerry - UK Head of Training
If you are concerned about skin cancer or sun damage please book an appointment with your GP. You can also find lots of information here.