I know it sounds obvious, but really the best way to repair from sun damage is to avoid it all together. We have talked about the benefits of sunscreen and antioxidants, but I really wanted to break down sunscreen to the nitty gritty so you understand how you are protecting your skin. I attended a skincare conference recently and was fascinated by the discussion on sunscreen. I thought I would review and share some of the great information so you can arm yourself for the rest of the summer! I know it has not been particularly warm and sunny but nevertheless, lets give it a go.
First and foremost it is important to note that not all sunrays are considered equal. There are two different types of rays that can be harmful to our skin, ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB).
UVA rays are long wave, meaning they penetrate deeper and can damage the dermis of the skin, which is its thickest layer. It's these rays that contribute to premature aging and wrinkling of the skin (photoaging). UVB is made up of shorter waves, which tend to target the more superficial layers of the skin. This type of ray is what can cause a burn, but both rays can play a role in the development of skin cancer. It is important to note that UVB rays can change in intensity depending on the season, and the time of day.
When reaching for a sunscreen, all of us are aware of the term SPF. Most likely, it is this number that drives your choice of sun protection. SPF stands for sun protection factor. Sunscreens typically are classified by their SPF number, which refers to their ability to reflect UVB rays, NOT UVA (this protection is not yet rated). This number is calculated by the amount of time it takes to burn sun-protected skin vs. unprotected skin. This is why it becomes extremely important to choose a broad-spectrum (or full-spectrum) sunscreen because it will provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays which is great, because although avoiding a burn is helpful, avoiding premature aging is important too. You must use a product with an SPF of 15 or higher to effectively protect against a sunburn and to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
So now that we know that a broad-spectrum sunscreen is a must, lets do a quick review of traditional vs. mineral protection. Using a traditional sunscreens will absolutely provide you with sun protection, however traditional sunscreens use chemically active ingredients to absorb the UV rays. Mineral based sunscreens on the other hand, are typically referred to as physical blocks because they use active ingredients like Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which act by scattering the UV rays, rather than absorbing them.
The take home here is really that protection is important, but beyond that, broad spectrum protection, with an SPF greater than 15 is ideal. To reduce your chemical intake, opt for a mineral based sunscreen which offers just as much protection.