As the weather starts to warm up, and the sun begins to shine the simple answer to summer beauty is glowing golden brown skin. There are plenty of reasons to love the sun, a couple of which are that it boosts our levels of serotonin revitalising and uplifting our moods and produces vitamin D, which is great for the mind, bones and skin. However, with the good comes the bad; over exposure from the sun can lead to premature ageing and a higher risk of different forms of skin cancer. Research has shown that whilst we might think we know how to safely obtain that sun-kissed glow, our lack of understanding of sun creams means that most of us are not getting the protection our skin needs. According to a survey of 2,000 British adults, conducted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, only 8% knew the true meaning of the SPF rating on a skincare label. They also did not know that a completely separate star rating indicated the level of protection from harmful UVA rays. Do you know your UVA from your UVB, or what SPF really means? Here we will break it down for you with an emphasis on the importance of SPF, which will prepare you for a fabulous healthy summer glow. Sun care terminology:
- SPF: SPF is an acronym for sun protection factor and refers to mainly to UVB rays only, and more accurately reflects the sunburn potential potential factor. The number indicates the level of protection offered, the scale ranges from 2 to 50+, with 50+ offering the strongest form of protection. The stars on sunfactor range from 0 to 5 and indicate the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB. It is important to use a broad spectrum SPF which protects against UVA and UVB radiation or an SPF of 30 with 4-5 stars in addition to protective shade and clothing. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB radiation, SPF 30 blocks out 97% of UVB radiation.
- UVA + UVB: UV radiation is transmitted from the sun in 3 wavelengths, UVA, UVB and UVC (UVC rays are the most harmful of the 3, however the radiation does not penetrate the earth’s atmosphere so we do not need to protect against it). UVA rays (think A for ageing) are the ones associated with skin ageing and wrinkles, and account for up to 95% of UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. UVA radiation will affect the elastin in the skin, leading to wrinkles and sun induced ageing such as leathery skin and brown pigmentation, as well as skin cancer. UVA rays can penetrate the skin even in cloudy, rainy weather. UVB rays (think B for Burn) are responsible for sunburn and can be linked to malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma risk (types of skin cancer). This type of radiation can affect you more quickly than UVA and will the damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers causing the skin to become red with overexposure.
- Physical Sunscreen: Physical sunscreen blocks UV radiation immediately. They usually contain titanium or zinc oxide and work by reflecting the sun rays. This is the preferred protection for younger children. It can leave a white film on the face if it is not micronized.
- Chemical Sunscreen: Chemical sunscreens act as a filter to inhibit UV radiation penetration and needs to be absorbed 30 minutes before sun exposure. It is more difficult to have broad spectrum protection with chemical sunscreens.