It is easy to understand the importance of a good quality dermatologically recognised sunscreen, but do we really understand what antioxidants do for our skins? Let’s compare the two and see the importance of using both in our daily skincare regimes.
No matter what your skin tone or colour, every skin needs protection from the sun. It is a common misconception that darker skin colours are safe from the harmful rays of the sun; this couldn’t be further from the sun. In fact, darker colours absorb more light and heat from the sun compared to lighter colours, however lighter colours show damage more easily.
But what exactly is a “sunscreen”? A sunscreen is a topically applied substance (generally a lotion) which provides protection for your skin by absorbing and/or reflecting UVA and UVB radiation. All sunscreen have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating. The SPF rating provides an indication of how long a sunscreen remains effective on the skin. You can easily determine how long a sunscreen will be effective by multiplying the SPF factor by the length of time it takes for you to suffer a burn without sunscreen. For example, if you normally develop a sunburn within 10 minutes without wearing a sunscreen, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will provide protection for 150 minutes (10 minutes multiplied by the SPF of 15). Unfortunately, no sunscreen is able to completely block out all wavelengths of UV light, but applying a sunscreen will definitely help minimise sun damage. Wearing sun protective clothing and avoiding sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will also help protect your skin from overexposure and minimize sun damage.
It is important to keep in mind that not all sunscreens are created equal. The best sunscreen will vary from person to person. It is recommend investing in a broad spectrum sunscreen providing UVA and UVB protection, a SPF rating of at least 30 and is gentle enough for daily use.
Active ingredients of sunscreens vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and are divided into chemical and physical agents. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the energy of UV radiation before it affects your skin whereas Physical sunscreens reflect or scatter UV radiation before it reaches your skin. Some sunscreens combine both chemical and physical sunscreen properties.
The two types of physical sunscreens are mainly comprised of either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Both are able to provide broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection and are gentle enough for everyday use. Because these are physical blocking agents and not chemicals, they are especially useful for individuals with sensitive skin, as they rarely cause skin irritation.
Most chemical sunscreens are composed of several active ingredients. This is because no single chemical ingredient is able to block the entire UV spectrum (unlike physical sunscreens). Instead, most chemicals only block a narrow region of the UV spectrum. Therefore, by combining several chemicals with each one blocking a different region of UV light, manufacturers are able to produce a sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection. The majority of chemical agents used in sunscreens work in the UVB region. Only a few chemicals block the UVA region.
Sunscreens are available in a variety of forms; lotions, oils, sticks, gels, sprays and creams. However, sunscreens are only effective if they are used. We encourage you to try several types and find the one which works and feels the best to you. All sunscreens should be applied 15-20 minutes prior to sun exposure to allow a protective film to develop, then reapplied after water contact and sweating. Some sunscreens can lose their effectiveness after two hours, so reapply frequently. In general, spray lotions and gels are the least oily but also the ones that wash off more easily and need to be reapplied more frequently.
Water resistant sunscreens are available for active individuals or those involved in water sports. It’s important to check the label to ensure they say “water-resistant” or “very water-resistant.”
- Water-Resistant sunscreenmaintains the SPF level after 40 minutes of water immersion
- Very Water-Resistantsunscreen maintains the SPF level after 80 minutes of water immersion
Now, let’s have a look at antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the skin by limiting the production of free radicals, which damage skin cells. Antioxidants found in skin care products do a lot for the health and appearance of your skin, including reducing the signs of aging, calming inflamed skin and tightening and toning. Oxidation is largely caused by the creation of free radicals at the cellular level when skin is exposed to ultraviolet light. Antioxidants function to reduce oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals – unstable molecules that have a free electron in their outermost shell, similar to a knife without a sheath. The antioxidants act to envelop the knife, binding with the unstable electron and preventing it from attacking collagen strands and other cells of the skin’s structures.
Antioxidants are compounds such as vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q10, idebenone, zinc, copper and beta carotene. Beauty companies are harnessing these, as well as the antioxidants from an increasing range of botanicals such as green tea, pomegranates, coffee berries, grape seeds, olives, mushrooms and more.
Antioxidants have many more benefits including, reducing age-spots and acne, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin tone and texture and increasing collagen production.
It is now easy to see the importance of having both internal and external skin protection from the environment around us. Quality products play an important role in achieving the desired results as well as having the correct product recommendations from your skincare professional.
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