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After 2 long years of lockdowns and disappointments, we are finally starting to get our lives back and go on those long awaited holidays and spend some well deserved time in tun. Make no mistake, I am right at the front of the queue when it comes to a perfect mojito by the pool, but I never forget to protect my skin from the damaging effects of the sun.
In addition to that roasted red appearance, exposure to UV radiation is the single greatest extrinsic contributor to skin ageing all the way from the surface to the deeper layers of the dermis, even breaking down the skin’s DNA.
Canadian truck driver Bill McElligott, 69, has unilateral dermatoheliosis. Essentially, ultraviolet A (UVA) rays transmitted through the window of his delivery truck have severely damaged the skin on the left side of his face during the 28 years he has spent driving on the job (https://www.huffpost.com/archive/ca/entry/bill-mcelligott-delivery-truck-driver-has-severe-sun-damage-on_n_1573546)
The impact is seen straight away as you begin to develop a suntan. That deepening pigmentation is caused by the increased production of melanin, a process kickstarted by the skin’s cells to safeguard against further harm. Over time, UV radiation degrades the collagen and elastin fibres that form the skin’s structure and give youthful skin its plump, taut appearance. That loss of elasticity gradually yields the hallmarks of age – fine lines, wrinkles and sagginess, in addition to hyperpigmentation, broken capillaries and uneven skin texture. More dangerously, if the skin’s DNA sustains enough long term damage, the cells multiply and grow uncontrollably and can lead to cancer.
Have I ruined your summer plans yet?!
All is not lost however, there’s no need to confine yourself indoors during the hot sunny days, you just need to be more careful about it. The UK NHS advice on sun safety includes the following suggestions: spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm, cover up areas prone to burning with suitable clothing, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses, and using at least factor 30 sunscreen.
This final piece of advice is by far the best and most effective solution if you do find yourself out and about with lack of shade, and SPF is a vital product in all anti ageing regimes. It can be difficult to choose the right product, especially as there are so many out there screaming for your attention, so I am going to break it down for you to help ensure you are guaranteed the best protection for your skin.
In the UK, sunscreens bear 2 important ratings – an SPF between 2 and 50+ and a UVA star rating out of five. SPF represents how long it would take for your skin to burn with versus without sunscreen applied. For example SPF30 means if applied correctly, it will take 30 times longer for you to burn than with no SPF. The higher the UVA rating, the better the protection against the ageing effects of the sun’s radiation. I would recommend always aiming for a five star rating where possible, and an SPF of at least 30.
The next choice you have to make is whether to go for a chemical or physical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens are the most commonly used and recommended by The British Skin Foundation. They work by absorption of UV light and releasing is in heat form. It needs to be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure and is favoured due to its thinner texture and easy to spread application. However, due to the chemicals composition of these sunscreens they can be ‘used up’ more quickly when in direct sun and therefore more regular application is required. They can also cause more skin irritation referred to as ‘irritant contact dermatitis’ due to the combination of ingredients and UV light.
Mineral, or physical sunscreens, work by absorbing and then scattering or deflecting the UV radiation, whilst also absorbing the UV light and releasing it as heat. The two main chemicals used in these products are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and these products act quicker than chemical sunscreens and provide immediate protection. They also tend to last longer in the sun, but are washed off when they come into contact with sweat and water which is important to understand as this will mean regular reapplication is vital. They are less irritant on the skin but can leave a whitish cast on the skin, although some brands have added a tinted option to their range so that you can still appear sun kissed without the damage!
Whatever option you go for, just make sure you’re consistent which means you can enjoy every sunny day we have coming up without worrying about adding any extra wrinkles for me to fix! xx
Frequently Asked Questions
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the primary extrinsic factor contributing to skin ageing. Extended exposure can result in a loss of skin elasticity, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, broken capillaries, and uneven skin texture.
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK recommends several sun safety practices. Between 11 am to 3 pm, it’s best to stay in the shade. Ensure you wear suitable clothing that covers areas prone to burns, along with wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Regular application of a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 is also crucial.