Sunlight that gets through the atmosphere to ground level is known as UV rays – UV standing for Ultra Violet, meaning the rays have a shorter wavelength than our eyes can see (we can see the colors of the rainbow, but not outside that range). But just because we can’t see them does not mean they are not real – and potentially very dangerous. Pigmentation treatment Sydney use a laser for removing unwanted pigmentation on the skin such as age spots, sun spots, and freckles.
This UV radiation is divided into two types, which scientists creatively have called A and B – so we have UVA and UVB rays.
UVB rays vary according to the time of day and amount of sunlight, and are the main causes of classic sunburn and skin cancers. They are at their strongest when the sun is high in the sky during the middle of the day, on clear days, and can reflect off things like water and snow to magnify their effect.
UVA rays on the other hand are present all the time during daylight, and are just as much a threat, especially because many people don’t realize these UVA rays penetrate clouds, glass (including car windows as well as office windows), and often even light clothing. While UVA rays may not give you sunburn like a day at the beach, these rays are the primary cause of skin aging – so unless you want to look like a prune by age 40, it is just as important to protect against UVA.
SPF ratings, however apply only to the UVB protection level. The rating or “SPF Factor” indicates the percentage of UVB being blocked out by a particular sunscreen. But it’s a logarithmic scale and not a linear one, so be aware of this!
Here’s how to work it out. A sunscreen marked as SPF 2, will only block 50 per cent of UVB light. The lowest factor generally recommended by the medical profession, SPF 15, will block out around 93 per cent of UVB, while a screen with an SPF of 30 will prevent 97 per cent of UVB rays reaching the skin.
It does NOT mean that a sun screen labeled as SPF 60 will be twice as effective or protect you for twice the time of the SPF 30. Once you get above the SPF30 rating, the increase in effectiveness can be quite small and gets smaller the higher you go, and although used as a marketing tool the difference in practice between, say, SPF50 and SPF100 is negligible.
Unfortunately for UVA protection – the predominant cause of skin aging – there is no universally recognized rating system and many manufacturers provide their own “self-rating”. The only way you as the consumer can judge how believable this is lies in your view of the brand, how reliable you think the marketing materials are, and most importantly what you can learn from the ingredients.
The best way to determine whether a product will block UVA light is by inspecting the ingredients contained within it. The most commonly used and most effective ingredients to block UVA currently in use are avobenzone, titanium dioxide and/ or zinc oxide.
A more recent development has been mexoryl, which according to many researchers, is the most effective protection against UVA so far developed. This ingredient has been available outside the US for some years and has now been approved by the US FDA as an ingredient in sunscreens.
Another key factor that is as crucial as the SPF itself is how, and how often the sun screen is applied. Unless the product is a premium cream designed to be used sparingly, sunscreens should be applied generously; they should be reapplied after bathing or swimming even if they claim to be “waterproof”, and – most importantly – don’t reserve the use of sunscreen for special occasions. Remember UVA can cause your skin to age as quickly while you are gardening, walking the dog, driving or sitting in your office during the day – even if it’s cloudy or cold – as a summer day beside the pool or at the beach.
While most sunscreens are designed specifically for this purpose, considering the need for everyday protection we are seeing the increasing popularity of premium daytime moisturizing treatments – especially natural moisturizing products with UV protection built in as a way of having one product undertake two roles, without compromising on either.
Three Defenses – All Should be Used
Sun screens should not be regarded as the only defense against the damage caused by UV rays – they should, in fact, form one part of a three line defense – none of which you should skip. Defense number two is to avoid UVB rays by not going out into the sun in the hottest part of the day (around 11am – 3pm) and if you do, stick to the shade, use a sun umbrella and so on where you can. Thirdly, cover up! Wear a broad brimmed hat, cover as much skin as you can with clothing, and pay especial attention to making sure children have and wear the necessary hats and clothing as well.
This isn’t something to be taken lightly, as anyone who has seen first hand the effects of melanoma, or skin cancers. Everyone should adopt a regular care routine that involves the use of products with adequately high SPFs with the other defenses of avoidance and adequate clothing, and it is absolutely vital that this must not be brushed off lightly.
And let’s address some of the myths surrounding sunscreens. To begin with, just because a product is marked as being waterproof does not mean it will not need to be reapplied after having a dip. The majority of products undergo only 80 minute tests, and it is essential to reapply them every two hours to maintain optimal protection. Even after exercise or sweating a lot, the chances are most of the protection will have disappeared – so reapply the sunscreen.
Another myth is the “healthy tan”. You tan because the skin produces more of a dark pigment called melanin, as a means of protecting itself from further damage. Getting a tan means damaging your skin enough that it tries to protect itself from further damage – that could hardly be termed “healthy”!
Another dangerous practice is to try to get a so-called “base tan” to protect them while on holiday. The fact is, all tanning is potentially harmful and this practice simply exposes the person to greater risk. This is why sun screens should be applied daily and throughout the year, both indoors and outdoors.
And don’t believe that if you already have darker colored skin that you are immune – or even better protected – from UV damage, as this is simply not the case. Because of this myth people with darker skins are often diagnosed too late for simple treatment of skin cancers, as the early warning signs have been dismissed. And it is those with naturally darker skin who are most likely to have problems with hyper-pigmentation or melasma.
Another common mistake is dig out the previous years’ sun screens for use. This is a bad practice because the molecules within the products break down and lose their efficiency over time. Even if the sun screen is still within a stated expiry date, it should be examined for separation or other visible changes in appearance before use. If such signs are apparent, it should be discarded as environmental conditions may have affected it and rendered it useless before the expiry date. Extreme heat or exposure of the container to the sun may cause these effects, for example.
If one piece of advice from reading this article stays with you, then go to your medicine cabinet; your car glovebox; your picnic and camping equipment; your bedroom and kitchen drawers; and all the places you have stashed sunscreens. You will probably be embarrassed at the expiry dates on some of it. Sunscreen tubes and bottles are not precious family heirlooms to be hoarded and passed to the next generation. Put them all into a trash bag, and dump them unless they are less than a year old and in perfect condition. Period.
For men and women with thinning hair, or those naturally bald or with saved or very short hair, you should not overlook the use of a sunscreen to protect the scalp, however there is a recent and revolutionary scientific breakthrough that is proving the most effective approach yet devised. It goes by the acronym H.A.T. – no, this is not a clever Hormone Activation Treatment or any such thing. HAT stands for hat – preferably with a brim to share the face, ears and neck. Wear it!
Finally, many individuals fear possible side effects caused by chemicals such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Although this remains a matter of some debate, the general consensus is that micronized physical blocks like this do not get absorbed into the skin, but remain on top, where they reflect sunlight as part of their action.
In fact, few, if any, of the chemicals in sun screens are actually absorbed by the body to any noticeable extent. There is no doubt that the benefits of sensible use of a sunscreen well outweigh the possible risks, and to put this in perspective there is greater toxicity and potential damage to your body in wearing sunscreen for a day than drinking a martini – olive or not.
On that note, as the sun is over the yardarm, I think I will leave you to think about sunscreen, while I decide whether to add an olive or not.
David Christensen is Managing Director of Royal Siam Natural Health and Beauty ( [http://www.royalsiam.asia] ), manufacturer of premium skincare and related health and beauty products. Royal Siam was formed to commercialize and bring to the global market the wealth of knowledge – built up over more than 800 years of written records – into the healing and beneficial effects of more than 3000 plants and herbs that can be found in South East Asia, centering around what is now Thailand. Not only does Royal Siam have this unique perspective and product range based on organic, natural ingredients but the company has tapped into the very latest in scientific developments from around the world in fields such as anti-aging, nanotechnology, pharmacology, and biotechnology to include within the product range some of the most advanced skincare and anti-aging products available on the market. Truly the best of nature, tradition and modern science. Included among these leading edge products is Royal Siam’s Day Long Moisturizer with UV Protection of SPF100++ (protection against UVA and UVB rays). This product combines a premium facial moisturizer that will rejuvenate and protect the face for an entire day in harsh conditions (air conditioning, pollution, dust, wind etc) – but also offer one of the highest levels of UV protection that can be found on the market. Royal Siam products can easily be purchased online at [http://www.royalsiam.asia] and can be shipped anywhere for a modest cost.
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