We all know we need to apply sunscreen daily - RIGHT?
I visited my dermatologist this morning to check a slightly dodgy-looking growth on my skin. Much to my amazement (and initial frustration!), I received a lecture on taking care of my skin. Yes, me, a beauty journalist who at this stage in my life, and career, should know what to do! I was told in no uncertain terms that if I truly wanted to take care of my skin then I needed to use adequate sun protection every day, without fail. I became quite defensive but soon realised there was little point as she could clearly see the damage.
So I reckon, rightly or otherwise, that I if (who writes about this sort of stuff for a living and has interviewed the experts) needs some guidance – then you could do with it too.
It’s a minefield out there, so in brief:
Almost NO ONE (possibly my fab dermatologist Dr Rosemary Coleman excepted) uses enough sunscreen. So even if you don’t leave the house without applying your SPF30+ or SPF50, chances are you are NOT using enough.
The Australian SunSmart programme (the appointed WHO Collaborating Centre for UV Radiation) recommends that the average-sized adult should apply approximately 35ml of sunscreen for one full-body application; that is a lot more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen (about 3ml) to each arm and the face/neck, and just over one teaspoon (6ml) to each leg, the front of the body and the back of the body. That’s a lot of sunscreen everyday.
What the labels mean:
UVA: These rays penetrate the skin more deeply, damaging cells and causing premature ageing (think A for Ageing).
UVB: the rays that hit the top layer of the skin causing sun burn (Think B for Burn). UVB can burn and damage skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces such as snow or ice, which bounce back up to 80 per cent of these rays so they hit the skin twice.
Broad spectrum: Sunscreen that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
Sunscreen filters fall into two broad categories: chemical and physical (often marketed as ‘natural’). Most UV filters are chemical (e.g. octinoxate or avobenzone) – they work by forming a thin, protective film on the skin’s surface and absorbing the UV radiation before it penetrates the skin. Physical barriers (including micronised zinc oxide and/
or titanium oxide) are insoluble particles that reflect UV away from the skin. To ensure you are getting effective UVA and UVB coverage, always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF30 or higher (50 according to Dr Coleman) plus some combination of UVA-screening ingredients such as stabilised avobenzone, ecamsule (mexoryl), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. There are so many effective and competitively priced sunscreens on the market now, so no excuse not to use them.
Every time you venture into the sea (or pool) the water surface will bounce the sun’s rays back at you – meaning you are effectively under the sun for double the time. Use a water- resistant sunscreen and if it says to reapply after 2 hours – that is what you do.
That’s it in a nutshell. Much of this extracted from my latest book Your Middle Years (Gill Books) written with Irish-based Dietitian Paula Mee. If you have adequately protected your skin through the years – congratulations – your face will show the difference. To quote my wise Doc: “The abdominal skin of an 80-year-old, which has never seen the light of day, is as smooth, thick and firm a”s that of an 18-year-old.” Yes, photodamage is totally under our control.
Enjoy the sunshine!