Sun protection 101: preventing and reversing sun damage

Despite being in lockdown, we hope you’re still soaking up your Vitamin D! Whilst Vitamin D is important for regulating calcium and phosphate in the body, and boosting a healthy immune system, it’s also important to balance your sun time with skin protection. Along with wearing a hat and staying in shaded areas during peak sun times, wearing an SPF is crucial. 

First, let’s take a look at the facts regarding SPF:

The facts:

  1. Anyone 12 months or older should use sun protection, daily!
  2. Sun damage is one of the highest causes of premature ageing in the skin. 
  3. After just 20 minutes in the sun, benefits that come from absorbing Vitamin D are trumped by the damage of the UV Rays.
  4. The SPF in your makeup is generally not enough sun protection for your face. Whilst it may be enough for a quick drive or taking a short walk outside, for longer periods of sun exposure, our skin needs something thicker and stronger. 
  5. Make sure you look out for not only UVB but also UVA. UVB refers to the shorter rays that cause redness and UVA’s relate to the effects of ageing. Also, UVA is the main wavelength that damages collagen and melanin in the skin, hence causing earlier signs of ageing and pigmentation. One trick to remember is that UVA’s age skin whilst UVB’s burn it. So protecting your skin from both is incredibly important.
  6. Reapplying is just as important as your initial application. Always read the label to ensure you are reapplying correctly.

What does SPF actually mean?

SPF refers to ‘sun protection factor’, so for example, we generally have 15+, 30+ and 50+ available here in Australia. These numbers are in relation to the amount of time it takes your skin to turn red. Essentially, if your skin takes 5 minutes to go red, a 15+ SPF will give you 15 times longer before your skin begins to burn, or an additional 75 minutes. A 30+ SPF will give you 30 times longer, or an additional 150 minutes.

woman applying skincare

What’s the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens?

PHYSICAL:

Physical sunscreens create a physical barrier between the sun and your skin. These are ideal for sensitive skin and children.

Physical sunscreen, such as zincs, allows UV rays to bounce off your skin, prohibiting it from penetrating into the deeper layers (dermis), slowing down ageing.

PROS: 

  • This is a more natural option for sun protection
  • Better prevention option for burning
  • UVB and UVA not entering skin as freely
  • Great for sensitive skin and for kids
  • Great for going to the beach/ if you’re in the sun for a prolonged period of time
  • Better for those with heat-activated skin (rosacea)
  • Longer shelf life

CONS: 

  • Can make your skin appear white (although there are tinted versions)
  • Feels a bit more greasy on oilier skin
  • You may experience flashback in photos

Ingredients to look for: Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide

CHEMICAL:

Chemical Sunscreens penetrate the epidermis and dermis within the skin, using chemical compounds within the skin along with on the surface to absorb the sun’s rays before they can penetrate the dermis and as a result, damage your precious skin!

PROS

  • Doesn’t leave your skin white
  • Flash photo friendly
  • Easy for skincare companies to incorporate within a moisturiser
  • It can be used in conjunction with a physical sunscreen to create a double level of protection
  • Less sunscreen is needed and it spreads more easily on the skin

CONS: 

  • Less natural, more likely to cause sensitivities
  • Not the best form of sunscreen for people with allergies to sunscreen 
  • Needs at least 20 minutes to sit on the skin before it becomes active

WHICH TYPE OF SUNSCREEN IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

If you’re going to be photographed - It’s a myth that all sunscreens will cause ‘flashback’ in your photos on a balmy afternoon. Opt for a chemical based SPF (not Zinc). This will not flash-back and will still protect your skin!

If you have sensitive skin - Try a mineral or a zinc-based sunscreen.

If you’re active -  Enjoy a daily run in the sunshine or swimming in the beach? Opt for a physical/zinc based sunscreen to avoid burning. 

If you’re pregnant -  Opt for a physical sunscreen. For the pregnant ladies out there, we know how much your baby’s health, along with your skin matters. Firstly, don’t stop wearing sunscreen all together - pregnancy hormones can cause pigmentation (chloasma) so protecting your skin from sun damage as much as possible will help control that. Secondly, make sure your SPF doesn’t list oxybenzone in its ingredients. This chemical that absorbs into your skin has been linked to low birth weights and can interfere with the body’s hormones, so it’s best to avoid it.

Also, don’t forget about your lips!

Lips can also experience sun damage. Look out for a lip balm that contains SPF to truly nourish your lips during the warmer months. An SPF can also help to heal cracks and redness in your lips.

Sun damage

What if I’m already experiencing sun damage?

If you’re already experiencing sun damage, here are some products and treatments we recommend.

Treatments 

Lactic Peels

A lactic peel can truly work wonders! They work by exfoliating the top layers of your skin, evening out your skin tone, intensely hydrating the skin and allowing the absorption of future ingredients to penetrate more effectively. Lactic peels are the ultimate in-between treatment to prepare the skin for a more in-depth peel by stimulating its regenerative and healing properties.

Vitamin A Treatment/Peels

A Vitamin A treatment or peel is a real game changer! We like to call it the “power peel”, as it delivers incredible results quickly. These treatments are potent with retinol and lactic acid. Your skin will shed to a renewed appearance. They also stimulate collagen and elastin production, along with boosting cell turnover to visibly reduce pigmentation as well as the signs of ageing.

IPL

This is an excellent choice for sun damage. Light energy penetrates below the skin's surface, where the unwanted pigment (melanin) lives. The pigment works its way up to the surface and forms a crust which flakes off in about 1 week.

Products 

Cosmedix Simply Brilliant Brightening Serum

  • Includes lactic and salicylic acid 
  • Refines texture and improves penetration of brightening ingredients

Aspect Dr Complete Pigment Plus Serum

  • Includes a potent amino acid, which acts as a pigment inhibitor
  • Includes lactic acid, vitamin C and B to deliver nutrients and aid in absorption. These key products are our pigment inhibitors, which stop melanocytes from forming further and creating more pigment. We call this a “tyrosinase inhibitor”, that prevents excess and future pigment from forming.
  • Tyrosinase is produced by melanocyte cells. It is transferred to melanosomes - where the melanin (pigment) is formed.
  • These pigment blockers should be used instead of hydroquinone to improve dull, hyper pigmented and photo-damaged skin. 

Cosmedix Define, Aspect Retinol Brulee or Aspect Dr Exfol A Plus Serum

  • Vitamin A/ Retinol helps to speed up the cell renewal process, therefore making the skin work harder 
  • Absorbed directly into the nucleus of the cell, which will help inhibit tyrosinase production. 

What if I’m sunburnt?

The best ways to treat your sunburn straight away are:

  • Cool your body down!
  • If you’re by a pool, take a quick dip to cool your body and then get away from the sun. If not, use cold compresses to cool your body.

  • Moisturise
  • Moisturise your skin while it's damp. Use a gentle moisturiser - avoid petroleum or oil-based products.

  • Stay hydrated
  • Burn draws the skin's fluid to the surface and away from the rest of your body, therefore dehydrating you. Make sure you replenish your body by drinking plenty of water, and even trying a sports drink to boost your electrolytes.

     Want to find out more about your skin than what's on the surface? Discover what a VISIA Skin Analysis could tell you about your skin.