In May each year the importance of using sun protection is thrust in our faces with the title ‘Skin Cancer Awareness Month’. Now, I and I’m guessing you, have always been aware of the importance of protecting my skin from burning and I have similarly known using sun beds is a bad idea but we all need to prep our skin for our Spanish get away, right? As a fair skinned woman, I have always tried to be vigilant by applying sun cream but I have always chosen the lowest possible factor I could get away with to avoid lobster-like blistering skin (been there, done that). However, in the last 6 months I have realised that sunning myself in moderation to achieve a ‘healthy glow’ is less than ideal. I have realised that I cannot rely on cosmetic products to provide enough sun protection but boy, what a cunning marketing strategy they have! In fact, it is only now that I realise that healthy glow isn’t just a sign to my buddies that I’ve been on holiday, but also a sign of my body trying to protect my DNA. That golden tan is a clever mechanism by our body to try and prevent our precious cells from mutating. This year it has felt closer to home and even more important than ever, as my Auntie was diagnosed with the early stages of melanoma. Luckily, she has made a full recovery but lucky is a rare word to use whilst describing a close encounter with the c word.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not here to lecture about the effects of sun damage (although, did you know UV radiation is responsible for 80% of premature ageing?) because on some level we all know our risk of skin cancer is higher with increased exposure. We just choose to ignore it. My husband was one of those people. He recoiled in horror at the idea of putting some sticky sun lotion on his face everyday and his excuse? He goes brown anyway. That’s a common response. I’ve heard them all. I look better with a tan. I don’t want a brown body and a pale face. It improves my skin. I could go on but I said I wouldn’t. We have trialled quite a few different brands, different textures, colours, consistencies, all in the name of science of course, and we have both settled on ones we like but they are vastly different. My choice is Obagi Sun Shield Matte 50. Its thicker and very white, almost like a sudocreme but nicer. I know what you’re thinking - ’No way am I wearing that!’ - but honestly, it absorbs amazingly well, gives me a lovely glow and contains some hero ingredients such as zinc oxide. The main benefits are that this sun protection is part chemical and part physical. Physical is key as this deflects UV rays, whereas chemical absorbs UV radiation and disperses it as heat. Zinc oxide gives superior protection from both UVB rays and UVA rays, meaning no premature ageing from the sun and no burning of the skin; if you follow the rules.
My husband will only wear PCA Skin SPF 30. This is like a moisturiser consistency because it contains less zinc oxide. It's still a fantastic SPF and recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, but won’t give as effective protection as the one I use. Obagi also do some amazing chemical SPF’s which combine l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or hydromanil for extra hydration. My point is, wearing an SPF does not have to remind you of the cheap goop your mum slapped on you at Butlins, which picked up every grain of sand and leaves you with a weird blue tinge.
Choosing the right product can be difficult and sometimes requires a trial and error approach, and a PhD to understanding the rating systems. I have listed some top tips and ways to debunk some of the mysteries around the information decorating each bottle:
-Wear at least an SPF 30; the SPF count is representative of UVB protection
-Make sure it protects ‘broad spectrum’ which means it covers UVB and UVA
- Wear a specifically designed SPF. Those in make-ups and primers etc are not adequate for lots of reasons
-No sunscreen is 100% waterproof
-Make sure the UVA label is in a circle, which represents the EU rating. This demonstrates that a third of the SPF protection is from UVA
-4 stars at least for UVA rating
-Apply to your face but do not neglect your neck and hands
-You need SPF even in winter
-Staying out of direct sunlight will always be better than any SPF
-Physical SPF is highly important for skin pathologies such as rosacea and pigmentation
-PA rating (PA+, PA++ and PA+++) was developed in Japan for determining UVA protection --UVA rays are responsible for cancers and premature skin ageing and so this is extremely important as they penetrate deeper into the skin
I will continue to wear my sun protection everyday, come rain or shine, literally. I really hope this will encourage everyone who reads it to make the changes to your regime. Please contact me for advice about products.