How The Sun Ages Your Skin - And What To Do About It
Did you know 90% of the visible signs of ageing are due to sun damage?
If that’s not an excellent reason to commit to using SPF every day, we don’t know what is! Let’s take a look at why sun protection is non-negotiable if you want healthy skin (ps - you do!) and the science behind sunscreen.
The difference between UVA and UVB rays
Your skin is exposed to two types of UV rays on a daily basis - UVA and UVB.
It’s important to understand the different ways they damage the skin to make the best sun protection choices.
Let’s start with UVA.
UVA is a long wave ultraviolet ray (that accounts for 95% of the sun’s rays) with the ability to penetrate deep into the layers of skin where it damages your skin’s structural protein - collagen.
As a result, skin begins to lose its elasticity and firmness, leading to premature sagging and wrinkles.
UVA is not filtered by glass, which means it can damage your skin even indoors, for example, if your desk at work is near a window or driving in the car.
Changes in the skin caused by UVA rays: Speeds up the signs of premature ageing; fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots, rough skin, immediate tanning, and some skin cancers.
UVB on the other hand accounts for 5% of the sun’s rays and with shorter wavelengths, these rays can’t penetrate the skin as deeply. UVB affects the top layer of skin cells but that doesn’t mean it can’t do serious damage!
Changes in skin caused by UVB ray: sunburn, blistering, and skin that is hot and painful to touch. UVB cause most skin cancers, including melanoma.
Now we’ve looked a little at the damage caused by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, let’s move on to sun protection and a few facts about sunscreen you need to know to make the right choice for your skin.
The Difference Between Physical and Chemical Sunscreen
Sunscreen falls into 2 different categories; physical sunscreen (also known as mineral sunscreen) and chemical sunscreen. Both interact with and protect the skin in different ways.
Chemical sunscreen sinks into the skin and protects it by actually absorbing UV rays, converting them to heat and releasing the heat from your skin.
This reaction (converting UV to heat) can cause irritation like redness, burning and rashes for some skin types.
Chemical sunscreens also contain synthetic ingredients, including two of the most common found in chemical sunscreen formulations; oxybenzone and octinoxate.
On a side note, research has found oxybenzone and octinoxate to be damaging to reefs and marine environments when it washes off skin and into the water.
Unlike chemical sunscreens, physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin and provide protection by reflecting and scattering UV rays from the skin’s surface.
The main ingredients in physical sunscreens are a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, natural UV blockers.
Zinc oxide is the star of the show, providing the best broad-spectrum protection (more on that in a moment) found in nature.
Gone are the days when ‘zinc’ meant pasty white skin - or big streaks of bright colour across your face... #how80s. Advanced formulating methods means zinc oxide is included in many sunscreens without the chalky white aftermath.
What is broad-spectrum protection?
If a sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection this means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
The SPF rating only relates to the protection provided against UVB rays; many people don’t realise this but it’s important to know when making a decision about which sunscreen to choose.
So even if a sunscreen has a high SPF rating, if it isn’t broad-spectrum, it will only protect you against UVB rays, not the deeper penetrating UVA.
Here’s a short cut to decode the SPF rating;
- SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and
- SPF 50 blocks approximately 98% of UVB rays
The Skin Cancer Foundation Australia recommends SPF 15 as ideal for everyday use, and occasional exposure, but if you’re spending extended time in the sun, SPF30+ is recommended.
Bottom line? Always choose broad-spectrum protection!
Tips for soothing after sun skin
If you’ve had a little too much sun, here’s a few tips for soothing irritated skin and potentially minimising future damage.
Hydrate with natural products
Heat, chlorine, salty sea water, wind and sand will all dry out your skin and topping up hydration levels is key.
Replenish your complexion with ingredients that will deliver a boost of hydration like aloe vera (a hero after sun ingredient), rosehip oil, our french plum kernel oil and hyaluronic acid . You can also keep a refreshing, hydrating face mist handy to spritz your skin throughout the day. We recommend our Organic Rose Water + Witch Hazel Toner Mist.
Gently cleanse and moisturise
The combination of sunscreen and salt water definitely needs to be washed away as soon as possible after your beach day.
Use a gentle cleanser and don’t forget to moisturise your face and body immediately after the shower. Moisturising while skin is still damp locks hydration before water evaporates off the skin.
Avoid excessive exfoliation
It can be tempting to immediately reach for an exfoliant to buff away any patches of peeling skin, but you could be doing more harm than good.
Strong scrubs and exfoliation mitts can aggravate skin and cause more soreness and irritation. Let your skin flake away naturally and encourage gentle removal with an organic muslin face cloth.
Use a serum to balance skin
After a long day in the sun, your skin is likely to feel more stressed than usual. Adding a serum to your post-sun routine will deliver a much needed hit of nutrients to calm and rebalance skin.
Our Simply Detox Serum Gel is 100% plant-based and formulated with Aloe Vera gel, another adaptogenic plant extract that can bring balance and hydration to skin.
Now you’ve got your sun protection sorted, get out there and enjoy this beautiful season!
“Summer has filled her veins with light and her heart is washed with noon.” – C. Day Lewis