When faced with a shelf of suncreams, how on earth are you supposed to pick which one to go for? There’s a plethora of choice out there from sprays versus creams, once only applications or whether to throw some fake tan into the mix; and that’s before you’ve even considered SPF and UVA/B.
Choosing the right suncream, however, is one of the most important decisions to make before your holiday, so it’s worth taking the time to find out exactly what you’re buying, and how it’s going to protect your skin.
WHAT’S THAT ABOUT UVA?!
Most bottles of suncream have shiny logos stating they are UVA protective, but who really knows what this means? There’s a serious lack of information out there for people to make informed decisions about what they’re buying- they may as well say ABC.
So let’s break it down.
The skin has two layers, the epidermis which is the top layer, and the dermis which is the deeper layer. The epidermis contains three types of cell, but the most important one for you to know about are the melanocytes. These cells make a pigment called melanin which is produced when the skin is exposed to the sun, and it’s this pigment which causes you to tan.
The two types of damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation are UVA and UVB. The UVB rays only get absorbed by epidermis, so it’s the UVB rays which cause sunburn and tanning. Even though the melanin stops you from burning as easily, it won’t stop the harmful effects of the rays.
On the other hand, the UVA rays pass deeper into the skin and are absorbed by the dermis. These reduce the elasticity in the skin, causing the wrinkles you get from too much sun exposure.
Both UVA and UVB increase your risk of skin cancer so it’s important to protect against both of them.
SPF= Sun Protection Factor
The SPF is the amount of protection from UVB. The higher the number, the higher your level of protection. You should always use at least SPF15, but I’d always go for at least SPF30 to protect my skin as much as possible.
UVA protection is measured in stars from 0-5. Aim for at least 4 stars to ensure good protection and prevent wrinkles and ageing skin.
Remember using suncream is not an alternative to avoiding the sun and doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun for longer!
DRINKABLE SUNSCREEN CLAIMS
You may have seen recent claims in the Daily Mail about a new drinkable sunscreen which you can you use instead of cream. I’m obviously rather dubious when the first time I’ve heard about an amazing new medical discovery is in the Daily Mail rather than a medical journal. As I guessed, these drinkable sunscreens have absolutely no medical evidence behind them. I would strongly urge you to read this article from the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) which as well as being highly amusing, illustrates why you should avoid these drinkable sunscreens at all costs.
Sunbeds are increasing in popularity in the UK, especially amongst young people on a quest for that elusive “healthy glow.” Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing healthy about using a sunbed and they should be avoided at all costs.
Sunbeds have been shown to significantly increase your risk of malignant melanoma, which is the most serious, potentially fatal, type of skin cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that if your first use of a sunbed was before the age of 35, your risk of developing malignant melanoma increases by 75%.
That number is simply astounding to me, as I’m sure it is to you. I will most definitely be sticking to the fake stuff.
BUT WHAT ABOUT VITAMIN D?
Vitamin D is made in the skin through exposure to sunlight and is essential to maintain healthy bones. Some vitamin D can be absorbed through the diet, but this is really quite minimal compared to the amount made in the skin. Wearing suncream although essential for preventing skin cancer, blocks the UV rays which are necessary for making vitamin D.
I expect you’re thinking this is bit of a problem considering I’ve just been telling you how important it is to use suncream. Don’t worry though, you don’t need much sun exposure to make adequate vitamin D. It’s recommended that between April and September you should get direct sunlight on your face and forearms 2-3 times a week for 20 minutes or so. You could easily get that during a lunch time walk in summer.
WHAT INFLUENCES WHICH SUNCREAM YOU BUY?
WILL THIS CHANGE YOUR APPROACH TO BUYING SUNCREAM?
ALSO IN THE SKIN SERIES: