Most dermatologists advise that the best anti-ageing product you can buy is a good quality suncream. But which one? You may not realise it but over the counter products rarely cover the full spectrum of the sun’s rays.
The sun emits different types of harmful rays, predominantly Ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB). UVB is responsible for burning the upper/outer layers of the skin, whereas UVA penetrates more deeply, and is responsible for causing greater skin ageing. In fact, 80% of skin ageing comes from sun damage, being the largest of the extrinsic factors (ones we can potentially control).
There are 2 other types of damaging rays. Infra-Red (IR-A) damage collagen. High Energy Visible Light (HEV) is generated by artificial light sources such as computers, mobile phones, fluorescent lights, and LED sources, as well as the sun, and causes pigmentation.
Traditional, over the counter sunscreens generally do not cover these HEV and IR-A rays, which actually penetrate even deeper in the skin (see right). Medical grade products eg. those from the ZO prescription skincare brand, do, however, cover the whole spectrum.
It’s a myth that your moisturiser or foundation which just has a number will provide adequate sun protection. This is for 2 reasons – firstly it won’t be ‘broad spectrum’ (it won’t cover UVA, HEV and IR-A) and secondly, research shows that you would have to wear 7 times the amount of foundation or moisturiser than the average person uses, in order to get the UVB coverage stated.
Another myth is that suncream is only needed in the summer. It is true that UVB burning rays are not significantly present in the UK winter (being strong April- October and peaking in the day between 11 am and 3 pm). However, the rest of the spectrum is present all year round. UVA rays also pass through clouds and glass, so you’re at risk of wrinkles, pigmentation and also skin cancer even indoors on a cloudy December day. This 69 year old lorry driver has marked ageing on one side of his face as a result of UVA rays passing through his side window.
Medical grade suncreams not only have a broader spectrum of coverage but also have been more rigorously tested than over-the-counter ones, and are therefore much more reliable.
Many patients ask me what factor to use and what the SPF number means. This number refers only to the level of UVB (burning) protection a cream offers. It correlates to the time you can spend in the sun without burning. I would recommend SPF 30 in the UK for most of the year, rising to a Factor 50 at the peak of summer or whilst abroad.
We stock 6 medical grade sun protection products at BrightNewMe. These are all non-comedogenic (in other words, don’t block pores) or leave you feeling greasy.
There is a choice of 5 sunscreens in the ZO range. These ZO products offer excellent protection against all the above (UVA, UVB, HEV and IR) and are also unique in that they also contain fractionated melanin: natural photo-protective compounds and free radical quenchers.
- The ZO Oclipse Smart Tone SPF 50 which has a sheer tint and is designed to match any skin colour and tone.
- The ZO Daily Sheer SPF 50 is similar to the Smart Tone above, without any colour, and is popular with male patients or ladies who prefer no tint.
- The ZO Sun Screen + Powder is actually SPF 40 (although labelled SPF 30 because factor 40 is not recognised in UK). This is great for a powder/ matte finish effect, and provides buildable coverage.
- The ZO Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is a physical (mineral) suncream – so good for sensitive skins- and also has no tint.
- The tinted ZO Oclipse Sunscreen and Primer SPF 30 is very popular with female patients who find that the colour contained within the cream gives them a nice radiant glow, and it works as a great primer under make-up too. As it is a physical suncream it won’t irritate rosacea or sensitive skins.
Additionally, the Obagi Sun Shield SPF 50 is broad spectrum, from a different manufacturer, also with coverage for the whole range of the sun’s spectrum. This Obagi product has a matte appearance, with no tint, and so is also suitable for men.
We have sample pots of the liquid products available, and existing patients are welcome to pop in and ask to try any of them. There are 3 shades of the powder SPF (light, medium and deep) for you to choose from – do come to look at them in reception.
I am proud to say that my views on sun protection were sought by Aesthetics Journal, a publication for aesthetic practitioners. I’m always keen on patient education so do take a look at this article if you’d like to know more – it lists some very helpful tips from NICE, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
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