We all know that the sun can be harmful, having at some stage been sunburnt, tenderly rubbing in aloe-vera to lobster red skin. But it is also important to understand the damage the sun is doing that can’t be seen.
UVA – These are the rays that cause ‘aging’ and skin damage by penetrating deep into the dermis. This damage shows up as you get older and presents itself as sunspots, pigmentation and premature lines/wrinkles and skin cancers. UVA rays are always present, rain or shine and are so powerful that can penetrate clothing and glass.
UVB – These rays are responsible for the ‘burn’ we experience from the sun. Our skin makes Vitamin D from small amounts of UVB, but in larger quantities they cause sunburn and contribute to the majority of skin cancers. UVB rays get stronger in summer and they can reflect off snow and water.
Did you know while the sunscreen in your moisturiser or makeup can be beneficial, it does not give you adequate protection from the sun. The sun in New Zealand is incredibly harsh. The combination of increased UV radiation from the sun, extreme and changeable weather conditions, which dry out your skin making it burn more easily, and our love of the outdoors in New Zealand mean that we need to really take care to apply the right sunscreen and apply it well in order to prevent sun damage and ultimately skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cause of cancer in New Zealand and it is 90% preventable.
You need to use a high SPF 30 or higher broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. It should be applied 30 minutes before you go out in the sun to give it time to absorb, and just like with painting a room, you should apply a second coat. This should be done 30 mins after your initial application to ensure you actually get then sun-protection factor (SPF) specified on your sunscreen. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2 hours while out in the sun and again after swimming or heavy sweating as it is very easily rubbed off. Most of us don’t use nearly as much sunscreen as we should, the average sized adult needs about 6 teaspoons to cover their whole body. Using the right sunscreen in combination with following sun-smart messages like ‘slip, slop, slap and wrap’ and staying out or the sun during the “peak” hours of the day, especially during summer, go a long way to prevent sunburn and serious sun-damage.
How to choose a sunscreen that is right for you?
There are 2 main types of sunscreen; chemical absorbers and physical blockers. Chemical absorbers work by absorbing the sun’s rays. Physical blockers work by reflecting or scattering UV radiation. You need a sunscreen that will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, these include the metal oxides, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and the chemical absorbers, avobenzone, ecamsule, bemotrizinol and bisoctrizole.
Chemical sunblocks are also sometimes referred to as “Organic” sunscreen, which can make people think they are organic like your vegetables, but this is not the case. These sunscreens are a chemical barrier applied to your skin to protect it from the sun. Chemical sunblocks work by absorbing UV radiation from the sun (UVA, UVB or both). While they can offer more coverage against UVA and UVB rays, the protection they provide is dependent on the particular active used and the stability of the active. It is important to choose the right chemical ingredients that are stable in sunlight, otherwise they can breakdown generating free radicals which can cause skin damage, irritation and aging. Octocrylene, bemotrizinol and bisoctrizole are photostable agents and when combined with other chemical absorbing agents improve the overall stability of the sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreens are a runny liquid that is easily absorbed and is colourless when rubbed into the skin. However, they can cause irritation and stinging if they get in the eyes.
Physical sunscreens protect your skin by providing a physical block between your skin and the sun using Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. These reflect and scatter UVB and most UVA radiation.
They are generally very safe to use on the skin and great for people who have sensitive skin. However, for people with oily skin, prone to breakouts they can be too heavy, in which case it may be better for these people to use a sunscreen lotion or gel. Physical sunscreens can be viscous to apply and can leave a white tint on the skin. They also need to be applied more regularly as they rub off more easily than chemical sunscreens.
Below is a list of Sunblocks that we love here at Remadee
Nimue SPF 40
High protection sunscreen that protects against UVA & UVB. It contains both chemical and physical barrier ingredients and does not cause free radical damage.
Sunsense Family SPF 50
An easy to spread lotion that offers a high SPF. It contains both chemical and physical sunscreens and offers broad spectrum protection and covering both UVA and UVB rays. It is also water resistant for up to 4 hours.
Invisible Zinc 4hr water resistant sunscreen SPF 50+
A natural Zinc Oxide shield that provides broad spectrum high protection against UVA and UVB radiation. A great option for people who are outdoors a lot, sports-people and those who exercise or swim as it doesn’t sweat off and stays on in the water for up to 4 hours and doesn’t sting your eyes.
For further information:
How to choose and use sunscreens
Author: Dr Louise Reiche, Dermatologist, 2007. Updated by Vanessa Ngan, August 2012.