Do we really know how to protect our skin? SPFs have never been higher, but neither has the rate of skin cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, over 15,400 people develop malignant melanoma each year, compared with around 1800 in the mid-1970s. SPFs are now available in excess of 60, so why aren’t they protecting us?
According to Cancer Research 86% of skin cancer cases were preventable.
Sun Creams – saviours vs sinners.
Despite using very high SPFs, the numbering system can be misleading. It’s logical to assume that high level SPFs provide twice the protection, but they only block a marginal amount of more rays (SPF 15 blocks 93%) and contain a much greater level of potentially harmful chemicals. High SPFs give a false sense of security, which means people reapply them less frequently and spend longer in the sun. Another contributing factor to the rise of skin cancer is that people don’t apply enough, particularly if the SPF is high. The advice is to cover the skin in a ‘shot and a half’ but in a study published by the journal JAMA Dermatology, only 55% correctly identified the amount required.
Free radical damage
Research has shown that high SPFs can be harmful when left on the skin. Chemical sunscreens are only effective for two-three hours after application. They absorb UV rays during this time, but once they stop working they turn into free radicals which react with DNA cells, increasing the visible signs of ageing and the risk of skin cancer. It’s therefore important to keep reapplying regularly.
Stronger creams contain greater concentrations of sunscreen agents which themselves can be converted into free radicals by exposure to UV ray.
It’s important to remember that SPF only indicates protection from UVB rays, which cause burning, and not UVA which cause photo-ageing so using a broad spectrum cream which protectors against both is key.
A second line of defence
If you want to achieve a superior protection again the sun, antioxidants need to be incorporated into your skincare regime. They mop up free radicals generated into the skin from UV exposure, minimising the damaging effects they have on DNA. You also need to apply an antioxidant sunscreen dependent on your skin type. Dr Clay, Beauty Fresh, encourages you to also take supplement form to protect the skin over the whole body: Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Antioxidant contains a broad spectrum of antioxidants that have proven benefits with regards to UV radiation. Daily use is essential. Studies indicate that even on cloudy dates 80% of radiation from UVA rays breaks through.
Powerful protection boost
Given its impeccable skin nourishing credentials, it’s no surprise that vitamin A helps defend against UV damage. The most powerful sun-protective molecule is the retinyl palmitate form of vitamin A, which in adequate doses, can have a photoprotective effect of SPF20 and gives additional protection against UVA, says Dr Fernandes, Advanced Nutrition Programme. As well as applying topically, it should be taken in supplement form. By using a combination of Vitamin A and Antioxidants, it’s possible to safely expose skin to the sun for no longer than 20 minutes without sunscreen, in order to synthesize vitamin D, which is vital for healthy skin as well as preventing conditions such as osteoporosis and even cancer.