SKIN FOCUS: Sun Protection
It’s the time of the year again! Before some of you jet off to a holiday destination abroad or hit the beach to add that bronze touch to your skin, Skin Focus spills the beans on our sunny friend and provides some advice to keep the relationship healthy while you’re enjoying that long-awaited vacation.
The sun is an important source of Vitamin D for the body, helping the absorption of calcium for stronger and healthier bones. However, it does not require much exposure in the sun for most people to obtain the recommended amount of Vitamin D they need. Prolonged, unprotected sun exposure can result in skin damage and even skin cancer.
Two types of UV rays
Ultraviolet rays are rays emitted by the sun that interact with the skin.
They can be divided into two groups, A and B.
- UVB rays
UVB (B like burn) rays account for 5% of the UV rays reaching the earth. They are filtered by windows. They penetrate into the epidermis or superficial layer of the skin. In the short term, they cause sunburn, our body’s in-built warning system. In the medium term, they result in a tan or darker colour of the skin. Finally, in the long run, UVBs can lead to certain skin cancers.
- UVA rays
UVA (A like age and allergy) rays account for the remaining 95% reaching the earth’s surface and they are only partially filtered by windows. They penetrate more deeply into the skin, reaching into the dermis. UVAs are more dangerous than UVBs because, unlike the sunburn caused by UVBs, our body does not have a natural warning system against them. When the damage they cause becomes visible, it is already too late. In the short run, signs of premature ageing such as wrinkles and dark spots start to appear on the face, making one look older than the actual age. The invisible damage can, in the long term, lead to accelerated skin ageing and the development of tumours such as melanoma, the most serious of skin cancers.
The body’s natural protection mechanism
The sun’s UV rays react with a chemical called melanin that is naturally occuring in most of our skin. Also known as pigment, melanin is the substance which determines the colour of our skin, hair and eyes. Melanin is found in different concentrations and colours in our bodies, henceforth explaining the different skin colours in humans. People who have darker skin contain higher levels of melanin inside their bodies. Similarly, fair people have a lower amount of melanin.
Melanin is the body’s first defense against the sun because it absorbs the harmful UV rays before they do serious damage to the skin. The lighter a person’s natural skin color, the less melanin the body has to absorb UV rays and protect itself. The darker a person’s natural skin color, the more melanin it has to protect itself. Generally, those with darker skin tones are able to tolerate exposure to the sun for a longer time without getting sunburnt; a fair person, on the other hand, may get sunburnt after spending only a few minutes under the midday sun. However, both dark- and light-skinned beings need protection from UV rays because any tanning or burning causes substantial skin damage in the long run.
Protecting your skin
Each of us has a genetically-defined, different skin phototype which conditions the risk of sunburn, photoageing and skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun. Other environmental factors such as geographic location, season, time of the day, climate, altitude, and reflection of the sun’s rays (from sand, water, or snow) also play a major role.
Here are some tips to protect your skin from the sun:
- Use sunscreen with a high UVB and UVA protection.
- Apply your product in the shade 20 minutes before going out into the sun, especially if you’re pale-skinned and hypersensitive.
- Reapply the cream every two hours and after swimming.
- Minimize exposure to the sun; avoid exposure between midday and 4 pm when the sun is at its strongest.
- Protect your skin even when it’s cloudy or when the sun is setting.
- Even when you have a tan, ensure that your skin is sufficiently protected.
- Protect your lips.
La Roche-Posay’s recommendations
La Roche-Posay’s range of suncare products offers the highest protection against the sun in the market for both adults and children.
- ANTHELIOS W 30 SPF Gel is recommended for outdoor sports enthusiasts because of its high water resistance.
- ANTHELIOS XL 50+ SPF Extreme Fluid comes in a lightweight texture which is easily absorbed into the skin without leaving a white cast.
- UVIDEA XL 50+ SPF Daily UV Protection (Natural/Porcelain) provides a smooth and moisturizing finish with no oily effect, suitable as a makeup base.
Most of us are usually concerned about sun burning as it is the more obvious effect of sun exposure. Now that you are aware of the more harmful effects of UVA rays, protect yourself while enjoying the company of the sun.
Is the sun friend or foe? You decide.