Sunshine! Bank holidays! Pub gardens! Summer has finally rocked up with a warm welcome.
So, before we slip-on sandals and sip Aperol Spritz, let’s discuss the serious stuff: SPF.
It is, single-handedly, one of the most important steps in our skincare routine – minimising dark spots, pigmentation and wrinkles, while protecting against sun damage and cancer.
Yet, before you splash out on a new SPF, it’s important to swot up on your sun-protection knowledge.
Knowing what to look for and understanding the differences in formulas will ensure you find a sunscreen suitable for you.
Here, we’ve revealed the must-dos for safeguarding your skin – and the microbiome.
First up – The Formula.
Sunscreens fall into two teams: mineral and chemical.
Mineral – otherwise known as physical – acts as a barrier which will reflect light rays away from the skin, using mineral ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
Chemical formulas will absorb the radiation, turn it into heat and then release it from the body. They often contain one or more of the following ingredients, oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate.
If you are pregnant or have sensitive, acne-prone skin, mineral formulas are gentler and less likely to cause irritation – while chemical sunscreen tends to be thinner and rubs into the skin well, making it easier to use.
Next, The Number.
Every SPF comes with a factor number – but this doesn’t equate to the amount of time you have.
Instead, it’s telling you how long the sun’s UV radiation would take to redden your skin compared to no protection at all. So, ideally, with factor 50, it would take you 50 times longer to burn.
Tracey Ryan, Skincare Scientific Advisor at Skin Trust Club, says: “Around 70% of visible signs of skin ageing are caused by exposure to the sun.
“In terms of skin ageing, UVA rays cause collagen loss and therefore loss of skin elasticity. We recommend wearing SPF all year round as UV rays are always present but consider upping your usage considerably in the summer months.”
Then, Come to Terms With The Terminology.
It’s important to look for sunscreens with broad-spectrum protection in order to filter UVA and UVB rays, both can cause skin cancer – the most common cancer in the UK with at least 100,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
It’s also important to know that UVA leads to premature ageing while UVB causes sunburn.
Make sure you check, chuck and change.
One common myth is that suncream lasts for years. . . incorrect.
Suncreams tend to only last around a year due to being exposed to sunlight and warm temperatures – this can affect and change the ingredients.
If you are reaching for the same bottle you used for you holiday last year, then it’s time to chuck – take it as a reminder that you should be applying more, too.
Finally – How Does The Sun Affect The Microbiome?
While the microbiome works at protecting our skin from sun damage, the sun can suppress the skin’s immune system. Tracey says: “One of the effects of UV light is immunosuppression of our skin’s microbiome.
“UV rays can trigger the production of antimicrobial peptides that can negatively affect our skin’s immune system leading to the promotion of the Herpes simplex virus for example.”
But for immune related skin disorders like psoriasis, it can have a more positive impact.
Tracey adds: “UV light therapy can be an effective treatment for psoriasis but should only ever be carried out under medical supervision.”
In the future, we may see the microbiome become a very important part of sun protection.
Tracey says: “Pigmentation is our skin’s primary natural defence against the sun, while the melanin we produce absorbs harmful UV rays and provides antioxidant support to the skin.
“Some bacteria can produce UV absorbing biomolecules that can protect our skin, too.
“It’s a growing area of research and something we should see feature a lot more in sunscreens of the future.”
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