What if we could guarantee to slow your skin aging by 80 percent? Wouldn’t you be the first person in line for that bottle of anti-ageing magic?
While it sounds like a mythical product, the simple solution is sunscreen and we know it works. So if you’re ready to stop premature ageing, it’s time to get serious about your daily dose of sun protection. We asked Australian cosmetic physician and founder of Ultraceuticals, Dr Geoffrey Heber to explain exactly how sunscreens work, and how to find the best sunscreen for your skin type.
RESCU: What is intrinsic and what is extrinsic ageing?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: Intrinsic ageing is “inbuilt” ageing. It is due to many factors including accumulated cellular and mitochondrial DNA damage, mitochondrial ageing and hormonal decline.
RESCU: How does sun exposure accelerate skin ageing?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: Sun exposure exposes the skin to ultraviolet rays and within the skin these generate reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are molecules with unpaired electrons that cause the removal of electrons from cellular and extracellular components, damaging them in the process. For example, DNA, cell walls, collagen and elastin are all damaged by ROS. Repeated and accumulated damage over years leads to photoageing and skin cancers.
RESCU: What are UVA and UVB rays? How does exposure to these affect the ageing and skin damage process?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: The Ultraviolet spectrum comprises electromagnetic waves with wavelengths ranging from 290 nanometres to 400 nanometres. A nanometre (nm) is one millionth of a millimetre. This spectrum is further subdivided into UVB rays (290 to 320nm) and UVA rays (320nm to 400nm). UVA rays penetrate into the skin more deeply. Sunscreens need to contain specific sunscreen ingredients to provide protection against them.
RESCU: How quickly does skin burn from exposure to sun?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: This depends upon the inbuilt amount of melanin pigment in an individual’s skin, the time of day, the season and the latitude of exposure. People with very fair skin at midday in Cape York will begin to burn within a few minutes. The same people in Tasmania in mid-winter at 3pm will not burn at all.
RESCU: What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: “Physical sunscreen” is a term used to refer to sunscreens based on the sunscreen ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide or both. However, these ingredients when they are particles small enough not to be whitening work by absorbing UV rays and converting them to heat, which is the same way “chemical sunscreens” work. When the particles are large enough to cause a white appearance on the skin this is due to their reflectance of light and at this size the particles also reflect UV rays.
Try Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Shield Mineral Defence SPF50+, $65, for physical, mineral sunscreen protection.
RESCU: What does broad spectrum sunscreen mean?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: Broad spectrum is a claim allowed by government regulators if testing shows a sunscreen meets set criteria for protection against both UVB and UVA rays. When formulating sunscreens it is much easier to protect against UVB rays than UVA rays.
RESCU: What is zinc and what benefits does it provide against sun damage?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: Zinc is a metallic chemical element abundant in the earth’s crust. It both absorbs and reflects UV light, with this varying dependent upon the particle size. It is good for those with sensitive skin because it has an anti-inflammatory effect and does not cause allergy.
RESCU: How can children and young skin benefit from proper sun protection?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: The effects of UV exposure accumulate throughout life. One famous US dermatologist, a few decades ago before sunscreen use became more widespread, estimated that 80% of sun damage occurred before the age of 18 years of age. Protection from sun exposure from the earliest years will minimise sun damage throughout life.
RESCU: Some sensitive skins react to sunscreens. Can you give some advice on what to look for in a quality sunscreen for sensitive skin?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: Mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are best for those with sensitive skin as these ingredients do not cause allergy.
Try: Ultraceuticals Ultra UV Protective Daily Moisturiser SPF 50+, $69, for sensitive skin.
RESCU: What is the best step to take after excessive exposure to sun or after sunburn?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: Plenty of water, aspirin orally as an anti-inflammatory and something soothing topically such as an aloe vera gel or in worst cases a prescription cortisone cream. Also, vitamin E phosphate is a very powerful form of vitamin E that has shown a strong anti-inflammatory effect after sun exposure.
Try: Ultraceuticals SunActive Face & Body Recovery Cream, $49, with regenerating vitamin E phosphate, shea butter and antioxidants.
RESCU: What is the difference between SPF 15, SPF 30 and SPF 50 protection?
Dr Geoffrey Heber: An SPF15 sunscreen allows approximately 6.7% of UVB rays into the skin, an SPF30 sunscreen allows 3.3% and an SPF50 sunscreen allows 2%.
Watch the video on Sunscreen Tips You Need To Know