Why You Shouldn’t Skip Sunscreen! – Zukiswa Khoza
Sunscreen is the most important step in your daily skincare routine. I always tell clients everything we work with in the salon and the products they use at home will not give them the optimal results if they are skipping this essential step, especially considering the climate we live under!
Applying sunscreen is non-negotiable irrespective of the weather forecast or your skin tone. UV (ultraviolet) rays are present even during those cloudy days, which is why it’s recommended you apply your SPF even during those grey days as well. Contrary to popular belief, black and other people of colour do need to apply sunscreen as much as those of a fairer complexion. Though the risk of skin cancer is much lower in African skin compared to white skin, black skin is still equally vulnerable to the other side effects of the sun’s harsh rays.
What UVA & UVB?
Broad spectrum is what one should be looking out for when making the purchase of a sunscreen. Broad spectrum protection means protection from the two forms of Ultraviolet light that can affect the skin after exposure – UVA and UVB.
UVA has a longer wave that penetrates into the thickest layer of your skin, the dermis layer. This is what’s also referred to as the “living layer of your skin as it contains the blood vessels, collagen, fibroblasts, elastin and other cells which maintain the integrity and youthfulness of the skin. Damage to these cells results in
- Sagging skin
- Break down of collagen
- Dry skin
UVB rays have a shorter wave and are responsible for sunburn, which is the burning of the top layer of the skin. This leads to:
- Premature ageing
- DNA damage causing premature ageing can all be a result of UVB exposure.
Whilst melanin does protect against some UV rays, it doesn’t protect us against all. Sun burn does happen to us and our melanin is usually the reason why skin cancer is detected at a late and possibly fatal stage.
How To Choose A Sunscreen
The golden rule when choosing a sunscreen is selecting anything between SPF 30 and 50, what do these numbers mean? The PA rating is a system ranking sunscreens based on the amount of protection they can provide from UVA rays. It basically indicates the amount of time you can stay under direct exposure to the sun without getting UV damage, e.g. SPF 15 = 150 minutes burning. It’s recommended that you reapply your sunscreen throughout the day, especially when directly exposed to the sun’s rays. Factor 30 will block out about 97% of UV rays whereas SPF 50 will block out about 98% and give you a bit more time before experiencing sun burn.
No More Ashy Melanin
Sunscreens have gotten a bad rap for leaving a white, pasty film on the skin but with modern technologies, newer formulations have created more brown skin friendly sunscreens which blend in with all skin tones. Looking grey and ashy is no longer an excuse to not layer up. Physical sunscreens were responsible for that white residue as they contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. New physical formulations have been micronized by grinding larger particles sizes into smaller sizes that don’t leave white residues on the skin making it more aesthetically acceptable. Physical sunscreens protect the skin by sitting on top and reflecting the UV rays off the surface of the skin. This is where the term sunblock originated from however sunscreen and sunblock is pretty much one and the same thing. Physical sunscreens are ideal for sensitive and reactive skin so they’re a great pick if you are prone to irritation. Chemical sunscreens protect the skin by absorbing UV rays and generally have a more translucent finish. The absorption of UV can increase heat in the skin which may cause irritation on rosacea skin. There’s also combination sunscreens which have both physical and chemical properties.
Photosensitivity is caused by products and treatments which make the skin more vulnerable to UV damage. These include chemical peels, lasers, Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), Beta Hydroxys Acids (BHA) as well as retinol. All these are very safe and effective in treating various indications however sunscreen usage is imperative to make sure that you get the best and safest results from these super ingredients. Post inflammatory pigmentation and scarring can occur in the case of photosensitivity without SPF protection. Black and brown skins are more at risk of hyperpigmentation especially when the skin is exposed to trauma and UV rays.
Sunscreen helps protect against UVA and UVB rays but it may not protect the body completely which, is why we do not recommended laying under the sun. It is possible to get a tan while using sunscreen even when ensuring to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. A tan is the body’s natural protective response to UV – evidence that there’s been skin damage due to excessive melanocyte (your pigment producing cells, responsible for your complexion) activity as a result of UV exposure.
Sunscreen For Every Skin Type
There’s a sunscreen for all skin types, oil free and matte finish textures for your oily and acne prone skin and cream-based SPF’s for dry skin as well as lotion like products for your combination skin. SPF in make up does not give you adequate protection as you do not apply enough of a cosmetic product to get the full SPF factor of the product. Layering up SPF also does not work, factor 15 in your foundation plus and factor 15 in your moisturizer does not give you SPF 30. It is also recommended that you use a stand-alone sunscreen vs a 2 in 1 product because the efficacy of SPF factor or moisturizing properties are lost when trying to combine these two products. You’ll always get the most of a product when it has a single function.
Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine, whether going about your day or enjoying the outdoors under direct exposure. There’s a product for every skin type and lifestyle. It is also important to note the sunscreen or sunblock do not prevent skin tanning or burning, exposure to the sun will brown melanated skin even more, but melanin is for Africa, the place of the Sun, melanated skin tolerates the effects of the sun better.