The answers to all your customers’ common sun care questions
Can you explain what the difference is between UVA and UVB rays?
Dr Marko Lens, plastic and reconstructive surgeon, expert in skin cancer and skin ageing, and creator of the Zelens skincare range, explains: “Sunlight consists of two types of UV – ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays don’t burn, but penetrate deep into the skin. They are responsible for cell damage that contributes to ageing and skin cancer. UVB rays burn the topmost layer of skin, causing sunburn and cell damage that can lead to cancerous changes.”
How does sun exposure damage the skin?
Dr. Sam Bunting, cosmetic dermatologist and Piz Buin advisor, says: “When UV rays reach your skin, they interact with cells called melanocytes, stimulating the release of the pigment melanin. Melanin is your first line of protection and absorbs UV rays in order to shield your skin against sun damage; this pigment is what gives skin a tan. However when your skin’s capacity for defense against UV rays is exceeded, sunburn can develop. This puts you at risk of premature ageing and, over the long-term, can lead to skin cancer.“
How does UV exposure increase the risk of skin cancer?
Mr. Paul Banwell, consultant plastic and cosmetic surgeon and head of the Melanoma Skin Cancer Unit, East Grinstead, says: “In a similar process to the damage caused to the skin when it comes to ageing, ultraviolet radiation, especially UVB, damages the cells within the superficial layers of the epidermis. This plays a key role in the development of skin cancer. A history of sunburn when young puts people at an increased risk of developing skin cancer later in life. 50% of total lifetime sunlight exposure occurs in childhood, so be particularly careful with children too; if they are exposed to the sun, dress them in sun-suits or long-sleeved tops, hats and sunglasses and apply a liberal amount of high SPF sunscreen regularly.
Does the risk of UV damage just depend on how hot and sunny the weather is?
Kimberley Carter of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) explains: “It can be hard to know what the risk of getting sunburnt will be. The heat or weather doesn’t always reflect how strong the UV level is – for example, you can still burn on a cloudy day, and different skin types will be affected in different ways by different UV levels.” The BAD recently launched a pioneering new health app in partnership with the Met Office, The World UV App, to mark the start of national Sun Awareness Week (30 April to 6 May). The free app allows users to see what the peak UV is virtually anywhere in the world and then gives advice – according to the user’s skin type – on the level of risk and what type of sun protection is needed. Carter explains: “This app allows you to check what the peak UV is wherever you are on the day, or where you are travelling to, and what that means for the different skin types, with tips on how to protect yourself. It’s also totally free, so we hope it will be really useful to people this summer.”
What does SPF mean?
Simon Golding, Founder of Australis Distribution (the exclusive UK distributor of Lovea organic sunscreens) explains: “SPF stands for sun protection factor and refers to the amount of protection offered against UVB radiation. The actual definition is: The SPF is the amount of UV radiation required to cause sunburn on skin with the sunscreen on, as a multiple of the amount required without the sunscreen.”
How should you replenish skin after sun exposure?
Fiona Brackenbury suggests: “After a day of sun exposure the hydroplipdic film is damaged and skin is often left parched and dehydrated. Decléor has a very unique concept to treat the skin when it has been exposed to the sun; a 100% natural, preservative free and fragrance free balm with a cocktail of essential oils and plant waxes. Aromessence After Sun Balm has a texture which melts on contact with the skin to soothe and calm, with essential oils of lavender and jasmine to bring comfort to the skin, vegetal oils of avocado and barley grains to enrich the skin and regenerate, and geranium and carnuba plant wax to repair the damage from the UV rays, known to be the biggest environmental factor to accelerate the ageing process. This is perfect for skin that has been exposed to UV rays.”
What is the difference between conventional, natural and organic sunscreens?
Simon Golding explains: “Conventional sunscreens are made from synthetic UV absorbing chemicals that sink into the skin and absorb UV rays. Natural sunscreens are made from ingredients that are kinder to our bodies; instead of UV absorbing chemicals, they use UV reflecting chemicals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Some sunscreens use nano-particles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and the main concern is that these miniscule particles will penetrate the skin and end up accumulating in our bodies. Nano-particles are not permitted in certified organic sunscreen.”
Which skin types are most prone to burning?
Mr. Paul Banwell says: “Due to their relative lack of skin pigmentation, those people with fair skin, blue eyes, red hair and lots of freckles (skin type I, II) are at more risk of burning. People who burn easily and do not tan are more at risk of skin cancer formation.”
What should I look for in my sun protection?
Dr Marko Lens suggests: “You should use a broad-spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen with maximum UVA protection (5-star Boots rating). The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use sunscreen that offers the following: broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays), SPF30 or greater, and water resistance. A sunscreen that offers the above helps to protect your skin from sunburn, early skin ageing and skin cancer.”
Which sort of sun protection products are best (e.g. lotion, spray, oil)?
There are so many different formats available but as long as your chosen product offers adequate UVA and UVB protection, the right one largely comes down to personal choice. Fiona Brackenbury explains: “You should always choose the texture that is right for you and your family. Sprays are easier to apply on the body, they’re quick and take less rubbing in, so are perfect for children and larger areas of the body. Whichever texture you go for make sure you are diligent in applying and ensure all the areas are well covered with the SPF.”
What is the right way to use sun protection products – how much should be applied and how often?
Dr Marko Lens says: “You should apply sun cream thickly and often. Results have shown that many people use only a third of the amount of cream they need to achieve the SPF on the bottle, and thus they do not have proper protection. The amount necessary to cover the average body is about 30 to 40g. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going to the sun. The product needs to be absorbed to the skin. The sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or each time after going into the water, even if sunscreen is ‘waterproof’ or ‘water resistant’, these only offer 40 to 80 minutes of protection. It is essential to read the sunscreen label for exact times of re-application because every manufacturer is different.” Mr. Paul Banwell adds: “Apply at least two tablespoons of sunscreen to each body part (leg, arm, etc) plus a little bit more for luck! Don’t forget the ‘forgotten’ areas such as ears and under the chin – or soles of the feet if you’re going to be lying down with them exposed to the sun.”
Apart from applying sun lotion, what else can be done to protect skin?
Dr Sam Bunting advises: “Avoid the strongest hours of sun exposure – usually between 11am and 3pm; a good trick is to avoid sun exposure when your shadow is shorter than you are. Take a long lunch and a siesta, and enjoy the beach club late afternoon and into the early evening (it’s always the most fun time anyway!) Fiona Brackenbury adds: “Preparation is key. We recommend that two weeks prior to sun exposure you apply both a tan accelerator and a skin strengthening serum. Decléor has created two super serums – Aromessence Solaire for the face and for the body. These 2-in-1 serums should be applied daily underneath your mosituriser and will stimulate the melanocyte activity to advance the tanning process and also to strengthen the skin cells. By strengthening the skin by 33% it gives you added protection and prepares your skin for exposure. These serums are essential for anybody planning to expose their skin to the sun, especially if you want to prevent the appearance of wrinkles and prickly heat.“ Dr Marko Lens adds: “Dermatologists also recommend that you protect your skin by wearing long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses whenever possible.”