We’ve all heard that the sun is bad for our skin. But how many of us really know why?
The sun damages our skin through ultra violet radiation. These waves come in varying lengths, which means they damage different layers of the skin to varying degrees. This UV radiation is the number one cause of skin cancer worldwide.
Ultra violet radiation actually breaks down our skins’ connective tissue. This is made up of collagen and elastin, and is what gives our skin its firmness and elasticity. The breakdown of this tissue is what causes our skin to age. Lack of firmness and elasticity leads to lines and wrinkles forming. Never mind that this damage can also cause cancers to form.
The sun also causes our skin to dis-colour, sometimes in the form of a tan, but also in the form of pigmentation. This type of pigmentation takes many forms, but all of them are damage from sun exposure. Pigmentation is simply a higher concentration of melanin in that specific area of skin. Melanin is the skins’ own barrier against sun damage. It creates a certain amount to protect you to the level that it feels necessary, but if you spend too long in the sun, it will ‘panic’ and create uneven patches of excess melanin, causing what we call ‘pigmentation’. There are so many types of pigmentation, none of which sound like conditions you’d want to have. Poikiloderma, Solar Lentigines, and Lentigo malinga that can develop into melanoma, are all types of pigmentation.
Hormones can also increase sun sensitivity, as increased levels of progesterone and estrogen make your skin more photosensitive. This is why pregnant women, or those on the contraceptive pill are more at risk of sun damage. The damage associated with this type of pigmentation is commonly referred to as melasma.
As scary as this sounds, you can help reduce the amount of ultraviolet damage you do to your skin by using a full spectrum sunscreen. They use chemical and mineral ingredients that are able to effectively ‘block’ these harmful rays.
WHAT IS SPF AND WHICH IS THE BEST FOR ME?
But how do I know which SPF to use? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, and it determines how long you can stay in the sun before burning. A simple formula will help you know when to get out of the sun. How long you can spend in the sun before your skin turns red is your base number. (Note that this will change depending on the time of day and the season, so do this test regularly). Take that base number and times it by the SPF on the sunscreen, this will be the number of minutes you can spend in the sun. e.g. If you start going red after 5 minutes and you have a SPF20 product, you can stay in the sun for 100 minutes before you have to reapply to get out of the sun.
African Extracts Moisturizing Day Cream SPF15
Lamelle Dermaheal Hydrating Sunscreen 30 (R375.00)
Badger Damascus Rose SPF16 Everyday Sunscreen Lotion 25ml (R220.00)
AHAVA Mineral Suncare (R320.00)