SUN, SKIN & AGEING
Our skin naturally ages, but environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays from sunlight can cause your skin to age prematurely, as well as being responsible for the development of many skin cancers.
UV exposure together with infra-red rays and pollution, cause the generation of damaging free radicals, which cause oxidative stress and the breakdown of collagen. Research has found that the sun is responsible for 80% of skin ageing. The good news is that premature ageing due to UV rays is largely preventable. By taking steps to avoid excessive sun exposure and protecting your skin whenever you’re in the sun with sunscreen and anti-oxidants, you can help keep your skin healthier and postpone wrinkles and loss of firmness.
Lips & ageing
The lips are one of the first areas to show signs of ageing, so it’s even more important to make sure they are sufficiently protected – and it’s simple to do with daily use of a broad-spectrum UVB and UVA sunscreen, anti-oxidants and emollients.
UV exposure, sun damage, smoking, cold, dry weather and cold sores are just a few of the factors that can accelerate lip ageing, leading to dehydration, roughness, wrinkles, and loss of lip volume, colour and definition. UV induced cold sores (herpes infection) are also very common, since the high levels of UV suppress the local immunity within the tissue.
Why are the lips in particular so vulnerable to ageing? The skin itself is very delicate and thinner than the rest of the face; just 3-5 cell layers thick compared to up to 16 layers elsewhere. Lips also have no melanin, so are unable to protect themselves and can burn and peel, but will never tan. As they have no sebaceous glands, they also can’t produce oils to moisturise themselves if dehydrated.
Tanning & skin damage
Despite what some sun care may claim, there is no safe way to tan. A tan is simply the skin’s response to UV injury. Tanning occurs when the sun’s UVA rays penetrate into the skin’s deeper layers, causing the skin to produce more melanin to try to protect itself. It is actually oxidative stress that creates the tanned skin often and mistakenly associated with good health.
Every time you tan you accumulate damage to the skin. And, unfortunately, the skin never forgets this damage – clocking up all the hours of damage over a lifetime. In fact, over-exposure to sun in your teens and early twenties can produce free radicals for decades.
UVA vs UVB: what’s the difference?
UVA is responsible for the development of a tan. When skin is exposed to UV rays it is stimulated to produce melanin in an attempt to help to protect itself from further damage. Melanin is the pigment behind your tan and is an indicator that the skin has been damaged by UVA rays.
UVB is the main cause of skin reddening and sun burn, plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and also contributes to skin ageing, though not to the same degree as UVA. UVB rays are strongest during the summer months, especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm. While UVB does not significantly penetrate window glass, it is reflective and up to 80% can bounce back from water, snow and ice, and 20% from sand.
In mountain environments, fewer pollutants in the air, high altitude and the reflection of rays off the snow all ensure the skin is exposed to much higher levels of UV, and is more at risk of damage. At altitude, UV levels increase by approximately 10% with every 1000m climbed; unprotected skin can become damaged and burn within 6 minutes at 3000m, as skin is exposed to 30% more UV than that at sea level.
Free Radicals: the energy snatchers
UV radiation is one of the major creators of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that steal energy from healthy cells, causing oxidative stress. This activates enzymes that break down collagen and damage the DNA of a cell. Oxidative stress is cumulative and once energy from one cell has been snatched, it triggers more and more, a sort of a Mexican wave effect, leaving damage in its wake and the characteristic signs of ageing.
More than a number
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is followed by a number. It’s important to know that an SPF rating indicates the level of protection against UVB (Burning) rays but not UVA (Ageing) rays. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 99%. Layering two products with SPF ratings does not increase the SPF rating. Broad-spectrum products protect against both UVA and UVB rays and are usually stated on the label.
SPF measures the length of time a product will protect your skin from burning compared to how long it would take your skin to burn without protection. For example, if your skin would normally burn after 10 minutes, applying an SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay in the sun for approximately 150 minutes (15 times longer), though this depends on skin type and intensity of the sun.
This refers to the UVA protection the product gives. The stars range from 0 to 5 and indicate the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB and is an industry standard in the UK and Ireland. SPF 30 with 3 UVA stars offers high protection, blocking 97% of UVB rays and up to 80% of UVA rays.
Sunscreen ingredients fall into two categories, mineral (physical) or non-mineral (traditional organic chemicals). Mineral sunscreen ingredients work by reflecting the UV rays away from the skin and chemical sunscreen ingredients work by absorbing the UV rays. Non-mineral sunscreens should be applied 20-30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Mineral sunscreens are effective immediately. Sunscreens classed as hybrids, contain a combination of both mineral and non-mineral ingredients.
Broad-spectrum sun care formulations typically contain a combination of ingredients (mineral, non-mineral or both) to ensure protection against UVB and UVA, it is important that ingredients protect against UVA1 as this is the most damaging UV wavelength.