Your Skin

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Protect the skin you’re in

Working in a skin clinic clients often ask, what is the best thing I can do for my skin?

Prevention is always better than a cure so I’d like to share some tips on the most important skin care step and that of course is sun protection in our harsh Australian climate and the use of sunscreen.

I have heard it said that the best sunscreen is one that you’ll use generously and according to label directions. I tend to agree.

But let’s keep in mind that there are ways of protecting our skin from the sun even before we get to sunscreen.

How do we best protect our skin?

With our harsh Australian climate we need to consider avoiding the sun during peak hours. Generally, this is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are prime hours for exposure to skin-damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, even on overcast days. Even in Canberra’s cooler climate months we still are at risk of UV damage and particularly if we venture to the snow fields where reflection of UV rays is extremely high.

Wear protective clothing. This includes pants, shirts with long sleeves, and sunglasses. Top it off with a wide-brimmed hat. In addition, consider investing in special sun-protective clothing if you enjoy activities that take you out in the sun when the UV radiation level is at its highest.

Sunscreen is extremely important for protection so apply it liberally and according to directions. If sunscreen isn’t applied thickly enough or regularly enough, it won’t be as effective.

Tips for the application of sunscreen

Apply generous amounts of sunscreen to dry skin 30 minutes before you go outdoors.

Use sunscreen on all skin surfaces that will be exposed to sun — especially your face, ears, hands, arms and lips. Remember the top of your head if you don’t have protection from hair and don’t forget to wear a hat.

Coat your skin well and rub sunscreen in thoroughly.

Reapply sunscreen every two hours — more often if you’re perspiring or swimming.

Reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming.

What does the term ‘broad spectrum’ mean when applied to sunscreens?

There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin — UVA and UVB. A broad-spectrum, or full-spectrum, sunscreen is designed to protect you from both.

We generally know about UVB rays that cause our skin to burn. UVA rays however, can penetrate deeply into your skin and suppress your immune system. This increases the risk of wrinkling and age spots. Too much exposure to both UVA and UVB rays raises your risk of skin cancer. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light.

What is SPF?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. This is a measure of how well the sunscreen deflects UVB rays. Currently, there’s no standard for measuring UVA protection.

Manufacturers calculate SPF based on how long it takes to sunburn skin that’s been treated with the sunscreen as compared with skin that hasn’t been treated with sunscreen.

It is generally regarded that an SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays, an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays. An SPF of 30 is therefore not twice as effective as an SPF 15.

A broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays gives us the best protection for the health of our skin.

Which sunscreen ingredients are best?

Avobenzone, Cinoxate, Ecamsule, Menthyl anthranilate, Octyl methoxycinnamate, Octyl salicylate Oxybenzone, and Sulisobenzone are generally considered safe ingredients however there is some concern over the absorption of chemicals into the skin and hormonal effects. Oxybenzone may also pose sensitivities to some skin.

You can now choose from a number of mineral-based sunscreens .Their main ingredients are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They are regarded as providing physical, broad spectrum protection. These ingredients sit on top of the skin and appear to be safe as well as effective.

Zinc oxide is a natural anti-inflammatory, recommended for irritation, allergies and rosacea and is also a great healing agent. Zinc helps to prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin and therefore it is regarded as an anti-aging product!

So in saying all of this, sunscreen and sun-protection all year-round is the best option for preventing skin damage from UV Rays. Now we can also get the best from our sunscreen ingredients. As always common sense and using protective clothing and hats with our sunscreen gives the best protection.