Protecting your skin from sun damage

sun cream on beach

The skincare industry has been promoting SPF for the past twenty years but many of us still have a relaxed approach to protecting our skin from the sun. As low cost holidays have become more accessible in recent years, meaning more and more of us are increasing our exposure to stronger and more harmful ultraviolet rays.

UVA & UVB are wavelengths of light that are most responsible for skin damage, so much so that Cancer Research estimates 86% of malignant melanoma cases in the UK are linked to UV radiation. UVB rays are shorter, work more quickly and are responsible for burning as they primarily affect the epidermal layer of skin. Meanwhile UVA rays penetrate more deeply and responsible for the breakdown of collagen.

You can think of it as UVA for Aging and UVB for Burning. However, both UVA & UVB stimulate melanocyte cells to release melanin – the skin’s protective darkening pigment, which is what creates a tan and can lead to age spots and discolouration with too much exposure. And what we forget is that UVA rays can penetrate through thick cloud even in winter.

Sun damage is cumulative, meaning it builds up each time whether you burn or not. Pigment develops gradually over time so we are not always aware of it. The sun can also cause a permanent stretching of small blood vessels and proliferation of blood vessels giving your skin a reddish appearance. As a consequence, these marks or discolourations are associated with ageing and damaged skin and it is often surprising how many years are ‘knocked off’ when removed.

Sun exposure, including sun beds, increases the risk of skin cancer, while our Earths ever depleting ozone layer filters out fewer harmful rays, meaning year-round SPF is advisable. Farer skins are more prone to cancer as are skins that develop freckles and pigmentation with age. Moles and especially moles that grow rapidly, are irregularly shaped, itchy or bleed need to be seen by a skin specialist. Pigmentation alone needs addressing and usually is sorted with prescription level skincare and or laser pigmentation treatment.

For prevention, therefore, it is very important that you use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen, which will absorb, scatter or reflect ultraviolet radiation. Antioxidants in conjunction reduce the risk of the sun and repair the damages.

If you are already experiencing signs of sun damage there are treatments that can help. Antioxidant skincare and prescription skincare- such as Zo skincare, laser treatments, chemical peels and Clear+Brilliant treatments are all key to reversing the damage due to the sun and ageing.