Every Day is a Sunscreen Day

How good is your sunscreen and is it really protecting you the way you expect? Any product containing sunscreen can make a claim to be anti ageing that’s how beneficial sunscreen is to protecting your skins health.

Sunscreen matters

This blog is intended to help you make the right sunscreen choices to protect your skins natural beauty. If you are already using a daily sunscreen after your moisturiser fantastic. Knowledge is key, I’ve put together my recommendations to ensure you are protecting your skin as well as you planned. My daily advice: It’s never to late to start and protection now is much easier than trying to correct skin damage and skin cancers. Daily sunscreen and the very few chemicals and broad spectrum minerals that sunscreens contain are significantly kinder to your body than any chemotherapy associated with melanoma.

The best protection you can give your skin is a high Sun Protection licensed sunscreen SPF 30-50+.

In the early 90s I was invited to participate in a new product forum for Estee Lauder. As a confident Antipodean woman I suggested their SPF2 & SPF 4 & 8 sunscreens were hopelessly inadequate for any climate and that I wouldn’t sell them! As a Beauty Therapist I could see the difference in English skins that hadn’t had a lifetime of Southern Hemisphere sun, I knew the sun was damaging and all skins needed high quality protection. My message hasn’t changed the best protection you can give your skin is the best quality high SPF sunscreen you can justify.

Slip, slop, slap and remember your hat is still is a great message. I would add to it: cleanse, moisturise, sunscreen and use a wide brimmed hat. Caps are cute but don’t protect the sides of your face or neck.

Sunscreens have been an evolving industry for decades and there are plenty of memories about sunburns from low SPFs or at the other end of the scale -thick white sticky products that offered the best protection at the time but put many people off.

Thankfully changes in technology have created huge advances in ingredients so that sunscreens are now sheer, lightweight, easy to wear, well tolerated by the skin so that there will be one to suit your skin type.

Did you know the usage of the word sunblock has been banned by the American FDA since 2013 because it could cause consumers to overestimate the effectiveness of their product.

Just how well you are protecting your skin will depend on the type of product you use, it’s SPF rating, whether the product has been tested and licensed v an untested product, how old the product is and your application technique.

Dedicated sunscreen, sunscreen in moisturisers and sunscreen in foundation, what’s the difference?

A dedicated broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF30 or above, licensed for NZ & Australian conditions applied after your moisturiser is the gold standard. It’s an extra step but it’s the most important one.

Sunscreens in moisturisers don’t give the skin enough moisture or enough sunscreen protection!

Apply your moisturiser first to replenish the skin, let the moisturising actives get to work then apply your sunscreen. Your sunscreen will apply evenly, smoothly and you’ll have an accurate feel for just how much you’re applying. If you have sunscreen in your primer, foundation or powder think of this as a bonus, it’s extra protection not the main source.

Consider this, if you only rely on the sunscreen in foundation for your daily sun protection what do you apply on your neck?

SPF rating. Sun Protection Factor – a rating number indicating the protection level of the product e.g SPF30.  NZ and Australia skin safety guidelines recommend a minimum SPF 30 when outdoors.

The effectiveness of the protection level this gives will be impacted by a number of variables.

– Your skin type and the amount of natural melanin ( pigment) in your skin, the time of day, time of year, location – e.g whether you are on the water or in the water, at high altitude or sitting under a tree, all impact the effectiveness of your sunscreen.

How well is your sunscreen working? Book an Observ skin analysis to check.

UC sunscreen demonstration
sunscreen demonstration

Robyn Prinsep using the Observ skin scanner to show how effective sunscreen is. The dark patches = Ultraceuticals broad spectrum SPF50

From September to April when the sun is higher in the sky, UV rays have less distance to travel to reach earth.  This shorter travel distance means less ultraviolet radiation is absorbed by gases in the atmosphere and the earth is hit by more radiation. Spring / Autumn can be deceptive, with temperatures quite low in some places, but the sun’s rays are strong and the low angle directly at the face and neck.

sunscreen alert time

NZ Met Service publishes a daily Sun Protection Alert online and in the paper showing the times of day when UVR ( Ultraviolet radiation) will be at it’s highest in your area. Usually from 10am – 4pm, this daily alert is a valuable tool in creating an awareness of the changing UV levels and potential burn time.

Back to SPF the higher the SPF the longer your protection, look for a SPF 30-50. Reapplying your sunscreen regularly especially if you are perspiring, swimming, have hayfever. Remember if you can feel the heat of the sun burning it is and don’t be fooled by a windy day or sitting in the shade there are always UV rays. Try this simple technique to prove it – if when you hold your finger over your hand you can see a shadow there are UV rays.

The difference between an SPF30, 50 and higher is minimal however that extra 3% -6% is worth it if you’re out and about over the Summer months. A SPF mineral powder applied over all sunscreens will also provide additional screening by reflecting UV away.

How can I tell if my sunscreen is licensed? 

Sunscreen license numbers. Next time you’re reaching for a bottle or tube of sunscreen have a look for it’s license number? The license number will be in the fine print on the product – hopefully the front like the Ultraceuticals products pictured.

AUST L 00000000 ( with a sequence of actual numbers) this is extra validation for you as a consumer that you are buying a product that has been fully tested and exceeds New Zealand and Australian rigorous safety standards.

Broad spectrum = UVA and UVB protection. UVB rays reach 290-320 nanometres into the skin- these are the rays you feel burning, UVA reach 320-400nm impacting the regenerative layers of the skin which is why as Beauty Therapists we talk about UVA as being ageing, of course both are but it’s a simple way to remember why you want and need a broad spectrum sunscreen.

Sunscreen ingredients either act by scattering ( physical) or by absorbing ( chemical ) the sun’s UV rays. There is no right or wrong here they both work well and are often included within the one product.  Examples of two physical block ingredients are the metal oxides – titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, with zinc oxide providing greater UVA protection, their reflective properties physically scatter and reduce the absorption of UV rays. Think of lifeguards or cricket players wearing zinc protection on their noses, ears and lips.

If you have a tendency to sensitivity look for a licensed sunscreen containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.  Chemical filters absorb into the skin making it more appealing to wear. The list of effective chemical filters available in sunscreens is so long I won’t elaborate other than to add that if you have a sensitivity to a sunscreen take note of the main ingredients ( the first ones listed ) and avoid them in the future.

Recent guideline and compliance changes have put more emphasis put on consistent testing and SPF numbering. They include a need for enhanced broad spectrum performance requirements, so that the degree of protection from UVA ( ageing rays) increases with the increasing SPF. Plus broad spectrum performance is mandatory for all skincare cosmetic sunscreens – now you would have imagined this was always the case but it appears not.

Use the license number tip above before you purchase your sunscreen product and remember a moisturiser with a sunscreen in it is a cosmetic product first that will require a therapeutic = tested sunscreen applied over the top to give you better protection..

Expiry dates are mandatory. My recommendation has always been replace your sunscreen every year and to check the expiry date on your new product when you are repurchasing. The expiry date will be in the crimp of a tube or printed on the product.

In a season your sunscreen will have been in a hot car, out in the sun, to a beach, been opened and squeezed multiple times allowing air in ( oxidization) and bacteria to gather around the lid. Even if it’s sat on the vanity in your bathroom for a year please start fresh each season.

Sunscreen application. When it’s time to apply your sunscreen to your face it will be nearly a teaspoon amount that you will need to cover your face and neck. Please include the upper lip area, your lip line, upper eyelids, in the eyebrows and on the forehead right up into the hairline. The natural prominence of the nose means it’s out there catching more rays than the rest of the face so be generous, then finish with another generous application for the back of your hands and forearms.

The same licensing numbers apply for sunscreen lip balms, I recommend applying this first before your lipstick or gloss for outdoor days and reapplying as needed.

A well protected skin will show the benefits immediately as pigmentation changes are suppressed and your natural collagen protected. Remember the skin is always repairing and regenerating so it’s never to late to start.

solar lentigine
Solar lentigine example

Sun Damage gathered in your childhood years and teens won’t show straight away unless it’s a severely bad burn but it will usually start popping up around 35-50yrs as solar lentigines – larger sun induced freckles. The old fashioned name for these is age spots or liver spots – they have nothing to do with your liver.

Always have any changes in your skin professionally checked – Beauty Therapist, GP, Dermatologist. And take extra care to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen on these areas of change to suppress the colour and skin changes. The damage is done, sunscreen alone won’t remove them but it will help reduce the speed of change and colour.

For a young person in their teens and early 20s keep up the good habits that your parents and caregivers have started, I know it;s tedious and takes time but generally the worst sunburns you’ll get will be in this age when you’re out and about and It’s these early burns that trigger a change in the skin cell that could reactivate later in life.

Tanning. As for getting a tan, it’s the skins natural melanin that creates the tanned looked. A melanocyte releases melanin to act as a little umbrella sitting over the skin cell to try and protect it but every time it’s needed it’s less effective.

You will never be able to recreate the best tan from the best Summer you ever had as the melanin degrades with age! Tiny white spots on your skin ( often seen first on the forearms and shins) are areas where the melanocyte has died and can no longer protect that area of the skin. Apply your sunscreen liberally to these areas.

The safest tan is a self tan or spray tan.

The reason your Beauty Therapist always asks about your sunscreen routine is because we see the difference it makes. Future proofing your skin means wearing a dedicated sunscreen every day not just when you know you’re going to be outside.

If you would like to take this further and test your sunscreen book an Observ skin scan and we can show you how well your product is working.

Robyn Prinsep
Salon Owner/Expert Beauty Therapist
House of Beaute