Sun protection – chances are you’re getting it all wrong

Most of us know the importance of protecting our skin from the sun. For me, a high sun protection factor is as important as the hotel and I’m more scared of Australia’s cancerous UV rays than I am of its creepy crawlies. For this reason (and because I’m so very white) I never tan, and always fake it.

Recently I chatted to my Expater cousin, Emma, who is based in Sydney and works as Education Manager at leading skincare brand Dermalogica. Having spent years in the Australian sunshine capital my friends still refer to as the ‘one in your family with the really good skin’. Unsurprisingly, she’s my go to for any skincare queries.

As a self confessed skincare geek, it seems I’ve misunderstood a lot about sun protection and Emma has pointed me in the right direction. Expaters, whether you’re based in a hot country or off for some winter sun, then you might like to check out her sunscreen skincare tips:sun skin photo

How much?

The minimum sun protection factor (SPF) you need is an SPF 30 and preferably SPF 50 for full UV protection. The other vital thing is to apply sufficient sunscreen to achieve the correct SPF protection. The Cancer Council of Australia’s guidelines recommend a half teaspoon of sunscreen for the face, neck and ears. For the average sized body that’s 30-35ml of sunscreen, which is about a golf ball size amount of product, or at least six teaspoonfuls.

Don’t rely solely on your makeup SPF alone to give you sufficient protection, unless you’re going to apply massive amounts of the product. I can’t imagine anyone applying six teaspoons of foundation! And remember you need to also apply on your neck and ears, as well as your chest if you don’t have it covered up.

Don’t break out

Some people avoid sunscreens because they think it makes their skin breakout. This is because some sunscreens contain comedogenic ingredients that can indeed cause breakouts. So look for sunscreens or moisturisers with SPF that are guaranteed to be non-comedogenic (free of blackhead causing ingredients). There are some fantastic medicated, oil free, feather light treatment moisturisers that reduce breakouts and congestion with a SPF of 30-50. Seek them out if you have troubled skin.

sun skincare photo

Physical v chemical  

When choosing a sunscreen you have two choices: a physical or chemical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens sit on top of the skin to deflect and scatter UV rays away from the skin, while chemical ones work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. One is not better than the other necessarily in performance, but physical sunscreens are recommended for those with more sensitive skin, as they seem to tolerate the physical UV screening agents over the chemical ones. Personal taste plays a factor, especially for those exercising. Some people don’t like the feeling of a physical sunscreen ‘sitting’ on the skin surface especially when they sweat.

The correct sunscreen for your skin type:
Sensitive skin: I’d recommend a treatment moisturiser formulated to combat redness and sensitivity with a potent anti-inflammatory, ideally using physical sunscreens and anti-oxidants.
Acne prone; I’d go for an ‘acne/breakout’ treatment moisturiser to clear congestion, reduce breakout activity and protect, with a good dose of anti-oxidants. This could be a chemical sunscreen, which will disappear into the skin on application, or a combination of chemical and physical that may be felt on the skin surface for a short period of time. If the skin is also prone to sensitivity, a combination of sunscreens or even a physical sunscreen alone may be more appropriate.
Oily Skin: I’d recommend an oil free, feather light treatment moisturiser, that works on reducing oily shine, preventing dehydration with good dose of anti-oxidants.
Dry Skin: Normally dry skin types are more mature in age. Therefore I’d recommend a treatment moisturiser that addresses the signs of ageing with potent peptides, vitamins and a good dose of anti-oxidants. One that not only hydrates the skin, but also nourishes it. This can be either a physical or chemical, or combination of both.

sunshine skin photo

How often to apply

You should try to apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading outdoors, giving it ample time to absorb and get to the part of the skin where it works effectively. Since sunscreen can wear off, rub away or be sweated off the skin, it’s recommended not to rely on being protected for the ‘maximum duration’ of the product, but rather reapply sun protection liberally within two hours, and immediately after coming out of the water, even if you’re wearing water resistant sun protection.

The value of anti-oxidants

Also ensure your products are full of antioxidants as this can also help protect from sun damage. Although antioxidants don’t replace the need for sunscreens, when used in combination with them, they are highly effective and a wonderful addition to the protective value of a well-formulated sunscreen. Antioxidants also serve as topical anti-inflammatory agents.

A final word

Sunscreens save your skin, they are the best ‘anti-wrinkle’ product we have on the market today. They help protect and prevent against skin cancer and premature ageing of various forms e.g. sun spots, lines, poor skin texture, skin disorders such as sensitivity and hyper pigmentation. If you want to have a long-lasting youthful complexion, this is the product to help achieve it.

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