As we go about our busy days, it is easy to forget that those pesky UV rays from the sun that are slowly damaging our skin, leading to premature aging and potentially skin cancer.
Our cosmetics at home may have spf included, but are we using it properly? Are the ingredients correct? Did we overpay for something that is ineffective? There are many things to think about when applying preventative skincare, as we discovered while researching our article for a Pure-fect routine for Anti-Aging, so we sat down again with Georgina Axis, founder of Pure Beauty Spa, to discuss the hidden facts about sunscreen…and this is what she had to say:
GG: Is the SPF found in our makeup enough?
Georgina: All products with labelled SPF values, including moisturisers, foundations and powders, go through the same testing procedures as sunscreens to determine their sun protection ratings. However, you should always use a dedicated SPF on top of your moisturizer and under makeup, because:
→ You will most likely not be able to apply an adequate amount of the product to properly protect the skin since you need to apply 2 mg per cm² (around 1/4 teaspoon or the length of your finger) which is a lot.
→ Most products with an added spf only have SPF protection (UVB protection only) and are not broad spectrum (protection from UVA as well).
→ The other issue is durability; many sunscreens are designed and tested to be water resistant, whereas moisturisers and make-up are not.
GG: What is the difference between UVA/UVB protection and is there something else we should be looking for on the bottle?
Georgina: They both damage unprotected skin, but in different ways.
UVB causes sunburns and skin cancer, but it’s mostly blocked by normal window glass. It’s also the type of UV light that’s involved in the production of vitamin D in the skin. UVB is strongest in summer, and in the middle of the day.
UVA rays are present all day long, year-round, even when it’s cloudy and the sun isn’t out. If you see daylight at any hour, UVA rays are present. The reason UVA is less known than UVB is that the dangers of UVA weren’t well researched until relatively recently. The effects of UVA are also less immediate and build up over time, which makes them arguably more dangerous, as they do not cause sunburn, rather, they cause tanning to the skin. They penetrate farther into the skin than UVB rays, steadily destroying key substances in the skin that give it its firmness and elasticity. UVA rays are a leading cause of aging, wrinkles, pigmentation, and a major contributor to every type of skin cancer.
UVA rays penetrate glass. Unless you have a special filter fitted over your windows, your skin is being exposed to UVA rays, making sunscreen an absolute necessity.
The SPF rating of sunscreen is related to protection from UVB rays and stands for Sun Protection Factor, a measurement of how long you can stay outside during the day and be protected from the sun’s burning UVB rays. To ensure adequate protection from UVA as well as from UVB, look for sunscreens labeled “Broad Spectrum”, which indicates that they have been tested and are permitted to make that claim.
Some sunscreens include PA+ rating on their products. The letters “PA” followed by plus signs on a label are a rating system developed in Japan to represent how much UVA protection the product offers. This is what each PA rating means:
PA+ = Some UVA protection
PA++ = Moderate UVA protection
PA+++ = High UVA protection
PA++++ = Extremely High UVA protection.
GG: Are there any specific ingredients to look for specifically or to avoid?
Georgina: Not many people know that both chemical and physical sunscreens absorb UV. Chemical (organic) sunscreens absorb almost 100% of the incoming UV and convert it to heat. Physical (inorganic or mineral) sunscreens absorb about 95% of incoming UV and convert it to heat (just like its chemical counterpart). Only about 5% is reflected/scattered. Ultimately the right sunscreen for you is the one you love to apply daily. It should be rated at least SPF 30 (or preferably SPF 50 for the face), provide broad-spectrum protection to prevent damage UVA and UVB rays. Beyond that, to make an informed choice, you need to know how your skin type responds to different sunscreen ingredients and textures: those containing mineral actives, synthetic actives, or a combination of both.
A common misconception is that physical reflects UV, whereas chemical absorbs; making physical the better option. Also, physical contains natural ingredients so naturally, it must be better for you.
First of all, both physical and chemical based sunscreens contain chemicals. In fact, every skincare product on the planet, including makeup, are made up of chemicals.
For this reason alone, calling one chemical and one physical is not accurate and instantly leads you to believe that the one referred to as a chemical must be bad for you. Thinking about them in this way has led to a huge misunderstanding about how sunscreen really works to protect the skin. Just because something may be truly ‘natural’ doesn’t automatically make it better or safer for you; just like something that is synthetic (man-made) doesn’t mean it’s bad or unsafe for you. When these ingredients are formulated into a sunscreen product, the Titanium and Zinc may even be coated in chemical substances in order to stop them from becoming photocatalytic. Essentially, you have chemicals being coated in chemicals. This is just another reason why referencing sunscreens as chemical and physical isn’t ideal and gives a false sense of how they truly function.
“Let’s start calling spf, daylight protection”
-Georgina Axis, Pure Beauty Spa
GG: Which brands do you recommend? Why?
Georgina: We love the Heliocare 360° range. Regardless of whether you have dry, oily, spot prone or sensitive skin there’s a Heliocare 360° product to suit you.
Every Heliocare 360° product offers at least SPF50 protection against UVB and PA++++ (the highest possible PA rating) for UVA and maximum protection against visible light, infrared-A, free radicals and DNA damage. It shields the skin’s surface and defends the skin from within with a unique combination of intelligent ingredients including clinically proven anti-oxidants and DNA repair enzymes. Fernblock is one of these ingredients and is exclusive to Heliocare 360° products. It is a supercharged, fern derived anti-oxidant that fights and neutralises free radicals in the skin. With over 80 Fernblock clinical papers, Fernblock is the result of years of research and is Heliocare’s secret weapon.
GG: Let’s talk about our favorite, tinted sunscreen. Is it as effective?
Georgina: Yes, it is the same as a regular spf in terms of protection just with the added color, but it does not replace your moisturizer. It is more for convenience as you can then avoid the foundation step of your makeup routine and use this as a 2 in 1 product.
GG: Caution: any brands that are reputable by name, but really are not effective (you’re not getting what you’re paying for)?
Georgina: Any brands that promote a dropper spf, like sun drops (without directly naming any names 😉 ) should be avoided at all costs. Spf cannot and should never be diluted. It is also very overpriced in my opinion. I would also avoid buying expensive moisturisers with added spf, it is not necessary, and should be used separately to get full UVA protection. And lastly the long wear types of spfs, especially for children.
GG: Any other tips?
Georgina: Be sure to use the right amount (roughly a finger length of product for the face) so you are fully protected and re apply throughout the day as necessary depending on what you are doing. This makes a huge difference in efficacy. Poor application could result in an SPF30+ becoming more like a SPF 5+. An area frequently forgotten in applying spf is right below your ears on your neck and jawline, as we often see areas of pigmentation there so be sure to cover it!
SPF is a non-negotiable and should be everyone’s desert island skincare product. The sun is the biggest cause of ageing so if you want to keep your skin looking its best; it is the most important part of your routine. It should be used every day, all year round, and even at home if you have light and sunshine in through your windows. Let’s start calling spf, daylight protection, it might make people realise it really is an essential!
And don’t worry; you get enough Vitamin D through your scalp, parts of the body that are uncovered and unprotected, no need to skip it to load up on Vitamin D.
Finally, avoid sunscreens containing ingredients that are simply not necessary for it to be effective, for example fragrance.
GG: Would you like to mention anything about your services going into spring/summer?
Georgina: Please contact us for complimentary Heliocare samples, we currently stock the whole 360 range. We reopened on the 28th of April, but if you would rather not venture out or live outside Zurich, we are offering skincare advice and routines tailored to you with skincare delivery possible throughout Switzerland. Please email us to arrange your skincare consultation, firstname.lastname@example.org In the meantime please subscribe to our newsletter here for updates, new product and treatment announcements and developments.
References for this article and further reading:
Kind of Stephen – Physical-vs-Chemical Myths
Caroline Hirons – SPF Cheat Sheet
Lab muffin- Why you should protect yourself from UVA
Wiley – Metal oxide sunscreens protect skin by absorption, not by reflection or scattering
Paula’s choice – mineral-vs-synthetic
Aestheticare – Heliocare
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