Sun Care and Skin Care - Lesson 3

 

You've got combination skin

Just like regular skin-care, face sun care can be mix 'n' matched - provided it's of equal SPF value. (In fact, most sunscreens available have SPFs of between 17 and 40, but can't be labeled with an SPF of higher than 15, a move designed to stop manufacturers getting into a "numbers" game, competing to produce sunscreens with stratospheric SPFs).

Sticking to SPF 15 for the entire face zone - a sensible move for all women - means that you can safely switch between brands, choosing an oil-free or gel formulation for the tends-to-be-shiny forehead/nose/chin triangle. Seek out a richer lotion - look for "moisturizing" on the label - for areas like cheeks, neck, décolletage.

 

Why a little doesn't go a long way?

Don't skimp on sun screen - and do put it on evenly. If you apply sunscreen too thinly, you can lose about half its SPF value. We also slather on some places (face, nose) and skimp on the hard to-reach zones (upper back).

To make sure your sunscreen lives up to its SPF, you must apply it thickly enough to leave an all-over film that you can, initially, see and touch. (You should also apply sunscreen under thin clothes. UVA beams right through lightweight fabrics.)

Apply sun block 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Firstly, it's all too easy to spend the first half-hour on the beach settling in while the sun beats down on your unprotected skin. Secondly, suncare binds best to cool, dry skin. Super-dose face, ears, neck, upper chest, arms and backs of hands - where many of the most common skin cancers occur. And don't forget to reapply - preferably every hour.

The great fakers

Better than sun exposure: instant tans-in-a-tube and now in a spray, make faking it easier than ever. You may have been put off auto bronzers by old-fashioned formulations which give carrot-streaked results and smelled like Children's Corner at the zoo. But a new generation of fake tans has emerged enabling you to fake a rich, golden bronze (or a sun-kissed beige) without ever moving from the sanctuary of a parasol. Not only have today's self-tanners for the most part eliminated the odours which used to be emitted as the effective ingredient DHA got to work, they also go on more smoothly than ever. One golden rule: if you're very fair, exfoliate first, especially on knees and elbows where creams can build up to an unreal nut brown if you're not careful.

On the face, mix a small amount of facial moisturizer before applying bronzer (and avoid the eyebrows). Dilution produces a lighter, more natural colour which can be repeated if it's too light.

Rays of hope?

It cannot be repeated too often: excessive tanning or under-SPF-ing can give you skin cancer. Period. Not cheery, I know but as scientist’s race against time (and the thinning ozone layer) to develop deeper insights into sun damage, there still isn't a (UV) light at the end of the tunnel for sun worshippers. Rates of melanoma and other skin cancers have doubled, it is believed, over the past 10 years.

UV radiation appears to cause skin cancer through a double-whammy effect: damaging skin cell's DNA (our genetic blueprint) and suppressing the skin's immunity to tumour cells. Volunteers exposed to UV from solarium lamps (next worst thing to the sun itself) suffered a dip in immune response even though they were using an SPF 15+ sunscreen. Further research suggests the decline was triggered by UVA radiation.

UVB rays are what cause the instant post-sun effects: sunburn and redness. But UVA rays are emerging as the true villain: speeding up ageing, reducing elasticity and acting as the cancer spark. That's why you must go for sunscreens labeled as "broad-spectrum", as these are designed to filter out both kinds. Become a label fiend. Seek out those buzzwords or at the very least, label scan for those boasting "UVA protection".