For NHS guidance on SPF usage, please click here.
I am sure we have all seen the photograph that circulated a few years
ago of William McElliot, a 66 year old trucker who had spent 28 years
driving around Chicago. Having been exposed to the sun, the left side of
his face looked significantly more aged than his right. Despite spending
the majority of his day inside, his skin was badly damaged by the sun.
Deep wrinkles, loss of elasticity and pigmentation are key indicators of
ongoing exposure to the elements and causes lasting visual damage
alongside the increased risk of skin cancer.
The two types of UV rays that affect our skin are UVA and UVB; UVA rays
cause Aging with the rays able to penetrate much deeper into the layers
of the skin whilst UVB rays cause Burning and affect the outermost
layers of skin which is why (and where) you can see the damage.
Despite working in the cosmetic industry for the past decade and having
both of my Grannies suffer with skin cancer at various points in their
lives, I cannot honestly say that I wear sun protection every day. I
know that I should, but quite often I am only outside for a few minutes
at a time, nipping into the supermarket or to nursery. I am even less
likely to remember if it has a particularly tough night or early
morning, I am lucky if I have time to splash my face with water and
brush my teeth before dashing out of the door, my skin shrivelling under
the lack of moisture.
I ran a poll on Instagram to gather a general overview of people’s
attitudes to sun protection; whether they wore it daily, which factor
they favoured and if they didn’t wear it, then why. If I am completely
honest the results weren’t a huge shock to me. Whilst at work I have had
countless conversations with clients around sun protection. When you
seek out advice for ageing from a professional, the first plan of attack
is always protection, after all prevention is better than the cure.
However, a huge amount of the people I would see day to day were happy
to invest in expensive, often quite abrasive products that promise to
correct the problem the sun has caused but neglected to protect their
skin afterwards. We are also adding more potent, active ingredients into
our at home skin regimes. Retinols, AHAs and BHAs can now be found
easily on the shelves, where you can create your own regime without
seeking advice from an expert, expertise that is crucial when it comes
to sun protection. These harsh products increase photosensitivity,
making your skin even more susceptible to damage.
My results highlighted that only 29% of people wore sun protection every
day, 54% wore it when the weather was sunny in the UK and a staggering
15% will only wear sun protection when abroad in a hot country. The
general consensus being that you only need add SPF in to your routine as
it gets warmer in the UK, relying on it being that blistering hot
weather where you can sit in the beer garden in shorts and t-shirt for
an hour with an Aperol Spritz and end up with a sun kissed flush and
freckled arms. The problem with this is that as soon as your skin turns
pink, it is damaged. Sunburn is your skin’s reaction and acts as a a
short term warning for potential long- term damage. Cloudy days are a
false security as- 80% of UltraViolet (UV) light penetrates cloud cover.
Rather surprisingly, M more than 50% of UV light penetrates through
glass, so if you work in a bright office or drive for long periods of
time, SPF is an absolute must.
It is increasingly common to find that daytime moisturisers and
foundation have sun protection built in and whilst the level of
protection is the same (a foundation with SPF15 will be equivalent to a
standalone SPF15) the issue is that we don’t always apply enough of the
product nor do we apply it evenly. You need (at least) half a teaspoon
worth of cream for just your face and neck, I definitely do not apply
that much foundation to my skin so the coverage would be greatly reduced
and I would risk being burnt.
Forgetting is the most common explanation for forgoing SPF. Applying sun
protection every day helps to alleviate this as it soon becomes part of
your daily routine, like brushing your teeth. Perhaps use a hair elastic
to attach your SPF and toothpaste together or keep it next to your
morning multivitamins. I tend to keep my SPF in my skincare caddy in my
cupboard, it houses everything in my current routine bar and cleanser
which makes it easy for me to stay organised and have no excuse to skip
To encourage everyday use and reduce breakouts, formulations have come a
long way too; gone are the days of chalky, thick, powdery lotions which
remained tacky until removed at the end of the day. You can now pick up
dedicated SPFs in a water based gel, hydrating serum and nourishing
cream formulas. And don’t forget the delicate eye area, a light textured
eye SPF and a pair of oversized sunglasses will keep your eyes bright
for as long as possible. Better still, don a large floppy hat and stay
out of the sun when it is strongest, usually around lunchtime -the
perfect excuse for an afternoon siesta.