What you need to know about UV, Skin conditions & SPF
Let's get right into it..
UVA and UVB rays, what are they?
UV (ultraviolet) rays are what the sun emits, they can also come from artificial sources such as tanning beds. UV rays consist of 3 min types - UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC however is mostly absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere and it’s not as significant when it comes to the skin as UVA and UVB are.
UVA (aging rays): these are the rays that can penetrate the skin the deepest and are often the rays associated with aging. UVA rays can cause signs of premature aging including fine lines, and age spots and eventually lead to deeper set wrinkles.
UVB (burning rays): UVB rays primarily affect the outermost layer of the skin. They are the rays responsible for causing sunburn and are more closely linked to skin cancers, mainly melanomas. UVB rays are also responsible for the tan that we can gain on sunny days.
Effects of UV radiation on the skin:
Sunburn: as we all know overexposure to UVB rays causes sunburn, which can be categorised by redness, pain and peeling skin.
Tanning: when the skin is exposed to UV rays, it produces melanin, a pigment in the skin that helps to provide some protection against UV damage. This is what leads to a tan but is also what is considered a sign of skin damage.
Skin aging: UVA rays can contribute to signs of premature aging by breaking down collagen and elastin fibres, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin
Skin cancer: UV radiation is a major risk factor for skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. UVB rays are particularly associated with skin cancer development.
Protection from UV radiation:
Sunscreen: using broad-spectrum SPF (sun protection factor) can help protect the skin from UV radiation. SPF indicates the level of protection against UVB rays
Clothing: wearing long-sleeved clothing, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses with UV protection can shield the skin and eyes from UV rays.
Avoid peak sun hours: UV radiation is strongest between 10a.m and 4p.m if possible, limit outdoor activities during these hours
Seek shade: when outdoors, seek shade from trees, umbrellas, or buildings to reduce UV exposure
Regular skin checks: perform regular skin self-examinations and undergo yearly checks with a skin check clinic to be sure any suspicious moles or skin changes can be addressed at the earliest possible stage
UV-induced skin disorders:
Actinic keratosis: a common precancerous skin lesion caused by UV exposure.
Photoaging: UV radiation accelerates the skin’s aging process, leading to wrinkles, fine lines and age spots
Skin pigmentation disorders: UV exposure can worsen conditions like melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
Let's take a look at what how UV can effects 2 of the most common skin concerns we treat in clinic...
ACNE & UV
UV radiation can have some complex effects on acne. While most
people may initially notice some improvements in their acne symptoms
following sun exposure due to temporary drying and inflammation, these
short-term benefits can be overshadowed by the long-term negative
consequences for acne-prone skin.
Let’s dive a bit deeper
Short term effects
Drying and inflammation reduction: UV rays can have a drying effect on the skin surface and temporarily reduce inflammation associated with acne. This may lead to a temporary improvement in the appearance of acne lesions.
Tanning may mask redness: the tanning of the skin can mask the redness of acne lesions, making them less noticeable. However, this is only a cosmetic effect and does not address the underlying causes of acne.
Long-term effects and drawbacks:
Increased risk of sun damage: repeated and prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin damage, including premature aging (wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots) and an increased risk of skin cancer. These risks may outweigh any short-term benefits for acne skin.
Exacerbation of acne: UV radiation can stimulate the production of sebum (skin oil), which, in combination with dead skin cells can clog pores and worsen acne in the long run. In some cases, this effect can lead to more severe breakouts arising in the skin.
Photosensitivity: most conventional treatments for acne such as retinoids and medications like Roaccutane and doxycycline can increase the skin's sensitivity to UV radiation. If you are currently using something of this nature it is important to note that you can incur a harsher sunburn and the skin damage as well will be greater.
Whether you are using a photosensitising product or just have acne it is crucial to use SPF daily and reapply, along with practising sun-safe behaviours to protect your skin from the sun and its harmful effects.
ROSACEA & UV
UV can have a significant impact on those with rosacea. Rosacea is a chronic skin condition that primarily affects the facial skin, leading to redness, flushing, visible blood vessels (telangiectasia), and in some cases acne-like bumps and pustules.
UV exposure can both trigger and worsen the symptoms of rosacea.
Let’s dive a bit deeper..
Trigger rosacea flare-ups:
Dilation of blood vessels: UV radiation can cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate (widen), which is what is known as vasodilation. In individuals with rosacea, this can lead to increased redness and flushing of the skin.
Heat sensitivity: many people with rosacea are sensitive to heat and UV radiation can produce heat, exacerbating symptoms. Exposure to hot sun or sitting in a hot car, for example, can trigger rosacea flare-ups.
Sunburn: rosacea skins are often a lot more sensitive, and UV exposure can lead to sunburn, which can worsen redness and inflammation associated with rosacea.
Short term effects - worsening of skin symptoms
Increased redness: chronic sun exposure can lead to persistent redness in rosacea patients. As we know rosacea isn’t curable, only manageable, so factors that can worsen symptoms will set back any management progress
Telangiectasia: UV radiation can contribute to the development of more visible blood vessels on the surface of the skin
Long-term effects and drawbacks - Photoaging and skin damage:
Premature aging - UV radiation accelerates the aging process of the skin, leading to wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. These sign of ageing can become more pronounced in individuals with rosacea who also have sun damage.
Management and prevention:
Sun protection is crucial for individuals with rosacea. This includes wearing SPF daily on all exposed areas of skin and reapplying, seeking shade and wearing a wide-brimmed
hat along with protective clothing when outdoors
Okay so we mentioned SPF about a million times now but what is it, how does it work and why is it so important?
SPF stands for sun protection factor; it is a critical component of sun care and skin protection. It is a measure of how effectively a sunscreen can protect your skin from UV and its harmful effects. SPF is a numerical rating that indicates what level of protection a sunscreen will provide against UVB rays, which as we now know that the rays that are mainly responsible for causing sunburns.
Here is what you need to know:
Numerical rating: the SPF rating is represented as a number, such as SPF 15, SPF 30, and SPF 50. The higher the SPF number, the greater the level of protection the sunscreen offers against UVB radiation
UVB protection: SPF primarily measures the sunscreen’s ability to block or absorb UVB rays. UVB rays are shorter in wavelength and are responsible for causing sunburn, skin reddening, and damage to the outermost layers
Protection Factor: SPF is a multiplier for the amount of time you can spend in the sun before your skin starts to burn compared to not using sunscreen. For example, if you typically start to sunburn after 10 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen, using an SPF 30 sunscreen should theoretically allow you to stay in the sun for 30 times longer (300 minutes or 5 hours) without burning, assuming the sunscreen is applied correctly and reapplied as needed.
4. Effectiveness: While no sunscreen can provide 100% protection, higher SPF values offer better protection, but the increase in protection becomes less significant as you go from, say, SPF 30 to SPF 50. SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks about 98%.
Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens: Many sunscreens are labelled as broad-spectrum, which means they provide protection against both UVB and UVA (ultraviolet A) rays. UVA rays are responsible for premature skin aging and can contribute to skin cancer. It is important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen for comprehensive protection.
Application and Reapplication: To achieve the stated level of protection, it is essential to apply sunscreen generously to all exposed skin and to reapply it regularly (roughly every two hours), especially after swimming or sweating. Not applying enough or failing to reapply can significantly reduce the effectiveness of the sunscreen. As Spf's are designed to sit on your skin, think of it like a regular lipstick - it smudges and wears off with touch and movement.
Skin Type and Activity Level: The appropriate SPF level may vary depending on your skin type (fair or dark) and your planned outdoor activities. People with fair skin or those engaging in prolonged outdoor activities may benefit from higher SPF levels.
Which one to choose: Truth is, you need more then 1 SPF in your life, depending on what your day looks like in term of UV exposure, activity.. But also depending on the season (yes, you absolulty should be wearing Spf all year around). Another BIG factor to consider is the ingredients in the ingredients in the Spf and suitability to your skin type.
9 benefits of UV protection:
Protection against UV radiation: the primary purpose of SPF is to protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation, which includes UVA and UVB rays. UV radiation can lead to various skin issues, including sunburn, premature aging and an increased risk of sun cancer.
Preventing sunburn: SPF helps prevent sunburn by blocking or absorbing the UVB rays responsible for causing it. Sunburn is not only painful but also damages the skin and increases the risk of skin cancer
Reducing the risk of skin cancer: prolonged and repeated exposure to UV radiation is a leading cause of skin cancer, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Using SPF regularly can significantly reduce this risk.
Slowing skin aging: UV radiation accelerates the aging process of the skin, leading to wrinkles, fine lines, age spots and loss of skin elasticity. SPF helps slow down these visible signs of aging and keeps your skin looking younger forever (if you want to invest in any form of anti-aging or preventative treatments SPF is going to be your best friend!!)
Preventing hyperpigmentation: UV exposure can lead to the development of dark spots, known as hyperpigmentation or sunspots. SPF helps prevent the formation of these spots and can even fade existing ones over time.
Protecting sensitive skin: people with sensitive skin conditions, such as rosacea or eczema, often have skin that is more vulnerable to UV damage. SPF is crucial for maintaining their skin health and preventing flare-ups
Maintain skin health: regular use of SPF helps maintain the overall health and integrity of your skin. It acts as a barrier against environmental stressors, such as pollution and free radicals, which can contribute to skin damage.
Preventing eye damage: While we are not putting SPF in our eyes, we can wear SPF-containing sunglasses or eyewear to protect our eyes from UV radiation, reducing the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, and other eye conditions.
Supporting overall well-being: protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful effects not only promotes physical health but also contributes to your overall well-being. It allows you to enjoy outdoor activities without undue concern for the safety of your skin.
SPF is a measure of how well a sunscreen can protect your skin from UVB radiation, particularly in preventing sunburn. It is an essential tool for sun protection, but it is important to understand that no sunscreen provides absolute protection, and other sun-safe practices, such as seeking shade and wearing protective clothing, are also important for maintaining skin health and preventing sun damage.
We hope this may have helped you understand the connection and importance of UV protection. If however you are more confused then before on if you are doing it right - please don't hesitate to reach out.