Recent research shows that the sun plays a huge role in ageing our skin and is responsible for 80% of skin damage. To understand how the sun ages our skin, we must understand the effect the sun’s rays have, and the difference between UVA and UVB rays.

Shannon with SPF 50 on half her face and nothing on the other half

UVA and UVB rays

Sunlight is composed of UVA and UVB rays and both cause damage to our skin but in very different ways.

UVA rays are responsible for up to 95% of premature skin ageing. They penetrate deep into our skin, breaking down existing collagen and elastin and reducing our skins ability to produce more. SPF is the most powerful protection against wrinkles and damaged skin. UVA rays remain constant throughout the year, meaning that they’re just as harmful during the winter months as in the summer. Even if you spend your days working indoors or commuting, a shocking 80% of UVA rays penetrate through clouds & windows, which is why an SPF should be worn 365 days a year regardless of the weather.

UVB rays are more intense than UVA rays and are responsible for burning and pigmentation beneath the skin. These rays penetrate even further into our skin than UVA rays and are at their strongest during the summer months when the sun is uncovered by clouds.

What is an SPF?

SPF stands for ‘Sun Protector Factor’ which measures the effectiveness of sunscreen against UVA/UVB rays. Sunscreens reflect, absorb and scatter both UVA and UVB rays, making sure that the skin does not absorb them. Most of us are under the impression that the higher the SPF number the better the protection. This is wrong. In simple terms, the SPF number indicates the length of time you are protected for, not the strength of sun you are protected from. For example, if it takes you four minutes to burn in the sun without an SPF, then an SPF factor 50 will provide you with protection for 200 minutes.

Remember that reddening of the skin is only an effect to UVB exposure; it tells you nothing about how the UVA is damaging your skin. To offer your skin full protection you should ideally be wearing a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection which is SPF 30 or above.

Physical and Chemical SPF

When talking about sun protection, it can sound like you are running through the periodic table in a chemistry lesson. However, understanding the difference between physical & chemical sunscreens helps show how they work on your skin and what they do to prevent sun damage:

• Physical filters reflect the UV rays away from the skin. They provide UVA & UVB protection and are known as “Broad Spectrum”. Look out for ingredients such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide.

• Chemical filters absorb the UV rays. They only provide UVB protection and are more likely to irritate your skin. You need to apply them at least 20 – 30mins before sun exposure for effective protection.

Next steps

Start by including a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or above in your daily routine. Sun damage can happen every day, no matter what the weather. Our favourite is the Mineral Eye UV defence from SkinCeuticals; dark under eye circles and uneven skin tone be gone!

Think twice about relying on the SPF in your make up or moisturiser. The SPF included in your cosmetics won’t be applied thick enough to offer you full protection. It is often only chemical and can be easily wiped off throughout the day.

Take a skin scan at your local DestinationSkin clinic. A skin scan is a quick and easy way to take a deeper look at the health of your skin under a UV lamp by identifying areas such as dehydration, existing sun damage (pigmentation) and other skin concerns.

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