It’s that time of year when all of the debate centers on whether we’ve already seen the passing of summer in one foul swoop. Despite a hosepipe ban and temperatures at the end of March hovering above the Sahara, we are now about to enter a prolonged period of snow, sleet and rain if the forecasters are to be believed! And though it will probably be the case that we’ll only see the sun for a couple more days this year, protecting our skin against it is not only the best way to keep it looking young and wrinkle free (and also the cheapest way to do it!) but also helps us possibly avoiding more significant problems later on.
If you can believe this, Britain over the last few years has seen the world’s biggest increase in cases of skin cancer! How is that possible? A cursory look at any public park or beach when the slightest bit of sun hits will normally answer this question: we Brits strip off at the merest sign of sunnier climes and don’t seem to think of the consequences. Even in our current nanny, health and safety prone state, the government, unlike other governments around the world, doesn’t seem to be too bothered but there are a few things we should be doing to protect ourselves while also preserving our youthful glow.
Truth: sun damage is a form of extrinsic ageing. What does that mean? Frequent exposure to damaging ultra-violet rays, which are an undetectable form of radiation emitted by the sun, penetrate deep into the skin and causes our skin to prematurely age. This type of UV ray is called UVA and can also be a major source of skin cancer. Another type of UV ray is UVB which hits the surface of the skin and is the source of sunburns. Whether we’re walking to the car (or more likely walking past the car as we’ve run out of petrol in this country!) or simply sitting near a window, we’re exposed to harmful UV rays and this kind of contact is called secondary UV exposure. We all get about 10 hours of it each week. Add that to the approximately 7 hours of direct UV rays we also get per week and it’s the same as spending the entire week-end on the beach without sunscreen.
But why is it that certain people run greater risks than others in relation to the sun and also seem to age more as a result. The reality is that everyone’s skin ages more quickly the greater amount of time they spend in the sun. Other factors include how close you live to the equator and at what altitude you live at, any medication you may be on, and simple genetics: if you’re fair skinned, have light, red or blonde hair or freckles, you run a higher risk of sun damage long term and skin ageing.
So how do I maintain my youthful looks and avoid sun damage? There’s the obvious steps:
* Always use a cream with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher
* Apply it to the face, ears, lips, and neck. Do not forget to protect your scalp if you have bald spots or your hair is thinning.
* A Cream or lotion should be applied 20 minutes before you go out. For extended or intentional exposure when you are working, exercising, or relaxing outdoors, sun protectant should be reapplied every 2 to 3 hours.
*Avoid UV rays when they’re at its strongest between 11am and 4pm.
Now for a couple of special tips- when buying any sun related product always ensure it contains as many of the following ingredients as possible:
1. Retinol- it’s pure Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to form and maintain healthy skin. Retinol encourages the production and elimination of skin cells and stimulates the renewal of keratinocytes, which are the cells that synthesises keratin. Keratin is also the protein that makes up the skin, hair, and nails. The effects of retinol include softer skin and reduced appearance of fine lines.
2. Copper/Copper Peptides- a necessary trace metal in the body that is responsible for power and flexibility of the skin. Copper is added to specific anti-aging formulations to enhance the skin’s elasticity and strength.
3. Alpha Hydroxin Acids – AHAs remove dead skin cells from the upper layer of the skin. This increases creation of new skin cells and controls moisture levels, resulting in smoother, healthier skin tone. AHA’s result from natural sources, such as fruit, milk and sugar cane.
4. Antioxidants Vitamin C + E – oxidative stress, primarily caused by sun exposure, damages the skin’s support formation, the collagen matrix, Vitamin C + E, fights oxidative pressure and helps cells mend prior damage. When applied to the skin, antioxidants can lower the appearance of wrinkles and skin discoloration, and enhance skin vivacity.
5. Soy- the effective components of soybeans are mild and efficient additions to numerous skincare preparations. The benefits of soy consist of smoothing and moisturising the skin and evening the overall skin tone.
I hope I’m wrong and we’ve only just had a taster of the sort of weather that lies ahead but even in snow, sleet and rain, a little protection will really help the skin keep that youthful glow longer. It takes 30 seconds but could keep us 10 years younger in appearance as a result!