Here we are in Spring 2022! All raring to go as we reclaim normality- the sun is shining and we are absolutely more than ready to make the most of our time in the sun! So, I thought I would update a previous blog about how it works and some ideas about managing this double edged sword.
Why double-edged sword?
One minute we are being told to' Slap on the sun cream! It causes premature ageing and skin cancer!' The next article says ' Get out in the sun! Lack of vitamin D is causing rickets, depression and immune deficiency!'
How does UV affect us?
UV rays emitted by the sun come in 3 lengths and strengths with different harms and benefits.
UVC is the shortest, these rays are used in sterilisation units as they kill micro-organisms. These rays are mostly absorbed by the ozone layer and don't generally reach us here on the ground. Unless you're underneath the bit with the hole in it!
UVB rays are active in the epidermis (the top layer of our skin) and are responsible for causing sunburn. UVB is also linked with skin cancer. B rays cannot penetrate through glass.
UVA are the longest and they penetrate into the dermis (the second layer of our skin) they give us a more immediate tan and are also associated with premature ageing. A rays can penetrate glass.
Cells in the epidermis called melanocytes make a substance called melanin when the skin is exposed to UV rays, this is the bodies way of defending itself against UV and is what gives us our tanned colour!
Vitamin D is generated in the skins epidermis then transported and stored in the liver after exposure to `UVB rays. Vitamin D is thought to be involved in the transport of information between cells. Deficiency in vitamin D is on the rise and affects bone strength, muscles, hair growth, mood, energy levels and the immune system.
How do I make sure I'm getting enough Vitamin D?
Advice given by the NHS is to avoid direct sun exposure between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strongest which is sensible given the risk of skin cancer but, how can you balance the scales between limiting the long and short term risks posed by UV and the benefits naturally generated vitamin d give us?
Vitamin D which is made naturally through UV exposure stays in the blood longer than synthetic substitutes thus enabling the body to maximise the take up of this biological bounty. Just 13 minutes of exposure to midday sun 3 times a week is enough to keep levels good. My suggestion to get the balance right is.... set a timer for 13 minutes on your phone and when it pings really slap on that sun cream and head to the shade for a big glass of something cool and hydrating!
The medical profession also advises that vitamin D supplements should be taken during winter as there is very little available UVB and less opportunity for exposure during these months.
Seven British organisations are concerned with safety in the sun; British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society and the Primary Care Dermatology Society and regularly update advice regarding UV exposure, safety and vitamin D production, here are a few tips and recommendations.
Advice given by Cancer Research UK
Understanding and Using the UV Index
The UV Index is a guide to help us managed our sun exposure and tells us when the UV rays are strong and there is a risk of burning. When the UV Index is 3 or more, the sun is strong enough to cause damage for some skin types so take care and protect your skin, especially if you burn easily.
Use this link to find out todays forecast:
The British Association of Dermatologists
The BAD website is an absolute gold mine for anyone looking for skin facts, I found a particularly useful quick snippet of info about SPF:
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is commonly interpreted as how much longer skin covered with sunscreen takes to burn compared with unprotected skin. So, if you burn after 10 minutes in the sun, then using a sunscreen labelled with, say, SPF15, is taken to mean that you can safely remain in the sun for 10 x 15 = 150 minutes, or 2½ hours, before burning.
This definition focuses on extending time in the sun but a better way of thinking about the SPF is that if you spend a certain time in the sun, then wearing a sunscreen with a given SPF reduces the UV dose to 1/SPF of that which you would have received by spending the same time in the sun but with no sunscreen applied. For example, applying an SPF15 sunscreen results in a UV exposure to the skin of one-fifteenth of that which you would have received if you had not applied any sunscreen. However, this statement is only true if the sunscreen is providing protection equivalent to the SPF, this rarely happens and most people who apply sunscreen are protected to a much lesser extent than they realise.
Diabetes and Sun Exposure
Those living with Diabetes should be aware that some medication they may take can make them more sensitive and susceptible to burning, special care should be taken to protect the feet from damage as healing is slow. Sun exposure to the point of sunburn can, like any form of stress, can increase stress hormones and in turn affect blood sugar, therefore people with diabetes should take special care when in the sun.
Ageing- how does UV accelerate ageing?
Aside from the real risks around skin cancer many of us are aware that UV exposure damages the skin and makes us age faster, this is another very valid reason to use a high SPF not just in the summer but all year round.
The skin is supported by a matrix of proteins called elastin and collagen and a substance called MMP breaks down old proteins to maintain healthy skin. UV exposure causes an over-production of MMP therefore increasing the breakdown. Exposure also causes higher levels of free radicals which attack the matrix, combined with lower levels of anti-oxidants which neutralise free radicals this all spells disaster for thespian in terms of ageing.
A good balanced diet consisting of fresh fruit, vegetables, vegetable oils and low meat consumption is high on the list of importance when it comes to safeguarding your skin. I'm planning a blog on this subject so watch this space!
So, how do we achieve a balance?
We have established that we need to have a little UV exposure to help with Vitamin D production and it is clear how important vitamin d is in terms of physical development and also helping us feel better, more energised and fight off bugs.
Sitting out in the sun for a short time enjoying a summer cocktail or iced coffee hanging out with friends or family is certainly something not to avoid BUT beware of the time and your orientation to the sun!
Consider the time of day... the sun is so much stronger at midday and your skin will burn faster than you think. Also the burning effects of UVB aren't apparent until a few hours later when its too late and very painful!
Don't loose track of the time... follow the guide lines and only expose unprotected skin to the sun for 10-15 minutes after which time apply a good layer of sun cream.
Which sun cream?
My personal sun product of choice at the moment is Nivea. The range is wide in terms of application method and product and also their products contain both UVA and B protection which is important considering what we now know.
One very important thing to note about Nivea is that as a brand they are highly environmentally aware, using renewable and responsibly sourced ingredients and packaging. A blog about sustainability is in the beauty pipeline so keep watching.
Find out more here: www.nivea.co.uk/about-us/sustainability-at-nivea/world-is-our-skin
I really recommend adding anti-age sun protection into your everyday routine from March to November. Being a regular user of Nivea anti-age face sun cream it comes in a very handy portable size and doesn't sting or irritate your eyes. The product is now only available in SPF 50, which I think, demonstrates how important it is to protect your skin- no messing around with SPF 30 on your beautiful, precious face!
I often mix and match my skin protection applying 50+ on my shoulders, chest, back and arms and then applying 30 on my legs and tummy. I wear 30-50 on my face and a hat when possible especially when sunbathing or on the beach. A key thing is remember to top up regularly!
On the kids I usually let them run around for a little while in the morning sun without protection, maybe about 15-30 mins and then hit them with 30 or 50 depending on the season and the time of day.
If we are at the beach and I make sure its the all-day protection or a waterproof product, and still regularly re-apply- especially on the back and shoulders. In fact, if the sun is particularly intense, I do have them swim in an old t-shirt, dark ones are the best as they offer the best protection against the rays.
I love my job!
I'm very lucky I meet great people and have such fun helping them get ready and derive great satisfaction when they are so thrilled with their look.