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Its Summer and time to Slap on the Sunscreen!

Sunscreens or Sun Protection Factors (SPFs) are the talk of summer! But do you really need an SPF as part of your daily routine?

The answer is a resounding Yes! Lets look at how Sunscreens work against UV rays and help protect the skin from ageing and skin cancers...

Ultraviolet (UV) rays come in 3 forms. UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC are the strongest but are filtered out by the Ozone Layer in the atmosphere. UVA and UVB rays penetrate through the clouds and reach our skin. Some lights also emit UV rays.

UVA causes Aging. UVA penetrates down into the deeper layers of the skin or dermis causing skin cells to age and damaging the cells DNA. This results in wrinkles, age spots, darkening of the skin and can contribute to some cancers. Sunbeds give off large amounts of UVA. UVA can penetrate through glass and therefore wearing sunscreen even indoors is recommended.

UVB cause Burning and are responsible for sunburn, photoageing and contributes to most skin cancers. UVB penetrates less deep than UVA and does not penetrate through glass.

An article published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the effects of UVA that had affected a truck drivers skin through a windscreen over a period of 28 years. The side closest to the window (right) had received the most damage and was evident in the appearance of one side of the face compared to the other.

Unilateral Dermatoheliosis, Jennifer R.S. Gordon, M.D., and Joaquin C. Brieva, M.D. N Engl J Med 2012; 366:e25April 19, 2012DOI: 10.1056/NEJMicm1104059

So what is an SPF? The measure of SPF does not equate to the level of protection, but rather indicates how long it will take UVB rays to redden the skin with the product on compared to how long it would take without the product on the skin. For example an SPF of 20 means that your skin will take 20 times longer to redden with the product on your skin when compared to using no product.

SPFs of 15 block 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% and SPF 50 blocks 98%.

Sunscreens can contain a physical block and a chemical block. Chemical blocks form a film on the skin and absorb the rays before they penetrate the skin. Physical blocks are substances that reflect the rays off the skin.

Physical sunscreens work immediately and cover the top of the skin. They can be used on sensitive skin and tend to have a longer expiration date. They are do tend to leave a white residue, are less sweat and water resistant and need to be applied at regular intervals.

Chemical sunscreens give a greater SPF cover, are more water resistant and dont leave a visible residue, making it easier to apply with make up. They need to be applied about half an hour before going into the sun and can be somewhat irritating to sensitive skin.

So there is a little bit of information on what a good sunscreen should contain an how to decipher the lingo on the bottle. But how do you choose from the many Sunscreens out there? Is chemical better than physical or is one with both types the best? The answer is that it depends on the situation and the type of skin you have. If you have sensitive skin then a physical sunscreen may be less irritating but still provide protection from UVA and UVB rays. If you have normal skin then a combination sunscreen can work for you. The important thing is to apply regularly and make it part of your routine.

Below I have reviewed some of medical sunscreens available that have been developed by pharmaceutical companies.

Obagi Sun Shield Matte SPF 50

The world famous Obagi brand, known for its Nu Derm Range that treats acne and hyper pigmentation has led the way in skincare under the previous leadership of dermatologist Dr Zein Obagi. Not surprisingly, their SPF is very highly rated.

Obagi's Sun Shield Matte SPF contains a micronized Zinc Oxide 10.5% giving physical sun protection, whilst octinoxate 7.5% provides a chemical sun block. It provides UVA and UVB protection, is non comedogenic and dermatologist tested. This SPF claims to have the deepest penetration of all sunscreens reaching a depth of 285-390nm. The product is fragrance free and also comes in a tinted version.

The product does take a bit of rubbing in, as does all SPF 50s but it isn’t too heavy on the skin after absorption. Long swiping movements help apply this cream evenly without it congealing. It isn't too greasy and absorbs well. There is a slight whitish tinge to the skin after application but is wearable under make up. I tend to use this product on sunny days or when I am on holiday at home in South Africa where the sun is out most days.

Obagi Skin Matte retails (85g) at £40 and is available at the clinic. Email for orders.

Skin Tech Melablock HSP SPF 50

Skin Tech led my Dr Phillipe Deprez is a Pharma group with over 20 years experience in Aesthetics, with a large focus on chemical peels and creams. They have won several awards for facial rejuvenation and chemical peeling.

The Skin Tech SPF is unique in that it activates the natural synthesis of Heat Shock Proteins (HSP) that defend against the skin damage from high temperatures, which can cause protein and cell destruction . The SPF has a physical block of titanium dioxide and a chemical filter of ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate. This SPF is especially developed for use after chemical peels, laser, dermabrasion or pulsed light.

The product is non greasy when applied, absorbed quickly and is easy to use in combination with make up. I used this product after my Skin Tech peel and found it lovely to apply and use when my skin was flaking after my peel. Application 3 times daily is advised.

Melablock comes in a50ml tube and retails at £27 and is available at the clinic. Email for orders.

NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50

NeoStrata was founded by Drs Van Scott and Yu after a focused drive to treat ichthyosis resulted in the discovery of the effects of alphahydroxyacids (AHAs) on skin rejuvenation. The company has since developed a variety of medical cosmeceuticals using stringent scientific research and testing. Several of their products have won international awards.

The Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50 offers a broad spectrum physical UVA/UVB protection using minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It has the highest level of UVA protection (PA ++++).

This sunscreen can be used on sensitive skin, after procedures and is non comedogenic. It has no fragrance and blends with the natural tints of the skin. The PHA Bionic complex protects and strengthens the skin and also provides strong antioxidant DNA protection, preventing collagen breakdown and giving skin added strength.

It has an ultra sheer texture and leaves the skin with a tinted matte finish. It is non-greasy, absorbs easily and can be worn over make-up and layered with other products.The product does need to be shaken for 15 seconds before activation to blend the sunscreen and pigments before activation. This product is great for sensitive skins that react to combination chemical and physical sunscreens.

NeoStrata Sheer Physical Protection SPF 50 (50mls) is available at the clinic. It retails for £ 34. Email for orders.

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