What you need to know before you get out in the sun

Did you know that the surface area of your skin is as much as 1.5 to 2 square meters? Sun exposure triggers off the process of melanogenesis i.e. pigment synthesis in the skin. This results in a tan which can be attributed to increased levels of the pigment melanin in the skin. The pigment acts as an effective free radical scavenger and blocks UV radiation.

But is the pigment alone enough to safely bask in the sunshine for hours on end? Unfortunately not. Let’s take a closer look at the problem and bust a few common myths while we are at it.

You should wear sunscreens only in summer

No. Solar radiation can have adverse effects on your skin in the colder months, too. People with sensitive skin which is prone to discoloration should definitely include sun protection in their year-round skin care routines. It is also a great way to prevent skin aging!

Wearing a sunscreen reduce vitamin D synthesis

No. No sunscreen can provide 100% sun protection. Despite protection, some UV radiation will penetrate into the deep skin layers, inducing vitamin D synthesis. In addition, bear in mind that it is impossible to cover your entire body with sunscreen. There will always be some tiny space for UV to squeeze through :).

UV radiation causes faster skin aging

Photodamage of the skin primarily occurs due to exposure to UVA rays, which penetrate deeper than UVB rays. They cause degradation of collagen fibers which provide structural support to the skin and are responsible for its firmness. Photoaging is associated with faster formation of wrinkles and age spots.

The SPF 100 label means that sunscreens reflect 100% of the sunlight reaching the surface of skin

No, it is just a marketing claim. A sunscreen can reflect or scatter at most 98% of solar radiation. Such a sunscreen is labelled SPF 50. Interestingly, there is very little difference between SPF 50 and SPF 30 sunscreens in terms of the reflected radiation (about 2%). Apparently, sometimes there is just no need to pay more :)

Chemical sunscreens cause allergy

Yes! Despite their high wearing comfort, they are proven to have a sensitizing and irritating effect on the skin. They contain many controversial substances (e.g. formaldehyde, PEGI, silicones) which can cause adverse reactions in people with sensitive skin types.

Mineral sunscreens are better

Yes and no. Just like chemical sunscreens, they have their downsides, such as a white residue they leave on the skin. It is caused by two substances: titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. There is indeed no evidence of any allergic reactions to this type of sunscreens. For this reason, they are particularly recommended for children and people suffering from atopic dermatitis.

Natural oils reflect UV radiation more effectively

No. Natural active ingredients cannot replace chemical substances and protect the skin as effectively as regular formulations. Their chief drawback is their low photostability. They quickly undergo oxidation and lose their protective properties.

Many people switch to natural skin care products which are obviously a great alternative to purely chemical formulations. However, it is better to only use them for daily skin care, and not for UV protection.

Sunlight cures acne

No. After prolonged sun exposure, your skin does seem to be in a better shape. It is just an illusion, though. Tanned skin becomes thicker. DNA synthesis that occurs during epidermal cell division is slowed down. As a result, the skin begins to counteract excessive moisture loss by producing more sebum which provides a good environment for bacteria and consequently for new acne lesions which start to appear just a few days after sunbathing.

Indoor tanning is the best way to prepare your skin for the summer holiday

It is not, but the misconception is quite common. First of all, indoor tanning is more harmful than natural tanning. The reason is that the quick tan you get after a 10-minute session in the tanning bed is mostly due to UVA radiation which is also responsible for photodamage and photoaging of your skin. Your skin will swiftly become tanned and seemingly better prepared to protect you during your first contact with the sun. But you will be better off if you just use a sunscreen as per manufacturer’s recommendation. Only then can you be sure to avoid sunburns.

You need antioxidants in summer

Yes, you do! Your summer skin care routine should be different from your winter skin care regimen. UV radiation causes DNA damage in skin cells by activating metalloproteinases and inducing free radical synthesis. For this reason, it is essential to use skin care products containing free radical scavengers! Look for products with the INCI list including such ingredients as:

  • vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid)
  • vitamin E (tocopherol acetate)
  • lipoic acid (thioctic acid)
  • ferulic acid
  • panthenol
  • niacinamide
  • dimethylaminoethanol (DMAE)
  • coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone)

There is also good news for all natural skin care fans! Vegetable oils used in cosmetics also have a strong antioxidant effect, which makes them an excellent choice for your summer skin care!

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