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The importance of Sun Protection

The importance of Sun Protection

A major cause of skin damage is excessive Ultra Violet radiation, which is increasing due to worldwide environmental changes and to the fact that we all live longer and subsequently our skin is exposed to UV light much longer than it used to.

Ultra Violet radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun.  Its wavelengths are shorter than these of normal daylight, making it invisible to the naked eye. 

Sunlight contains three types of Ultra Violet radiation:

UV-A radiation is always present in sunlight, in winter and summer.  It penetrates clouds, glass and most fabrics and causes damages deep into our skin.  UV-A rays count for 95% of all UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface (and our skin).  UVA rays are divided in two categories, according to their wavelength: UVA-1 and UVA-2.

UV-B radiation has shorter wavelengths, is mainly present in strong sunlight and it causes skin burns.

UV-C radiation is not important for us because most of it is filtered out by the atmosphere and the ozone layer (as long as we keep it intact).

UV radiation is not felt as heat on our skin, so even on cool and cloudy days UV radiation may be as high and strong as during a hot summer day. 


Skin damage caused by UV-A and UV-B light

Where in the past it was thought that UV-A radiation brings our skin the much wanted and fashionable exotic tan while UV-B radiation burns our skin and causes skin cancer, scientific research has irrefutably proven that ALL Ultra Violet Radiation can be dangerous for our skin.
Both UVA and UVB penetrate the atmosphere; they damage our skin’s cellular DNA and in this way cause genetic mutations.  At the same time they suppress our immune system, reducing our ability to fight off these mutations. 

So, when discussing the sun’s effect on your skin there are three main aspects to consider:

Cosmetic appearance: sun damage accounts for 90% of all wrinkles, pigmentation changes and signs of ageing, making it a primary concern in the field of aesthetic medicine.

We all know that the sun can alter our appearance by causing our skin to burn or tan.  Much of what was always considered to be a natural ageing process is actually the result of long-term exposure to sunlight: photo-ageing.

Cumulative exposure to the sun damages the epidermis and the dermis.  The most striking results of photo-ageing are seen in the dermis where virtually all of the skin’s structural components are changed.  The elastic fibres are thickened and become more numerous, collagen is damaged and degraded.  In addition to wrinkling, visible blood vessels, skin roughness, pigmentation changes and skin discoloration the long term effects of photo-ageing include also a dramatic loss of skin elasticity and a general thinning of the skin.  All this is the result of the direct effect of UV-light on the collagen matrix, which is the scaffolding system that gives firmness and strength to the skin.

Immune response: the skin is our largest organ as well as our largest immune system response component.  It is our primary line of defence and provides a barrier against most external threats, but UV radiation is not one of them.  Ultraviolet radiation damages the skin and compromises our immune response, leaving us vulnerable to illness and infection.   

Skin cancer risk: by damaging our cellular DNA and causing genetic mutations, sun exposure puts us at an increased risk for skin cancer and its potential life threatening effects: Melanoma (mole) cancer is the least common but the most serious type of skin cancer.  The most vulnerable are people in the 15 – 34 years group.  Non-Melanoma (basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma) skin cancer is less serious, however much more common.  The most vulnerable age group for this type of skin cancer is 65+ (around 70% of all reported cases) however recently it is affecting younger age groups more and more. 

Note 1: Vitamin D. Sunlight stimulates our body to produce Vitamin D, which is responsible for the intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate.  Some people worry that avoiding sunlight or using sun protecting creams on a daily basis may lead to a Vitamin D deficiency.  However, the actual amount of sunlight needed to manufacture enough Vitamin D is minimal: 10 to 15 minutes of (normal) sunlight exposure daily will do.  That is twice a walk to the car, to the nearby shop, to school, etc.

Note 2: Tanning booths primarily emit UVA.  The high-pressure lamps used in tanning salons emit doses of UVA as much as 12 times that of the sun.  Not surprisingly, people who use tanning salons are 2,5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1,5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma.  According to recent research, first exposure to tanning beds in youth increases melanoma risk by 75%.  Not to mention the early ageing effect they have. 

 How to protect our skin?

It is obvious that our skin needs continuous protection against the damaging UVA and UVB radiations. 

People who need to work outdoors can wear sun-protective clothes with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).  A shirt with a UPF of 30, for example, means that only 1/30th of the sun’s UV radiation can reach the skin.  There are also laundry additives available that will provide a UPF to our regular clothes.  And of course broad brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses help shield the sensitive skin on our head, neck and around our eyes.  Not to mention UV-protecting films that can be glued on the windows of our cars, verandas, etc.

Of course we don’t want to walk around the whole year through dressed like Eskimos, with hats and gloves and scarves; in spring and summer ladies want to dress lightly and men are only too happy about that.  That is where sun protecting creams have to be a part of or daily routine.

 Sun Protecting Creams

The efficacy of a sun protecting cream is measured by its Sun Protecting Factor.  SPF is not an amount of protection as such; rather it indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden our skin, compared to how long this would be without using any product.  For example, someone using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without the sunscreen. 

An SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of the sun’s UVB rays, SPF 30 about 97% and SPF 50 will catch 98% of the damaging UVB rays.  There are no products that trap more than 98% of UVB rays; products with an SPF of 60, 80 or 100 are in fact SPF 50.  Besides, there are regulations in place which do not allow manufacturers to brand their products with the epitome “full protection” or SPF 100. 

Since both UVB and UVA are harmful, protection against both is needed.  To be sure about this you have to believe the printing on the products, or you have to check the ingredients. 

The FDA has approved a total of 17 active ingredients for sunscreens.  These come into 2 main categories: chemical absorbers and physical (or mineral) filters. 

FDA Approved Ingredients Effective for:
Chemical absorbers:  
Aminobenzoic acid (PABA) UVB
Avobenzone UVA-1 
Cinoxate UVB 
Dioxybenzone  UVA-2 and UVB 
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX) UVA-2 
Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimidazole Sulfonic Acid)  UVB 
Homosalate  UVB 
Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate)  UVA-2 
Octocrylene  UVB 
Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate)  UVB 
Octisalate (Octyl Salicylate)  UVB 
Oxybenzone  UVA-2 and UVB 
Padimate O  UVB 
Sulisobenzone  UVA-2 and UVB 
Trolamine Salicylate  UVB 
Mineral filters:   
Titanium Dioxide UVA-2 and UVB 
Zinc Oxide  UVA-1 and UVA-2 and UVB 

Physical or Mineral Filters

Most of the physical/mineral filters are metal oxides which are natural products: iron oxides, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the most used.  In addition to their photo protective abilities they also assist in preventing windburns and skin damage from wind driven micro particles of dirt and grime.  An additional and significant advantage of physical blockers is their ability to defend our skin also against infrared rays.

Physical or Mineral filters do not absorb the UV rays: they form a thin coating on our skin and reflect the damaging sunrays.  In fact, they bounce them back.  Products which contain only physical or mineral filters are usually referred to as “sunscreens”.

Titanium Dioxide blocks UVA-2 and UVB radiation, while Zinc Oxide protects us against the whole spectrum: UVA-1, UVA-2 and UVB. 

Chemical Absorbers

Chemical absorbers are usually soluble in oil or water.  They filter UVB and UVA radiation to a different degree of efficiency.  There is no single chemical absorber which blocks UVA-1 and UVA-2 and UVB radiation all together.  Further, the actual protection offered relates directly to the level of concentration of active substances, how long they remain stable when exposed to the sun, the film thickness applied to the skin as well as the careful total coverage of the exposed skin sites.

Chemical absorbers, as the name says, do not reflect the UV-rays but absorb them before they can penetrate into our skin.  Products which are based on chemical absorbers are usually referred to as “sunblocks”.

From the 15 chemical absorbers approved by the American FDA there is only one which protects against UVA-1 rays, two against UVA-2 rays, nine against UVB rays and three protect us against both UVA-2 and UVB.  

 Which product to use?

There is a very wide choice of sun protecting creams in the market and there is no single product that is ideal for everyone. 

A number of choices have to be made depending of:

  1. Your skin type: there are products which are specifically designed for dry skin, oily skin, very sensitive skin, very white redness prone skin, etc. 
  2. Do you need a sun protecting cream for daily use?  Or a very strong one for the occasional outdoor activities?  In that case, do these activities include swimming, causing the need for a water resistant product?
  3. Do you want to wear it under your normal make-up or do you prefer it to replace your usual foundation cream?

The following table gives an overview of the sun protecting creams we offer on our website and which, after trying and testing and receiving positive feedback from our customers, we can highly recommend:

Name SPF

Mineral or Chemical

Price in €uro*
Bernard Cassiére Kiwi High Protection Fluid 50 Both 31.00
Dermaceutic SunCeutic 50 50 Both 26.00
HydroPeptide Solar Defense 30 Mineral 35.00
SVR 50+ Ultra Max Sunscreen 50 Both 22.00
SVR Clairial SPF 50 50 Both 32.00
SVR Hydracid Brume Eclat 15 Mineral 15.00
SVR Rubialine Cream SPF 50 50 Both 21.00
SVR Sebiaclear Créme 50 Both 24.00
Teoxane Advanced Perfecting Shield  30 Both 49.00

  * If delivery takes place inside the European Union we have to charge VAT according to the Cyprus rates (currently 19%).

Check out the section "Sun Protection" on our website here.

Enjoy a relaxing, bright and sunny UV-free summer!