Here’s a scary fact for you: UVA rays are responsible for more than 80 percent of skin aging. Now, we don’t know about you but that’s enough to make us immediately run for cover and slather our skin in medical-grade, broad-spectrum SPF.
But while we all know better than to subject our skin to sun torture on a daily basis, our love-hate relationships with that big, beautiful ball of fire in the sky is a far more complicated one. Like drinking our weight in white wine and eating takeout leftovers for breakfast (what do you mean, you NEVER do that?), warm, sunkissed skin is irresistible. We know it does no good in the long-term, but the instant gratification is so worth it.
Or is it?
While the case for getting your daily fix of vitamin D (the ‘sunshine vitamin’) might be tempting, the case against the sun is a much stronger one. And it’s mostly down to… (cue: Jaws theme tune)… UV radiation.
Sunlight is split into various forms of radiation, with UV (ultraviolet) being just a small portion of its electromagnetic spectrum. The reason we care so much about UV radiation is because, even though it’s invisible to the naked eye, it damages the DNA of our skin cells. And that makes us angry.
UV rays are split into three wavelengths – UVA, UVB and a third, much-less-talked-about UVC. UVC rays are too short to penetrate the Earth’s ozone layer, which is why we don’t really care about what C gets up to. The As and Bs of this world, however? Now they’re a different story…
UVA rays have the longest wavelength and count for about 90 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Present all-year round – NOT just on sunny days – these are the ones that penetrate glass and go right down to the dermis of the skin, releasing free radicals, damaging collagen and elastin fibers, and causing other DNA changes as the skin tries to protect itself. The skin is able to repair many of the mutations caused by UV but if the damage is too great, impacted cells may die or mutate, resulting in premature aging (photoaging) like fine lines, wrinkles, discolorations and poor texture, as well as the far more serious subject of skin cancer.
Studies prove that UVA damages skin cells in the basal layer of the epidermis where most skin cancers occur, meaning it not only contributes to skin cancers but may even initiate their development.
Skin damage caused by UVA can go unnoticed for some time because it penetrates deeper than UVB and therefore takes longer to manifest. The damage caused, however, is far more long term and can sometimes be irreversible.
Shorter in wavelength than UVA, UVB rays penetrate the epidermal (the outermost) layer of the skin where they play a big part in tanning and are the primary cause of sunburn. UVB triggers changes in the epidermal skin cells which can cause serious photodamage like dark spots and a thickening of the epidermis. And like UVA, it can also ultimately result in pre-cancers.
UVB intensity varies throughout the year and, as you know, is most powerful in the middle of the day when your best bet is to take cover – AKA: eat lunch, read a book and drink wine (plus plenty of water, of course).
So, what does all this mean for you? Good question. And the answer comes in the form of medical-grade sunscreen and choosing one that protects you equally from both UVA and UVB. Because the SPF (sun protection factor) on your bottle of sun cream only protects your skin from UVB – annoying, right? – always choose a broad-spectrum formula with an SPF of 30 or above. And look out for ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, oxybenzone and Mexoryl which all offer UVA as well as UVB protection.
3 Of The Best: Sunscreens To Try NOW
1. SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50
With no white marks, no oily residue and no pilling, Total Defense + Repair Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 50 is to your skin, what maple syrup is to bacon. Genius. It’s also water resistant, so packs a powerful punch as a vacay sunscreen as well as for daily, year-round protection. Apply generously as the final stage of your morning beauty plan.
2. Revision Skincare Intellishade Original Anti-Aging Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45
A massive hit in the HintMD office, Intellishade Original Anti-Aging Tinted Moisturizer SPF 45 is like a BB cream with bells on. With a blend of skin-loving peptides as well as thorough broad-spectrum protection it’ll give your skin the kind of glow JLo would be proud of. It also comes in a matte formulation which should be at the top of any oily complexion‘s beauty plan squad goals.
3. SkinCeuticals Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50
We often ask ourselves why very few eye creams include sun protection, especially when the eyes are among the first to shows visible signs of aging. Applying standard sunscreen around your eyes, however is a big no-no as it can be too heavy and irritating for such thin, sensitive skin. This is why we can’t get enough of Physical Eye UV Defense SPF 50. With a sheer, universal tint and a non-migrating formula it’s not only a sun-protective superhero, but it doubles up as a nourishing primer for perfect makeup application. Win win.