Skin Deep

We all know that there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” While sunlight is oh-so-important for our health, too much sunlight can actually be detrimental to our health. In the short term, too much sunlight can cause freckling and moderate-to-severe, often painful, sunburns. In the long term, too much sunlight can cause early signs of aging, manifesting in wrinkles and leathery skin, and possibly that dreaded c-word… cancer.

In our practice, we have also found that few patients know about the effects of sunlight on acne and acne scars. Most believe that sunlight can heal or cure acne. In fact, the opposite is true! Unfiltered, the sun's UV rays can cause free radical damage and inflammation, harming skin already inflamed by acne. Those same UV rays can also destroy collagen and elastin, the building blocks of healthy, beautiful skin. Sunlight may also damage the skin's natural moisture barrier, resulting in moisture loss. This leads your skin to produce more oil to compensate for that moisture loss, and more oil on acne prone skin is never a good idea. Lastly, excessive sun exposure can cause hyperpigmentation in the skin, which may darken pre-existing acne scars and cause blotchiness in other areas.

Those detrimental effects of too much sunlight are frequently preventable!

You’ve heard it before: wear sunscreen! Make sure it has a high SPF factor! Reapply after a couple of hours! But do you know why?

Why do I need to use sunscreen?

Sunlight consists of ultraviolet (UV) rays, unimaginatively named UVA, UVB, and UVC rays:

  • UVA rays are the primary causes of premature aging, contribute to skin cancer, and are present throughout the day;

  • UVB rays are the primary causes of sunburns and the development of skin cancer, and are present during peak sunlight hours of 10:00 am to 4:00 pm;

  • UVC rays do not reach the earth’s surface as they are filtered by the ozone layer surrounding Earth.

Sunscreen, when properly selected and applied, can effectively filter most UVA and UVB rays and prevent signs of aging, sunburns, and most skin cancers.

What ingredients should I look for in a sunscreen?

The most important thing to look for in a sunscreen is its ability to filter both UVB and UVA rays. The second consideration will be the Sun Protection Factor, or SPF. The higher the number, the better the protection, so one should select a sunscreen with at least SPF 15. This will filter out 93% of those damaging UVB rays. If you plan to sweat or swim while wearing it, select a waterproof sunscreen. If you have sensitive skin, try to find a sunscreen that does not contain para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), to ensure you don’t have a reaction.

Sunscreen creates either a chemical barrier or a physical barrier to prevent the harmful UV rays from getting through to your skin. A chemical barrier can be created using sunscreen containing one or more of the following ingredients in order to maximize your sunscr