In order to fully comprehend the importance of sunscreen and why skincare professionals recommend daily application of SPF as the number one anti-aging skincare product, you must understand how the sun's energy affects the skin.
The sun plays an important role in our lives and is the very reason we are able to sustain life on earth. In Denver, Colorado we have an average of 300 days of sunshine every year and although the sun feeds our body nutrients, physiologically makes us feel good, and activates our circadian rhythms, it unfortunately also causes free radical stress and photo damage to our skin from UV exposure. Even though we love our sun it is still necessary to protect ourselves from it.
UV, or Ultraviolet light, is an energy source produced by the sun. UV light comes to us in the form of two different wavelengths: ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA is the longer wavelength of the two, penetrating deeper into our skin and causing cross-linking of collagen and elastin proteins. This results in the breakdown of protein fibers, which then appears on the skin in the form of wrinkles, brown spots, skin laxity, and loss of volume. Because of this, UVA rays are also known as the “aging rays”.
Over time we are bound to age no matter what we do but not wearing your sunscreen on a daily basis will exacerbate these conditions and cause premature aging of the skin.
UVB rays, being the shorter and more active wavelength of the two, penetrate into the epidermis. This causes even more damage to the skin, resulting in red, burned, and peeling skin. For this reason UVB rays are also known as the “burning rays”, UVB radiation is the bigger contributor to skin cancers from the DNA damage it causes in our epidermal cells. Too much DNA damage causes an irregular mutation of skin cells resulting in cancerous growths.
Common skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. As estheticians we do not diagnose or treat disease but we often recommend our Denver skincare clients see a dermatologist when things look irregular. More commonly we see pre-cancerous skin conditions such as actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis are also caused by an overabundance of unprotected sun exposure, in our clinic we more commonly see this in older men, presumably because they are not as regular with their sun screen application as women are. Actinic keratosis are rough, scaly spots commonly found on the face, top of the head and backs of the hands. Although they may never form into cancer it is common for doctors treat them with a topical cream or by freezing them off for prevention.
Being a Downtown Denver-based medical skin care clinic we know that our higher elevation makes us more susceptible to faster UV absorption. This reason alone makes it extremely important that we encourage daily application of a broad spectrum SPF for all of our clients as the number one anti-aging skin product.
Now that you understand how the sun’s energy affects your skin, tune in next week to learn how to decode the new FDA regulation on your SPF to be sure you are choosing the best protection for your skin.