Why Do We Need Photo Protective Products?
Whilst we all enjoy to feel the warmth of a sunny day it is an unfortunate fact that the effects of the Sun, or more accurately, the effects of exposure to the Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) produced by the Sun, can have a seriously damaging effect on exposed skin of all types. Unfortunately the effects of exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation are cumulative, it is estimated that around 85% of the visible effects of skin ageing are attributable to the effects of long term Sun exposure.
Whilst our bodies need a small amount of exposure to Sunlight to produce the Vitamin D it needs, the amount is actually very small, in the region of 10 to 15 minutes per day. Photo protection, the protection of the skin from UVR, commonly takes three forms, Chemical Sunscreens, Physical Sunscreens and Clothing. Sunscreen products work by effectively absorbing the UVR and their effectiveness is measured by a commonly accepted scale known as the Sun Protection Factor, the SPF we have all seen on sunscreen products. Scientists measure the SPF of a product by recording the time it takes for slight skin redness (erythema) to develop on areas of skin with and without the sunscreen. When erythema starts to develop on the skin the time taken is known as the Minimum Erythema Dose, or MED. A simple equation can then be done to measure the SPF of the product.
MED with photo protector = 200 minutes
MED without photo protector = 10 minutes
The SPF of this sunscreen will be 200/10 or 20.
The development and widespread acceptance of the SPF system has greatly simplified our understanding and usage of sunscreens and blocks.
Suncreams – Useful Photo Protective Products
Perhaps the most common form of Photo protective product are Chemical Sunscreens. These are synthetic chemical compounds applied directly to the skin, usually in the form of creams, lotions or gels. Their greatest advantage is that they are readily available, flexible and easy to apply. Also modern Sunscreen formulations are highly affective with a wide range of SPF ranging from 2 to 50, 60 or even higher, for the maximum protection from UVR. Their main disadvantage is the fact that they are absorbed by the skin by a process known as percutaneous absorption which can lead to irritation in some users. Also even the Sun creams which advertise themselves as ‘water resistant’ or ‘day long protection’ really need to be reapplied frequently for maximum protection as they are absorbed by the skin, are removed by swimming or clothing or diluted as we perspire. However for most people the advantages of Chemical Sun creams far outweigh any disadvantages and they have become the standard method used for Photo protection and avoiding or minimising sun damage.
Physical Sunscreens contain tiny mineral particles, usually titanium dioxide, held in suspension, and work by reflecting UVR away from the surface of the skin. They have several advantages over Chemical Sun creams in some situations. They are inert substances which are not absorbed by the skin and are therefore ideal for those who may suffer irritation using Chemical Sun creams. Physical Sun creams are most commonly seen where a very high, long lasting, form of Photo protection is needed, for example on the lips, cheeks and nose areas of skiers and beach lifeguards.
New Photo Protective Products – Clothing
In addition to the forms of Photo protection applied directly to the skin new forms of clothing have recently been developed with UVR protection in mind. Most commonly found on items of children’s clothing such as sun hats, swimwear and tops designed to be used in outdoor activities such as surfing, a new grading system similar to the SPF system has been introduced for them. Known as the Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF, this system mirrors the SPF numbering system we are all familiar with making it a simple, easily understood addition to our Photo protective measures.
Whichever method you choose to combat the effects of the Sun on your skin it is important to ensure that both UVA and UVB are blocked and that the product carries an SPF of at least 15. If you have young children or have young children in your care at any time it is vital that they have a high level of protection and that they are taught the value of Photo protection from a young age. Remember that the skin ageing caused by exposure to the Sun is cumulative over the course of a lifetime, but that it is estimated that up to 75% of that damage can occur during our first decade of life due to the vulnerability of younger skin. With the wide availability of products and information on the various methods of Photo protection there has never been a better time to make informed choices on reducing the effects of Sun damage.pennyjmay