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6 Sunscreen Myths You Need to Ditch To Prevent Photoaging

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Clear skin.

Or better yet: get glowing, bronzy and tanned skin.

Ask any celebrities why they look so great, having a solid skin care regime that works will be at the top of the list – even if he or she won’t admit it 😉

But few people get amazing skin naturally after their 40s (Botox  and plastic surgery don’t count).

Besides the alcohol, lack of sleep, poor diet, there’s another huge problem: sun exposure.

While getting your vitamin D under moderate sun exposure for 30 minutes can increase bone health, did you know that intermittent, intense sun exposure during your beach holiday is associated with a skin cancer risk that is much higher than your daily sun exposure?

And…even regular sun exposure can cause significant damage to your skin and lead to wrinkles, broken capillaries, liver spots, skin discoloration, melanoma, and premature aging, especially if you don’t protect your skin.

Telling you to protect yourself from the shade, wear sun-protective gear, limit sun exposure from 10AM – 4PM may seem boring.  And I know you’re probably not going to follow through when bikini clad ladies and hunky blond Thor-lookalikes are waiting for you on the beach.

So what’s a simple solution here? Wear Sunscreen.

Why is sunscreen important?

A relatively recent study published in the American College of Physicians’ Annals of Internal Medicine is the first research to show conclusively that sunscreen can significantly prevent photoaging – premature aging –  caused by the sun, even in middle-aged men and women. Study participants who used sunscreen daily were less likely to have wrinkles and dark spots after 4.5 years than participants who did not regularly use sunscreen.

And the interesting thing is, even if you spend tens of thousands on your lotions & potions as well as exotic placenta spa facials, they may not necessarily be as effective as this simple bottle you use daily (this probably costs less than $1 a day) in protecting your skin.

And, if you’re careful about protecting your skin, you’re less likely going to spend too much on reversing sun damage later down the line. So I’d treat sunscreen as an “investment” for your skin’s long-term health, and this applies to both ladies and gentlemen.

But what you’ve heard about sunscreen may not necessarily be correct. So today, I want to address 6 sunscreen myths and set you straight about how to select the best sunscreen and what else you can do to protect your skin.

Myth 1: Any sunscreen with high SPF is sufficient to fend off the rays

SPF measures the sunscreen’s ability to deflect the skin from UVB, not UVA. This means a high SPF sunscreen may still not be sufficient to protect you from the sun because UVA rays can still penetrate into your skin. UVA rays bombard us all year round, and they penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. Unprotected exposure can lead to premature skin aging and increase risk of the most serious type of cancer, melanoma.

Solution: Get a broad spectrum (or multi spectrum) sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection, and an SPF between 15 and 50. Choose a sunscreen that is water-resistant especially if you’re spending lots of time in the water.

Myth 2: You don’t need to reapply your sunscreen with high SPF

Studies show that people who use high-SPF products are exposed to as many or more ultraviolet rays than those who use lower-SPF products. Don’t get a false sense of security using a high SPF sunscreen – you can still get burned if you don’t apply enough or wait too long to reapply your sunscreen.

Solution: Reapply your sunscreen every few hours (the exact number of hours depends on your sunscreen as well as the level of activity you are engaging in, please check with your dermatologist)

Myth 3: A moisturizer with SPF is sufficient to fend off sunscreen

Daily-use moisturizers with SPF are marketed as potions that offer lasting protection from both UVA rays and UVB rays. However, the EWG examined the product labels of 246 moisturizers with SPF and found that only one in four offered strong and lasting sun protection.

Solution: Choose a moisturizer that is verified by the EWG, or use a EWG-approved sunscreen as a foundation before layering on your moisturizer

Myth 4: Sunscreen sprays, powders or wipes work just as well as lotions or creams

FDA did not have sufficient data to confirm that spray products are safe and effective in 2011. Spray and powders may not be enough to protect the skin, and they may pose inhalation risks since they contain zinc or titanium nanoparticles which can be toxic if inhaled.

Solution: Use sunscreen in the form of lotions or creams, avoid sprays, powders or wipes as much as possible. Try not to use bug repellent sunscreen: Studies suggest that combining sunscreens and repellents may lead to increased absorption of the repellent ingredients.

Myth 5: Added vitamin A to your sunscreen can improve your skin health

Vitamin A, also known as retinyl palmitate and retinol, can potentially hasten the development of skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin. EWG recommends against using sunscreen with vitamin A, retinyl palmitate or retinol until this chemical’s safety on sun-exposed skin is proven.

Solution: Use sunscreen that does not contain added “vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, or retinol”

Myth 6: Sunscreens usually contain safe ingredients

Oxybenzone is present in over 40% of all beach and sport sunscreens in EWG’s 2014 Guide to Sunscreen. This common chemical can potentially trigger allergic skin reactions in sensitive individuals and may disrupt the hormone system. Some studies show that sunscreens containing oxybenzone feminize fish!

Sunscreen can also contain ingredients such as PABA, octinoxate, oxybenzone, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor and butylparaben that harm coral reefs. A prominent study suggests that certain ingredients in sunscreens cause coral bleaching, even at very low concentrations, by promoting viral infections.  According to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, approximately 25% of the world’s coral reefs are in imminent danger of collapse due to human pressures, and another 25% is in longer term danger.

Solution: Read sunscreen labels and avoid oxybenzone. Choose a biodegradable sunblock especially if you’re going to be in the ocean. Biodegrable sunscreens break down naturally in the environment.

Recap: What to Look for In a Sunscreen

  • Broad spectrum (or multi spectrum) UVA and UVB protection is best, with an SPF between 15 and 50
  • Sunscreen that is water-resistant especially if you’re spending lots of time in the water
  • Sunscreen without added vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, or retinol
  • Lotions and creams are better than sprays
  • Reef-friendly and biodegradable ones to protect the reef
  • If you have the option to purchase sunscreen from around the world, you may want to select sunscreen which contain chemicals such as Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL, Tinosorb S and Tinosorb M, commonly used in Europe or elsewhere.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet to Boost Sun Protection

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Antioxidants may contribute to your ability to stay outdoors longer before you burn. Antioxidants work to counteract free radicals and oxidative damage from the sun, reversing the damage already done to our skin. Phytonutrients from plants can provide us with a lot of the sun protection benefits we need.

Below are a list of anti-inflammatory plant-based foods you may want to incorporate into your diet to boost your skin’s ability to defend against free radicals from the sun that lead to wrinkles, spots and collagen breakdown:

  • Fresh fruits (check out the top 5 tropical fruits for sun protection here)
  • Dark leafy vegetables like spinach and kale: Spinach provides wide array of nutrients, especially vitamin A, which can protect our skin by offering us antioxidant and anti-inflammatory health benefits. Spinach also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation and protect your skin from sunburn and skin cancer melanoma. Kale also contains lutein and zeaxanthin which can protect against eye degeneration caused by sunlight
  • Like spinach, nuts such as walnuts provide us omega 3-fatty acids to prevent inflammation
  • Tomatoes are very high in lycopene, a crucial compound that can protect our skin against sun damage and cancer
  • According to Dr. Nicholas Perricone, dark chocolate (such as those 85%+) can protect against UV radiation thanks to high flavonoid content
  • Green tea’s polyphenols can also protect the skin against UV rays

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What should you do if you got burned and look like a lobster?

Drink plenty of water as you may be dehydrated.

Apply the right creams. According to Dr. Perricone, you may ask your dermatologist for prescription Retin-A, which revives depleted collagen and elastin caused by sun damage and restores youthful skin.

Topical Vitamin C and Vitamin E can also  neutralize free radicals at a faster rate and perhaps limit damage by oxidative rays. Ingredients such as Algae and Hyaluronic Acid can also rehydrate and calm your skin. Remember  the deeper your tan is, the dryer your skin gets so hydrate your skin!

Bonus Tip: I also like using antioxidant treatment as a base before I apply my sunscreen. I find that this boosts my skin’s sun protection abilities. My favourite so far is SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic.

Enjoy your summer flaunting your six-pack! 😉