Which sunscreen is right for you?

We all love to get some sun on our skin, but there are still many of us who don’t understand the importance of sunscreen or how it works. Skin care expert Christine Calais explains why you shouldn’t step out without some SPF.

While we need some sun to be healthy and feel good (the sun is our primary source of Vitamin D, and it is needed for our body’s calcium absorption so we have stronger bones), excessive sun exposure can have a serious negative impact on our skin. UV radiation from the sun is divided into three bands: UVC, UVA and UVB. Both UVA and UVB greatly contribute to photo ageing (also referred to as premature ageing) and can cause skin cancers. UVB is responsible for our skin getting sunburnt because of excessive sun exposure.

How do sunscreens work?
Sunscreens work by reflecting light in the same way a mirror would. There are many kinds of sunscreens on the market so choosing one can be confusing. It’s a matter of personal preference as to whether you use a lotion, cream, spray or roll-on, but the sun protection factor is what is really important.

What does SPF mean?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It is a rating given to sunscreens to indicate their level of protection against UVB rays. For instance, if your skin usually begins to burn after 10 minutes spent in the sun, applying a sunscreen with SPF15 will multiply by 15 the time before you start getting sunburnt, in this case extending the protection by up to 2.5 hours. But be aware that re-applying your sunscreen after 2.5 hours will not stop your skin from burning if you remain in the sun; you should then wait until the next day for more sun exposure. Please note that a sunscreen should be applied to clean and dry skin, at least 20 minutes before going out in the sun to be effective. For maximum defence, look for broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection (available at reputable pharmacies or beauty clinics). And of course, as well as wearing a hat and sunglasses for added protection, it is best to avoid sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest.

How do we tan?
Tanning is a natural protective skin response to sunlight and mainly occurs thanks to the presence of skin cells called melanocytes. Situated in the basal layer of the epidermis, these cells produce an organic pigment call melanin (from the Greek word ‘melanos’, meaning black), which makes the skin look darker, giving us a sun tan.

How do fake tans work?
Fake tans work due to the action of tanning ingredients, the most commonly used being dihydroxyacetone or DHA. Such compounds react with proteins in the skin to create a brown pigment. This artificially produced ‘tan’ is more superficial than one achieved with sunlight and will disappear after a few days. My favourite fake tanning products are made by Eco Tan (available in two shades, including one for very pale skins). This Australian brand is the only tanning company to be certified by Organic Food Chain under the strict Australian Government standards. These products contain no synthetic ingredients and the natural colour produced comes from cacao, so no more infamous orange tones!

Are solariums safe?
Solariums mainly use UVA. Because it can penetrate deep into the skin, UVA can create serious cellular damage and increases the chance of developing skin cancer. UVA is also known to damage the proteins present in our skin and as such, contribute to precipitating the visual signs of ageing. So, solariums are not safer than prolonged and unprotected exposure to natural sunlight.

For more information, visit www.thefrenchfacialist.com

About Christine Clais
Christine Clais is a French-born skin expert, educator, speaker and author with over 20 years international experience. Currently based in Melbourne, Christine specialises in advanced skincare and is a highly respected and renowned industry leader. Having worked as part of a number of management teams including Jurlique International, Aurora Spa Retreat and Hepburn Day Spa, Christine helped pioneer one of Melbourne’s first spa facilities, Hepburn Day Spa at the Hilton Hotel. Her extensive experience and knowledge in treating skin as well as her passion for educating her clients allows Christine to provide credible alternatives to invasive cosmetic surgical procedures.