Which sunscreen is right for you?

Skin care expert Christine Calais explains why you shouldn’t step out without some SPF.

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.


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    27th Dec 2013
    How does this article teach me which sunscreen is the right one for me????????????
    27th Dec 2013
    I imagine Christine Calais has been misquoted, because this article is misleading.

    Sunscreens (normally an organic molecule such as PABA or benzophenone) do not reflect light, they absorb it. This energy absorption may be released as heat into the skin or be utilised in chemical reactions between the organic chemicals and possibly proteins in the body. Sunblocks such as zinc or titanium oxide simply reflect light, that is why they look white.

    There are many issues associated with sunscreens, although they are shown to reduce sunburn, they have not been proven to reduce skin cancer. Indeed there is evidence to link an increase in the incidence of skin cancers to the increased use of sunscreens. This does not necessarily mean that there is a causal link between using sunscreen and skin cancer that is too simple a conjecture.

    Zinc oxide sunblocks are preferred by many because they do not contain the same toxic chemicals as organic sunscreens. Sunblocks sit on top of the skin as a physical barrier and do not get absorbed into it as the oily sunscreens do. BUT be careful because nano zinc oxide allows the sunblock to penetrate the skin layers because the particles are so tiny.

    I find it best to use spf clothing and broad-brim hats to avoid sunburn. I avoid rubbing chemicals that we know little about into my skin but when I do need protection eg on water I put on the white zinc cream then wash it off when I get home.
    27th Dec 2013
    I have only once used a fake skin tanning cream used before we went on a big march, { I was in the Marching Girls } and they decided there was so many of us that took on a terrible orange glow that we would not use it again. As my skin darkens naturally I fe;t as though I would not need it and I never used it again.I do not need skin cream of any type whether it be for the sun or whatever. Maybe lucky comes to mind but as kids we spent a lot of time on the beach and never had a melanoma or anything of that description.
    10th Jan 2019
    Sometimes it takes years to show up, I had to have radical surgery for skin cancer at 78.
    27th Dec 2013
    Does Eco Tan smell any better than the others?

    29th Dec 2013
    we must be very short on news right now. two articles already on non-news subjects.
    2nd Jan 2014
    I have been advised by pharmacists at 3 separate pharmacies that often the toddler sunscreen is better than those sold for older citizens. The Toddler ones contain less unnecessary chemicals and fragrances.
    10th Jan 2019
    That is good to know.

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