Sunscreen was first produced commercially in the 1930s, but science and suncare formulae have come a long way since then. So has our understanding of the damage that the sun can cause to our skin, which is why dermatologists and doctors recommend we wear sunscreen all year round. Here we explain why, and what the best options are for sensitive skin in particular.
UVA vs. UVB: how the sun can damage our skin
“Ultraviolet or UV comes from the sun and there’s two types – ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B.” explains Dr. Hiva. Damage to our skin is caused by the radiation hitting our cells and causing mutations in their makeup, or DNA. “Ultraviolet B causes sunburn and skin cancer whilst Ultraviolet A penetrates deeper into the skin and causes the changes we see with skin ageing, so it’s really important to protect against both.”
A third ultraviolet light, UVC, is the most dangerous type of radiation, but is not normally a concern, as it rarely gets through the Earth's atmosphere. UVC radiation has, however, been found in some tanning lamps and welding torches.
More than skin deep: photoaging
UVA damage is one of the main causes behind a phenomenon called photoaging, a term used to describe the signs of aging that gradually develop on the skin. According to Dr. Hiva, UVA rays are responsible for “the changes we see with skin ageing – pigmentation, wrinkles, fine lines etc.” While photoaging is an inevitable process, people who spend a lot of time outdoors, and/or those who don't use sunscreen, tend to develop these symptoms earlier and with more intensity.
Photoaging is the result of cells being damaged by UV and unbalanced levels of elastin. The skin responds by sending metalloproteinases to repair the skin, but the result is an uneven finish, with depleted levels of collagen (which gives skin its elasticity). Melanin – not just the pigment that gives you a tan, but the skin's defence against sunburn – can also build up in specific places, causing what are known as age or liver spots.
UV radiation in every season
While the skin is at its most vulnerable when on holiday in the sun, the risk of skin damage is a year-round concern. Dr Hiva explains: “it’s really important to use a sunscreen every day, even in winter months, because ultraviolet, which is an invisible radiation, is present all year round, even in the winter months. Because we know ultraviolet can cause problems with skin cancer and skin ageing, it’s really important to incorporate sunscreen use into your daily regime so it becomes routine.”
Recognising that everybody’s skin is different, La Roche-Posay sunscreen range has formulated for a variety of ages and skin types. Specifically formulated for sensitive skin, the Anthelios protects against both UVB and UVA rays, which is why it has the "broad spectrum" label (many sunscreens do not).
“La Roche-Posay as a brand is heavily involved with dermatologists to develop and design their sunscreens. They have a huge range of products – something for everyone. From children to adults. From tints within their sunscreen, to light formulations to spray formulations. Dr Hiva’s recommended sunscreen range? Anthelios. “None of the products have fragrance in them and they have minimal ingredients in them to give you the best effect”.