One in three cancers worldwide is a skin cancer, and melanoma is the third most common form of cancer in Canadian women ages 15‐29.
Direct and indirect ultraviolet (UV) light (such as the light passing into your home, office or car through a window), and blue light from phones, computers and other screens all contribute to skin damage at the cellular level. Chronic exposure to these light sources leads photo-aging (lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation) and increased risk of skin cancer.
According to a study conducted by La Roche Posay, people are exposed to more than 12 hours of UV and blue light each day. Fifty-two percent of consumers surveyed did not protect themselves from indirect or blue light, and many people do not use sun protection in setting of indirect sunlight or during cooler months.
Light protection with SPF is not only required for direct sunlight, but also for indirect sunlight and blue light, independent of season. People of all ages should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen everyday, year-round.
Sunscreen: A Must for All Skin Tones
People like myself, with richly pigmented skin, have traditionally been advised that the melanin in our skin provides adequate photo-protection, however this is not the case. People with darker skin tones are also subject to the damaging effects of the sun: although the effect often takes longer to appear than in lighter skin tones, skin of colour does photo-age and is at risk of lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation as a result of chronic exposure to direct and indirect UV and visible light. Indeed, skin of colour is also at risk of developing skin cancers, and unfortunately skin cancers in people with brown and black skin are often diagnosed at much later stages due to this common belief that we are not at risk.
How Do Sunscreens Work?
All sunscreens work by preventing UV rays from penetrating the skin. There are two classes of sunscreens to choose from: physical and chemical sunscreens.
Physical Sunscreen: contain minerals such as zinc or titanium dioxide which have been ground into fine particles to form a reflective shield on your skin. Tinted sunscreens often contain iron particles which provide additional protection from harmful blue light in screens and tablets.
Chemical Sunscreen: contain chemicals like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate or avobenzone, and form a thin protective film on the skin that works by absorbing UV radiation.
Physical sunscreens have traditionally been associated with a thick texture, leaving a white cast on the skin. However, modern, high quality brands such as SkinCeuticals and La Roche Posay have formulations provide a sheer weightless finish, even on darker skin tones. One benefit of physical sunscreens is that they are not generally associated with irritation, stinging or allergic reactions. Chemical sunscreens are more likely to cause irritation, but are usually clear and easy to apply. Physical sunscreens work instantly, whereas chemical sunscreens may take up to 20 minutes to offer protection.
Some sunscreens contain a combination of physical and chemical ingredients. Both physical and chemical sunscreens are safe, and the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Sunscreen can only protect your skin if applied properly!
How to Apply Sunscreen
Apply one half-teaspoon (or one finger-length) of sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30 or higher to your face and neck every day, as the last step in your morning skin routine, but before you apply makeup. Remember to also apply sunscreen to the backs of your hands, as these areas are often exposed year-round, and are subject to premature signs of aging.
Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Heading to the beach? One ounce (roughly a shot-glass volume) of sunscreen is required to cover your body.
If using a chemical sunscreen, allow 20 minutes for absorption before sun exposure.
Sunscreen must be re-applied every two hours, and immediately after swimming.
How to Choose a Sunscreen
The right sunscreen is the one you will use! More specifically, look for a sunscreen that meets these criteria:
SPF 30 or higher (I recommend SPF 50)
Has broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays
Non-comedogenic (will not clog pores)