For those of us who have grown up in the UK and Ireland, we are very much used to the mild climate we have here. Our winters are cold and wet, and our summers are warm and well... wet again! However, there are a few glorious periods throughout the year where temperatures soar into the mid 20’s and the sun peaks it’s head out from behind the grey clouds.
During these periods, many of us like to sit out in the sun and soak up as much vitamin D as possible. However, not all of us stop to consider the dangerous risks that come with too much sun exposure. According to Cancer Research UK, the risk of developing melanoma is around three times higher in people who have had sunburn just once every two years. Even reddening of the skin or tenderness is a sign of sun damage
Cancer Research UK also found that a staggering nine out of 10 cases of skin cancer can be prevented by using a high factor sunscreen. Therefore, it's clear that the best way to protect ourselves from dangerous UV rays is to wear sunscreen when laying out in the sun.
Furthermore, people in other countries around the world, especially those that have warmer climates, tend to wear sunscreen all year round and it is in fact a common element of their skincare routine. Knowing all of this raises the question, ‘should we be wearing sunscreen all year round?’
Pamela Hamilton, Skin Educator for Millie.ie says, “Yes! It is so important we wear SPF all year round. Your face and body are exposed to UV radiation every day through clouds, rain, glass, sun or snow. Everyone, men, women and children over the age of six months should wear it everyday all year round. Not only is SPF the most important part of our skincare regime, it reduces the risk of melanoma by 50%! Going unprotected on an overcast day can lead to as much damage as to a sunny day. “
"Furthermore, For those with darker skin tones, sunscreen all year round is just as essential! UV waves do not discriminate, and although darker skin tones will block some rays from penetrating the skin, no one is ever fully protected. With enough sun exposure, those with melanated skin could develop sun damage or even worse, skin cancer."
There are two basic types of ultraviolet rays that reach the earth’s surface. These are UVA rays and UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for producing sunburn and they play the greatest role in causing skin cancers, including malignant melanoma, whereas UVA has a longer wavelength and is associated with skin aging.
Sunscreen works by blocking and absorbing UV rays through a combination of physical and chemical particles. These physical particles, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are used to reflect UV radiation from the skin, whilst at the same time the chemical ingredients in sunscreen react with radiation before it penetrates the skin, absorbing the rays and releasing the energy as heat.
Pamela Hamilton, Skin Educator adds, “Remember not all sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays. You must look closely at the SPF you are buying, what is on the label and the ingredients. Make sure your SPF is labelled Broad Spectrum, which means it contains a combination of ingredients to protect you from both rays.”
“Furthermore, when it comes to SPF, there are choices of filters. Always go that step further with your sunscreen, ensuring high protection from UVA UVB and other environmental factors such as pollution, infrared, blue light(eg: computer) and glycation.”
We know that wearing sunscreen during the summer months in the UK is vital for protection against damaging UV rays, but are there any additional benefits of wearing sunscreen on your face daily?
Adding sunscreen to your daily skincare routine is fantastic for preventing premature aging, helping reduce blotchiness, preventing tan lines, and finally, lowering the risk of skin cancer. Alongside this, wearing sunscreen on your face daily can also help you avoid inflammation and redness, along with stopping any DNA damage that may occur.
Another reason to wear sunscreen on your face daily is due to the fact that even when it’s overcast, up to 80% of the Sun’s UV rays are still being absorbed by your skin. So while the rest of your body may be protected by layers of clothing, your face can still suffer the consequences if it is not fully protected.
However, Pamela Hamilton warns, “be aware of expiry dates on your SPF and if your SPF has been exposed to direct sunlight. The ingredients in the formula can break down and render them ineffective and sometimes will irritate the skin.”
There are two distinct types of sunscreen used in skincare: Physical and chemical. Both types of filters absorb UV Rays, converting them into heat energy.
Physical sunscreens can both reflect and scatter a percentage of UV rays away like a mirror. Physical sunscreens can absorb up to 95% of the UV rays they are protecting from. Physical sit on top of the skin and block rays at the surface.
Chemical sunscreens contain organic compounds that create a chemical reaction and work by changing reaction and work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin. Chemical sunscreens tend to be thinner in formula.
In addition to choosing the perfect sunscreen for your skin, it’s also important to consider the most effective way to apply it. Pamela Hamilton says, “SPF is always the last product that is applied to your skin. If you are wearing foundation I would advise that it contains an SPF. Foundation acts as a filter for UV rays so it is very important you wear a broad spectrum underneath it.”
“SPF should be applied 30minutes before going out. This allows the sunscreen to bind to your skin. You should reapply it every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.”
In the UK around 16,200 people are diagnosed each year with melanoma, making it the fifth most common cancer in the UK. Although sunscreen is a fantastic form of protection there are also a variety of additional things you can do to stay safe in the sun and protect your skin from dangerous UV rays.
Vitamin D is necessary for our health, but when UV rays are too strong, it can cause more harm than good. Therefore, it’s a good idea to seek shade when the sun is at its highest, and strongest, point. In the UK, this is usually between 11am and 3pm.
Another great way to protect yourself further is to cover up vulnerable areas of your body when laying in the sun. Cover your upper body and shoulders in a light cotton T-shirt, and face and head with some sunglasses and a hat.
Spending prolonged periods of time in the sun can come with a number of risks, so it’s a good idea to take frequent breaks from direct sunlight and seek shade. Try and find a nearby tree or other form of shelter, or if these aren't available bring an umbrella with you.
So, in conclusion, should we be wearing sunscreen on our face daily? In short, the answer is yes! If you have chosen the correct sunscreen product for your skin type, then there are no real negatives to wearing sunscreen on your face everyday. While we may not always get the warmest weather here in the UK and Ireland, UV rays are constantly shining down on us, which means we could be more exposed to the sun than we even realise.
After all, the saying is ‘prevention is better than cure.’