Sunscreen plays an important role in the lives of everyday Australians due to the high risk of skin cancer and other damage to the skin caused by the sun’s rays.
UVA and UVB are forms of radiation emitted by the sun. These two forms of ultraviolet radiation are significant due to two main reasons: 1) they reach the skin 2) they have damaging effects on the skin. Choosing a correct sunscreen for your skin type and use is the key factor to effective photoprotection.
Important facts on sunscreens
UVB is a shorter wavelength radiation, and generally, is at its highest during the middle of the day and summer months. When the skin is exposed to UVB radiationsunburn and underlying cell damage can occur.
UVA is a longer wavelength and penetrates a little deeper into the layers of the skin. UVA is a little trickier to detect ashigh exposure can occur anytime during the day, including winter and on cloudy days. Surprisingly UVA can also penetrate through glass. UVA causes damage to the collagen and elastin in the skin and is responsible for premature skin aging characterised by wrinkles, sagging, yellowing and pigmentation.
Both forms of ultraviolet radiation cause cellular DNA damage. This puts the skin at risk of developing skin cancer. There are a number of types of skin cancers including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is the most serious and can be deadly. Every year in Australia over 12,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma and over 1500 people die from this cancer. Melanomas have been directly linked to sun exposure. Other risk factors include fair skin and number of moles.
As well as seeking other methods of protection, such as clothing, hats and shade, it is important to wear a sunscreen when exposed to UV radiation. Since UVA can penetrate through glass and clouds – that is pretty much all the time! No sunscreen can last all day and hence a sunscreen should be re-applied every few hours to ensure maximum protection is maintained.
The ideal sunscreen should have a high level of UVB and UVA protection. In other words it should be ‘broad spectrum’. The UVB protections level of a sunscreen is shown as SPF. UVA protection is not stated on the label so it is important that you ask what level of protection it offers. A sunscreen should also have a sophisticated formula allowing a high UVA/UVB protection but with a light non-greasy texture. It should also be free from irritants. This means it will be more cosmetically appealing and more likely to be used correctly and re-applied.
Anthelios XL Extreme Fluid 50+, by La Roche-Posay, is a high UVB and UVA protection sunscreen. It is light and non-comedogenic. It is free from irritants such as fragrance and is suitable for sensitive skin.
Every day sunscreens should be light but also protect against skin cancer producing UVA and UVB rays. If you are going to the beach, we recommend a UV sunscreen with waterproof qualities.
My Skin Cancer Clinics recommend the use of La Roche Posay.