Stronger Than The U.V?
Before summer 2018 arrived, did you ask yourself the question “Do I need sun screen…?” By April many of our high street shelves are bombarded with sunscreens, after sun lotions and aloe vera gel. And to be honest for many people of colour the first thing that comes into mind is “I don’t need this” with a shrugged shoulder. However you’d be surprised how much you can benefit from some sunscreen lotion.
2018 has been one of the hottest years of my life, not only with London’s heat wave but my trip to both Dubai and Tenerife, where for the first time I experienced temperatures of 41 Degrees Celsius (105.8 F). My skin has been put to the ultimate test, where I’ve found myself forced to purchase foundation 4 shades darker than my winter shade. This really shows tanning isn’t a joke! But understanding how to look after your beautiful melanin in the sun will enable you to embrace the “feel good” mood the sun provides us but also prevent damage!
U.V, Whats Dah?
A quick biology and chemistry lesson 101! In case you didn’t know UV stands for Ultra “Violent rays”, this is one of many forms of electromagnetic energy. This same energy which originates from the sun is what causes our skin to tan or in medical terms “secrete more melanin”. This same suns-light is made up of two types of rays “UVB” and “UVA”, UVA penetrates deeper in to the dermis and causes harmful damage that can lead to wrinkles and skin cancers. It is fair to state that for many people of colour, we are less susceptible to UV damage due to the greater amount of melanin in our skin. But it doesn’t mean we are invincible!
The skin tissue has 3 layers, the outermost layer is called the “Epidermis”, this contains our skin tone/ melanin alongside acts as a waterproof barrier. The 2nd layer “The Dermis” contains sweat glands, connective tissue and hair follicles. Lastly the 3rd layer which is build on fat and connective tissue is called the “Hypodermis”.
UV levels can vary day to day, however predominately in the Summer (UK & Ireland) it is usually reported in our weather forecast, alongside the temperature. A UV level of 3+ is the initial stage of dermis tissue damage. Checking this daily to prepare for a day in a sun is essential, use the link below to monitor the Met Office daily UV forecast. You’ll be surprised how much damage can be done microscopically.
UV LEVEL 3-5
- Damage the collagens (skins elastic reduces and ageing begins prematurely)
- Melanoma risk (Skin Cancer)
- Skin Pigmentation – change in melanin (short term tan)
UV LEVEL 6+
- Effects the epidermis which is delayed by 72 hours formation of melanin, (long term tanning)
- Production of Rachitic Cholecalcifieol (Vitamoin D3 begins)
- UVB rays have the higher probability for carcinogenic cells to form.
It wouldn’t be surprising to say many of us didn’t know what SPF stands for, which is “Sun Protection Factor”. This is the measure of protection your sunscreen will provide you from UVB rays. Now despite many brands providing sunscreen in different versions, spray or lotion, for people of colour many of us would have experienced using a sunscreen that leaves a purple or grey tint on our skin, and its fair to say we’ve had enough! But the key selling point must be the SPF factor. So how does it work?
SPF 15 / 30 or 50?
Applying SPF 15 sunscreen enables you to stay in the sun with a reduced likeliness of burning for approximately 150 minutes. This would be an estimate of providing you protecting 15 times longer than without it. This same concept applies for SPF 30 and SPF 50. Now you may be wondering which one is right for me? For people of colour I would recommend purchasing an SPF 30 sunscreen, however due to the high level of melanin in our skin an SPF 15 is also effective, also note no sunscreen can block all UV rays, so having extra measures in place reduces the chances of skin cancer, ageing and sun burn.
“SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays. So, the difference between 30 and 50 is about 1 percent”
Recommendations: Aftersun Lotion & Aloe Vera
It’s can be difficult to distinguish which product works and blends for you, but regardless there always something in the body care market. Sunscreen lotion comes in many forms, with an aftersun lotion, Aloe Vera gel or even an aftersun face mask, but not all cater to people of colour. Recently I’ve been able to narrow down my top recommended products that have worked for me.
SunScreen Lotion : Wilko Sunscreen SPF 50 lotion, Solait SPF 30 Sunscreen spray and Palmers Coco Butter SPF 30.
Aftersun Lotion : Nivea Aftersun Lotion
Aloe Vera : Holland & Barret 100% Aloe Vera Gel
Aftersun Lotion is highly recommend for those who plan on spending a day in the sun, whether at the beach, in the park or on the high street shopping on a scorching day. The main purpose of Aftersun lotion is to cool down the skin, lock in moisture and repair damage or burnt skin. Finding an aftersun product that contains aloe vera gel is essential as it works as one of the key ingredient. I also use 100% Aloe Vera gel on my face after a long day in the sun, for its skin healing properties and cooling agent.
If you haven’t purchased your sunscreen its not too late! It’s still hot and the majority of product have a shelf life of 12 – 24 months! It’s always going to be a trail and error and identifying what works well for you. Taking extra measures such as purchasing water resistant sunscreen, sunscreen that provides protecting from UVA and UVB, carrying an umbrella, wearing a hat if required, will prevent any further unnecessary damage. Check out my previous post on how to keep cool in the heat. Feel free to share your go-to sunscreen products in the comments below! 😀