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Sunlight has good and bad effects in our body as it is, at the same time, a main source for Vitamin D (strong bones) and a mutagen (cancer). Vitamin D can be acquired adding supplements to our diet or by sunlight exposure (dermal synthesis). The last one can be considered the natural option to get Vitamin D but due a high uncertainty on cancer risk there are not official recommendations of what is the correct level of sunlight exposure to keep yourself safe.

Sunlight affects us positively in other ways. For instance in northern regions it is recommended  a higher level of sun exposure to fight some kind of depression. Apparently, the exposure to sunlight triggers the creation of natural antidepressants. On the other side, prolonged exposure to sunlight affect us negatively on our eyes being a main cause for cortical cataracts.

It does not look to be an answer of what is the correct level of sun exposure when considering the health effects. In this link the reader can access to a paper submitted by the University of Ottawa considering that there is not enough information to determine a safe level of sunlight exposure. We have not the required knowledge to give any recommendation from a health point of view so actin responsibly we want the reader to take this subject seriously and access only to certified sources for further health information.

From a beauty point of view, which this is the domain we know, sunlight exposition has good and bad effects. On one hand, many of us like tanning our skin as we found ourselves prettier with a bit of color. On the other hand, besides the risks we mention before, there are other effects you should be aware.

Skin Agin and Pigmentation

The exposure to sunlight is responsible of skin agin, dryness, collagen damage, pigmentation and the proliferation of age spots. Those effects are specially visible on the face. Our face are specially sensible and the development of pigmentations and dehydration in comparison with the rest of the body.

There are two ways to avoid the effects of sunlight, to avoid the exposition to sunlight or the use of UV filters as the ones found in the suncreams. Cosmetics and suncreams use mainly two types of filters: physical and chemical filters.

Physical and Chemical UV filters

The physical filters contain particles that reflex UV light in the same way a mirror does. The most common ingredients for those filters are titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, kaolinite, mica and talc. Look for ingredients like those in your suncream of cosmetic to identify the use of physical filters. Physical filters are really stable (does not need much re-applying in normal conditions) and secure, they can be used on babies. For a wide range of people they are not really popular as some time produce a white layer on our skin or make our skin to look extra shiny. This is specially dislike by people on suncreams but it does not look that important on cosmetics like BB-creams. Nowadays some of the cosmetic producers micronisate the minerals (reduce the size of the reflecting ingredients) in order to improve the properties of those cosmetics and reduce the unwanted effects.

They chemical filters use a chemical reaction which transform the sun radiation into heat. The most common ingredients used in chemical filters are Mexoryl (drometrizole trisiloxane), Tinosorb M (bisoctrizole), Parsol 1789 (avobenzone), Eusolex 6300 (4-methylbenzylidene camphor) and Tinosorb S (bemotrizinol). In general they protect better than the physical filters, a white layer on our skin or extra shining do not happen. On the other hand they are not as safe as the physical filters (not recommended for babies) and need to be re-applied more often as they dissolve quite easily. As before, look at the ingredients to recognise those cosmetics using chemical filters.

Different UV filter for the face

I like to use a stronger protection on my face than in the rest of the body. Pigmentation, age spots an wrinkles appear faster on our face. Sometimes suncreams are really thick to be applied on the face. Many times suncreams makers thicken them products intentionally so they are sure you apply the correct amount of product. Even that I understand the reason why makers produce think creams this is specially uncomfortable when used on the face.

Considering that, I use suncreams specially designed for the face which tend to have a higher UV factor and are absorbed easily. Normally they use chemical filters which means it needs to be re-applied more often to keep the correct level of protection. I use factor 50 for the face and I never recommend to use less than 30.

Daily UV filter

As we already introduce UV filters are present not only in suncreams but in day-to-day cosmetics. In cosmetics for the face as BB-creams or makeups it is starting to be quite normal. Specially in summer I recommend the use of cosmetics to the face that has UV factor. You will identify them finding the level “SPF” (Sun Protection Factor). I specially like to use physical UV based BB-creams as they are quite light.

Suncream vs SPF cosmetic (IMPORTANT) 

A common misunderstanding I came across is the general believe that using SPF cosmetics is equivalent of using suncreams. IT OS NOT!!. Suncreams are designed to be use in more extreme situations like sunbathing or doing outdoors sports like cycling or running  (to say some examples). Cosmetics with SPF are designed to be use in day-by-day situations like walking from home to work or going shopping.

For instance, if you are expecting to be exposed to the sun, let’s say in a long afternoon walk, consider using your suncream as your SPF30 cosmetic may not do the work.

It does not sum up

Another misunderstanding I get to know is the believe that when using two SPF products they will work together to protect your skin. For example, if you use a moisturising cream with SPF-30 and a makeup with SPF-20 you actually get a SPF-50 protection (30+20). This is absolutely incorrect. The effect of mixing two SPF products depends on the ingredients used. In the best case scenario you may end-up getting the protection of the product with higher factor, but it is possible that in some case one product is neutralising the effects of the another so you end up having a factor a lot lower than you expect.

I hope those tips are useful for you.

Iwona Urbanka

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