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Sunscreen Savvy

Sunscreen Savvy

Sunscreen Savvy

By Sophia Parmenter, Spa Gregorie’s Esthetician

Sunscreen – also known as sunblock or suntan lotion – is a topical product that helps protect the skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It reduces sunburn and other skin damage with the goal of lowering the risk of skin cancer, which is very much on the rise.

The most effective sunscreens protect against both UVB rays – those that can cause sunburn – and UVA, those that damage the skin with more long-term effects such as premature skin aging. As an esthetician working in sunny Newport Beach, I see the consequences of people having too much fun in the sun without taking the proper precautions. Most sunscreens contain either an organic chemical compound that absorbs ultraviolet light – such as oxybenzone – or an opaque material that reflects light (such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide) or a combination of the two.  Typically, absorptive materials are referred to as chemical blocks, whereas opaque materials are mineral or physical blocks. By the way, today’s ‘opaque’ sunblocks are virtually invisible – no more white noses!

The following is a list of what your sunscreen/sunblock MUST do in order to provide adequate coverage:

● Contain a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 for routine exposure. Look for a higher SPF – preferably 30 or above – for more intensive sun exposure such as a visit to the beach or if you spend more than an hour per day exposed to the sun (do not forget driving time).

● Offer broad-spectrum protection; meaning both UVA and UVB protecting ingredients are present. If the label doesn’t say they are there, odds are they are not.

● PABA free for those with sensitive skin, eczema or known PABA allergies.

● Don’t be fooled by products stating they are waterproof. You MUST reapply after water exposure or every 2 hours while outdoors. (Some sunscreens contain bases with more “stay power” than others and are less likely to sweat into your eyes.)

An SPF number gives you an idea of how long you can remain in the sun before burning.  If, for example, you would normally burn in 10 minutes without sunscreen, applying a 15 SPF may provide you with about 150 minutes in the sun before burning.

Some research has shown – contrary to common advice that sunscreen should be reapplied every 2-3 hours – the best protection is achieved by application 15-30 minutes before exposure followed by one reapplication 15-30 minutes after the sun exposure begins. Further reapplication is only necessary after activities such as swimming, sweating and running. However, more recent research at the University of California, Riverside indicates that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours in order to remain effective. Not reapplying could cause more cell damage than not using sunscreen at all due to the release of extra free radicals from absorbed materials.

Apply according to your particular set of circumstances.  If you are heading to the beach or pool or plan on taking part in vigorous outdoor exercise, make sure to apply a sunscreen formulated not to wash off easily. Otherwise, you may want to trade water-resistance in favor of having more of other benefits. If you are very fair-skinned and/or otherwise sensitive to sunlight (e.g. due to use of certain drugs such as retinoids), place greater emphasis on the high degree of broad UVA and UVB protection (SPF 30 or higher for UBV, 95% protection for UVA). If you are darker skinned, you still need to have broad UVA and UVB protection, but it does not have to be as strong (SPF 15 for UVB, 90+% protection for UVA). If you have acne, try selecting sun blocking ingredients and vehicles that do not make it worse, which may require some trial and error. Epicuren’s Zinc Oxide SPF 20 is one of the most high quality sunscreens on the market today.  In addition to its 17% microni-zed zinc oxide content, it contains aloe Barbadenis (organic aloe vera) for healing and hydrating, a benefit to all skin types and especially safe for acne-prone skin.

Sunscreens and their blocking counterparts are following the trend of adding a variety of antioxidants to help rejuvenate skin and neutralize cellular DNA damage where it starts (from sun exposure that makes its way through your sunscreen). It is good to have a little added benefit, just don’t feel this is all you need to do if you are actively trying to repair damage or eradicate smile lines.

For those who are looking to avoid vitamin A, particularly when pregnant or nursing, you may want to add this to your list of product label reading. It may be theoretical, but for purists, vitamin A is vitamin A no matter where it’s found.

The lips are an area often neglected when it comes to sun protection. Many women erroneously believe lipstick will protect their lips. This simply isn’t true. Not only can the sun penetrate many lighter shades, lipstick typically wears off throughout the day, leaving the lips naked and unprotected. Consider carrying Epicurens lip balm with SPF 15, tea tree, avocado and jojoba oil in your beach bag this summer.

I am often asked if the addition of sunscreen to a moisturizer or make-up is adequate protection. Typically, the answer would be NO. These products are generally not applied as thoroughly to the skin as a sunscreen would be. Many times, either make-up or moisturizers may be spot applied, so I consider the presence of SPF in these products to be “icing on the cake.” There have also been published studies illustrating that these mixed products do not have the all-day staying power most would associate with a foundation or moisturizer. On the flip side, there are several sunscreens that are purported to have very moisturizing bases, an ideal combination for those with drier skin. One of my favorites at Spa Gregorie’s is the MD tinted moisturizer with SPF 15.

The great news is if you were one that had too much fun in the sun, there are many wonderful products and services that can actually reverse the damage we have done.  One of my favorites is one of Spa Gregorie’s most popular facials, the Arcona pumpkin enzyme peel followed by a soothing rich antioxidant mask.  The peel is gentle and recommended every four weeks. Products that really help reverse some of the damage from the rays are vitamin C, moisturizers or serums with peptides, hyralonic acid, vitamin A, and high antioxidant moisturizers containing A, C and E to help combat the free radicals.

All Spa Gregorie’s estheticians are highly educated and do their best to get you on a great home skin care program so that you see your skin begin to look its best!

Wherever your summer holiday takes you, pack your sunscreen, pick up a hat and use those result-oriented products. We look forward to seeing you at the spa when you get back!


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