As professional skin therapists we see a variety of clients at different stages of life with ever changing skin concerns. The steps to care for their skin may differ in emphasis and product choice from person to person. Unbeknownst to many, there is a part of an essential skin care routine that happens to be of equal value to all people daily. The last, but certainly not least step, SPF!
Ultra Violet Radiation (UVR) is the common thread that negatively impacts all skin conditions, types, diseases and disorders. The influence UVR has on our skin does not lessen based upon the hemisphere one lives in, age, ethnicity, skin tone or gender. Many people are hesitant to adopt this vital step or struggle with consistency. Our responsibilities as professional skin therapists are to confidently educate and provide sound recommendations to misinformed and inquiring clients. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the specifics of skin histology in order to understand how UVR causes the skin to malfunction- and where exactly SPF fits into this equation.
Prevention, Protection and Sunscreens
Skin is a highly sophisticated organ that is designed to protect and maintain normal bodily functions and block foreign antigens. Our skin is constantly renewing itself to act as an adequate shield. In-between the time of mitosis and desquamation our keratinocyte cells release a complex blend of water soluble chemicals, antioxidant rich lipids and strengthening protein. This constructs a durable physical and chemical based acidic barrier, designed to preserve our water and moisture levels and work in tandem with our immune system. UVR is a key antagonist leading this process awry.
Ninety-five percent of radiation comes from UVA (Ultra Violet Aging Rays). UVA penetrates the dermis, deteriorating skins scaffolding of proteins such as Collagen and Elastin. The remainder stems from its counterpart, UVB (Ultra Violet Burning Rays). They are both equally damaging. UVB primarily affects the epidermal layers, particularly Melanocyte, Langerhans, and Merkel Cell destruction.
These rays are harmful regardless if a person tans or burns, and there is no such thing as a “healthy tan.” Tanned and/or burnt skin experiences apoptosis- the process of mutated cells opting for suicide and peeling off. Remaining cells with mutated DNA proceed to birth a permanent chain of mutated cells during mitosis. It is crucial to understand that UVA and UVB are cytotoxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic. Both rays contribute to broken capillaries, edema, and erythema. They are additionally responsible for excessive TEWL (Trans Epidermal Water Loss), and loss of critical barrier lipids. This can be noticed in the skin as it appears tight, dry or warm after prolonged periods of sun exposure.
Certain settings can also increase and potentially double our exposure to UVR. The World Health Organization finds that snow and water reflect up to 80%, sand and pavement rank at 25%, and 85% of UVA penetrates through glass. We also need to ensure that clients are not fooled by partially cloudy skies, dreary dark days and shady areas where 80% of UVA rays remain beaming through.
Precisely how does SPF combat the stressful environment our skin faces? There are two forms of sunscreen, physical and chemical. They can be blended in multiple ways to achieve broad spectrum coverage against UVA and UVB rays.
Physical Sunscreens, which are Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, sit on top of the skin and deflect UV rays away from the skin. They are broad spectrum and begin working as soon as they are applied. Physical sunscreens are ideal for more sensitive skin or after an active resurfacing treatment when the skin is more sensitized.
Chemical Sunscreens, such as Octocrylene and Avobenzone are just two examples. There is a multitude of chemical sunscreens chemists may combine to achieve broad spectrum status. They use chemical carbon compounds to convert UV radiation to heat which is then released from the skin. Upon application there is a 20-minute buffer period before they activate, but its recommended to apply 30 minutes before sun
• UVA and UVB deflection
• Ideal for sensitive skin
• Ideal for active days
• Protection begins immediately
• Thinner, lotion like texture
• Pairs wells with peptides and enzymes
• Readily blends with other leave on products
• Ideal for daily use
SPF formulas have positively evolved over the years providing countless options of customized SPF based products with multitasking ingredients to suit all needs. Expect optimal results with products featuring antioxidants like Vitamin A, C, E, F, and B. Potent peptides that can stimulate cellular energy, therapeutic teas rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, brighteners and anti-inflammatories such as avena sativa, licorice, and fermented sage.
Education and Your Clients
The skin industry is booming. Naturally, we are thrilled at the attention that has been brought to our valuable profession. The internet and social media have exponentially grown businesses and garnered skin health the long overdue emphasis its always deserved. However, what coincides is product confusion amongst consumers in an overcrowded marketplace. Misinformation is rampant and trendy visuals take precedent over proven data. At this very moment #SPF is the least used skin related tag on Instagram, at a mere 564,000. While #antiaging is at 1.6million, and #makeup at 220million. This indicates the priorities of the average consumer. Here are few questions that might come up in your treatment room.
I know I need SPF…but which one?! How often should I use it? This is where skin savvy expertise saves the day. Ask pertinent questions while looking closely at their skin. How often are they in sun with prolonged exposure? Struggling with signs of aging? Sensitive? Oily or dry? Is there a primary concern, or multiple? Your knowledge of skin types and conditions is the cornerstone to happy clients. Also check in to see what they will be willing to commit to when it comes to using SPF. Are they best suited for layering or having it built in to their moisturizer?
By foregoing daily SPF use we see and feel a collection of manifestations on the skin and put our health at risk. Remember, barrier impairment allows more pollutant, viral and bacterial matter to permeate our skin. Single application is suitable for average days mainly spent in doors such as driving to and from work, the gym, or grocery store. Active days outdoors is when reapplying is fundamental. How long does it take before your client’s skin produces color? The American Skin Association (ASA) guides to multiply that number by the SPF number being utilized for a rough estimate of protection time. However, ASA further states that if you are spending the day near or in water, on a boat, in a yard, or in snow, hourly reapplication is heavily advised. These are sweat prone activities and the product should also be water resistant. For light skin tones 30-40-minute intervals is best.
A beneficial resource we can guide clients to is the weather report built in all smartphones listing the daily UV Index. There are exceptionally informative apps and sites to download as well including myskinclock.com. An example for sun safety is UVI Mate Sun Safety Coach. It’s widely recommended by mindful mommies and skin cancer prone users. Notable features are real time UV Index and Ozone updates, Vitamin D intake and time, tan and burn control timers, and peak times for extra safety.
Where else should I apply sunscreen? Don’t forget lips, eyes and hands need TLC too! Lips have nearly no melanin. Their color is from tiny blood vessels below. High shine glosses draw UV in like baby oil. Lipsticks and balms with SPF are logical choices. If you are addicted to the glossy glow, simply layer it on top of the SPF based product. The skin around the eye area ages faster than any other area. It is the thinnest skin on the body, with no sebaceous glands giving natural sebum protection. A reliable SPF eye treatment is a must, especially if lines and discoloration are priority. Recommend a daytime eye cream with an SPF boost. Another rapidly aging body part are the hands. Hands are constantly exposed and used in all activities. Most SPF products can translate to hands or invest in a specific SPF hand cream.
Sunscreen must be used daily as the top layer product on the skin. Layering or mixing with high powered serums, eye and lip treatments, or additional moisturizers maximizes SPF performance, creating a stronger antioxidant rich safety net for the skin. SPF in cosmetics does not constitute as adequate protection. It’s an added boost to be layered, not a sole solution.
How does the sun affect my skin issues, like hyperpigmentation or aging? The sun is the constant variable in all forms of hyperpigmentation. UVR triggers the melanocyte to enlarge and over produce melanin in a seldomly successful attempt to rescue the nucleus from DNA mutation. The dispersion of melanin is not always even and worsens with age. There is potential the dendrite of the melanocyte can severely weaken, becoming pendulous and dropping into the dermis. This creates deeper hyperpigmentation which is challenging to reverse, often requiring medical grade treatments. Dermal or epidermal hyperpigmentation will appear as spots on the skins surface in varying shades based on the individuals genetic skin tone. Mutated melanocyte cells lead to the development of moles, which are benign skin tumors otherwise known as nevi, as well as other skin abnormalities. Those who are prone to this and have observed mole development on more than one occasion are more susceptible to developing skin cancer and should be adamant about wearing SPF daily. During pregnancy women may develop chloasma or melasma. It is very important to be proactive in the use of SPF daily during this time.
UVR exasperates the biochemical reactions that occur in skin aging and initiates premature aging. It is a direct source of free radical damage and destroys our dermal matrix, particularly Collagen, Elastin and Hyaluronic Acid. The results are fine line formation, volume loss, dryness, and increased wrinkle depth.
I have acne, I can’t wear SPF. Acne sufferers tend to believe the sun is good for them and SPF isn’t. This is a massive myth. Side effects of acne are heightened sensitivity, redness, and hyperpigmentation, all of which are increased by UVR. The hair follicle which houses breakouts and is already inflamed, can become more so, causing it to thin out and break. This ends in the spreading of Propioni bacterium (P. Acnes), deeper hyperpigmentation and dermal physical scarring, for example ice pick scars.
I’m too sensitive for sunscreen. Sensitive skin including its potential diseases and disorders genetically struggle to produce and maintain a strong healthy barrier. This skin contains a lesser amount of Langerhans Cells which communicate with immune system cells to ward off pathogens. Consequently, people with sensitive skin struggle to maintain moisture, are easily inflamed and reactive, and age faster. Therefore, UVR essentially doubles its pre-existing imbalances.
Dry skin can actually become drier. Any skin type or condition experiences onset dryness and dehydration due to UVR destroying critical barrier lipids and natural water-based chemicals within our skin. Because of this it is common to need an additional moisturizer below your SPF or prescribe an SPF with added hydration.
What about normal and combination skin that appears healthy and flawless? These lucky people still need a high performing sunscreen for prevention. If your skin looks fantastic why would you risk unnecessary skin damage? Sunscreen is the key to staying youthful, balanced and blemish free. A lightweight multitasking sunscreen is ideal. This is also a perfect product type for those who have a bundle of skin concerns, or first-time sunscreen users.
Stay educated, stay current, and never forget that a knowledgeable skin therapist is often imitated but never duplicated. We cannot control the environment surrounding us, but we decide for ourselves what we put on our bodies and do our best to guide our communities and clients towards satisfactory solutions to protect our largest defensive organ –the skin.
Educating on the Practices of Safe Sun
by IDI Faculty | September 03 2019 | 7 min read