With the sun blazing on our skin, sunscreens have become our new best friends. But are they helping us really?
I get asked all the time about sunscreens. People that write to me want to know if they have to use them; if they can skip them completely. I say one must make an informed decision on this very important choice. Armed with information, the choice must be yours and yours only.
Here is information that can help you decide whether sunscreens are as loyal as they seem to be.
BENEFITSradiations is of greater importance. A sunscreens can act as a barrier against the harmful radiation and can prevent it from penetrating our skin. SPF, Sun Protection Factor, is the measure of the protection level of the sunscreen against the UV rays that can cause sunburns, free radical damage, dehydration and skin disease
Prevention of dark spots and brown discoloration: Prolonged exposure to UV rays may result in discoloration and dark spots (also called sun spots). While avoiding the sun at peak hours might temporarily seem like a great solution, sometimes it is not practical. Sunscreens with broad spectrum SPFs (that protect the skin against both UVA and UVB rays) can be applied about 30 mins before stepping outdoors for preventing skin damage.
Prevention of premature aging: Daily application of sunscreen can be useful to prevent early aging of skin. Too much sun dehydrates the skin and causes the formation of free radicals and degradation of elastin and collagen. When a sunscreen is used, the belief is that premature aging of skin can be stopped. An ingredient called Mexoryl SX (ecamsule) added to stabilize oxybenzene and avobenzene (active ingredients in sunscreens) can protect the collagen fibers from wear and tear. This in turn prevents early aging of skin.
Prevents sunburn and related infection: A sunburn can occur by spending too many hours in the sun and the consequent exposure to UV rays resulting in skin reddening, irritation and swelling. The heat of the sun can result in a burn much like a burn if you touch something hot. Just like an ordinary burn, a sunburn can also get infected. This can cause extreme damage to your skin cells and can also increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Sunscreens are thus highly recommended when spending time in the sun.This in turn helps to protect the skin’s upper layers as well skin proteins like collagen and elastin. These proteins make up the structure of your skin and it’s their degradation with time that results in signs of aging like fine lines, dullness, dryness etc. Sunscreens thus protect the foundational elements of skin from damage caused by too much sun.
Permeates the skin: Sunscreens usually have various chemicals that act as UV filters and are known to protect the skin. However the odd thing is that these chemicals make the skin even more vulnerable to damage from UV rays. Why? Because these chemicals can make the skin more permeable. UV radiation absorbed by the skin is responsible for formation of molecules that release Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). ROS are reactive free radicals of molecular oxygen that are synthesizednaturally in the body, but they can also be induced by exposure to UV light. They interact with the skin cell membranes, mitochondria and DNA. They can result in oxidative damage and other extrinsic damaging of the skin. Damaged skin cells are unable to hold on nourishment hydration. They are unable to heal as efficiently and also are at a higher risk of early aging, pigmentation, dark spots and dehydration.
Prevents the production of vitamin D: We often worry a lot about the sun and its effects on our skin and body. However, it is important to understand that our body needs the sun to synthesize vitamin D. Sunscreens do provide protection from harmful UV rays but also end up blocking the sun from its ability help our body produce vitamin D. Deficiency of Vitamin D increases the chances of heart disease and cancer. This is worth noting while making the decision about using a sunscreen.
Toxic chemicals are linked to serious health concerns: Sunscreens have various toxic ingredients that are known to absorb into blood, cause skin irritation, allergies and other harmful side effects. Chemicals like oxybenzene and octinoxate that are present in a huge majority of these products are a major cause of concern. Oxybenzene acts like estrogen, can reduce sperm count in men and can cause endometeriosis in women. It is very important to be sure of what you are using on your skin, and to know how these ingredients may affect your skin and body in the short and longterm.question of sunscreens, it is a must that we ban artificial fragrances from our personal care products. When it comes to the question of sunscreens, the SPFs used necessitate the use of fragrance to cover up their inherently unpleasant odor. As run-of-the-mill products are made with a thoughtless mass manufacturing mind set, it is almost a guarantee that you will find harsh synthetic fragrances as part of sunscreens. These chemicals are way up there as far as their negative side effects go. They can cause issues ranging from skin rashes & irritation to interference with the hormonal systems of the body.
Retinyl palmitate could be linked to cancer: One of the major concerns involved with sunscreens is that they could cause cancer. Studies suggest that sunscreens increase the growth of malignant cells containing retinyl palmitate: a derivative of Vitamin A. Retinyl palmitate is a very common ingredient found in sunscreens. When exposed to UV rays, retinal palmitate produces free radicals that could interact with DNA and cause major aberrations/ mutations leading to cancer.
Are there natural ingredients that can help? Can they take the place of a sunscreen?
That is the important question that many of you are asking yourselves right now. When researching natural ingredients for developing Apsara products I was astounded to see that there are many ingredients that have been well known for their natural sun protection properties. However these ingredients cannot be called SPFs. Turmeric, shea butter, almond oil, vitamin E oil all enjoy the reputation of having natural antioxidant properties. This can be the reason why they have been used across cultures to keep the skin well equipped to handle the sun. When you have a daily skin care routine that includes products with these ingredients, I feel confident that you are going in the right direction. Whether you choose to top up your routine with a sunscreen or not, is a choice you make for yourself, but the fact that your skin care products have awesome antioxidants in them is something to feel very good about. Can these antioxidants minimize the negative side effects associated with sunscreens? I hope to see many scientific studies and data that can help us better understand this possibility.
I do not use a sunscreen myself but do hope to develop a natural sunscreen that is made with safe ingredients. I hope such a product can become part of the Apsara family very soon.
Watch this detailed video in which I teach you the step-by-step process of choosing and using a daily skin care routine.
Hopefully you have found this information useful and will use it to decide whether or not to use a sunscreen.
First draft and outline: Vidushi R.
Final draft & editing: Sheetal Rawal. Scientist (human genetics) & founder of www.apsaraskincare.com
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