Women are finally hitting that proverbial stride by the time they enter their thirties. They exude confidence and are at long last comfortable with who they are; they love themselves. The paradox, of course, is that as this happens women enter the first stages of aging, so it is imperative they start taking care of themselves by focusing on exercise, diet, and a good skincare regimen to stay looking and feeling vibrant.
“A good basic skin care routine is comprised of three main components: gentle cleansing, moisturization with adequate sun protection and increasing skin cell turnover,” said Corey L. Hartman, M.D., F.A.A.D., a dermatologist and owner of the Skin Wellness Center of Alabama in Birmingham.
Gentle, thorough cleansing without stripping the skin of essential oils is necessary for maintenance of a youthful complexion. Moreover, moisturizing with a product appropriate for one’s skin type will help maintain a healthy skin surface. Equally crucial is daily sun protection. It prevents the damage of free radicals and its effects: pigmentation changes, fine line development, blood vessel formation, sagging skin and possibly skin cancer.
That said, it is important to understand the meaning of the acronym “SPF,” or sun protection factor. Recent reports have supported claims that consumers have been misled about the efficacy of high “SPF” sunscreens against UVA rays from the sun. The FDA plans to change the way sunscreens are labeled because there may not be a difference between SPF 30 and SPF 100.
Dr. Hartman explained the different types of UV (ultraviolet) rays and how they relate to SPF: “UVA rays (in contrast to UVB and UVC rays) are the most harmful type due to their ability to penetrate skin more deeply than the others. UV rays are those in the visible light spectrum with longer wavelengths,” Dr. Hartman said. “UVA, UVB and UVC rays are distinguished only by their respective numerical wavelengths, with UVA having the longest and UVC the shortest.”
Dr. Hartman also explained that the longer the wavelength, the deeper the penetration of the light into the atmosphere and into our skin; hence UVA rays are more damaging because they can cause changes at the skin’s cellular level. Normal cell behavior is changed into less predictable behavior. That erratic behavior leads to unregulated cell activity, and that is the basis of cancer. “Overexposure to UVA rays can lead to cancer,” Dr. Hartman said.
Consumers should understand the true meaning of “SPF.” A higher SPF does not necessarily mean skin cancer prevention, as once SPF exceeds about 50, the increases from SPF 50 to 70 to 100 are minimal. What’s critical is the amount of protection consumers receive against UVA rays.
“The new FDA guidelines state that a product must have ample UVA protection and be rated at least an SPF 15 to claim protection against skin cancer,” Dr. Hartman added. “Anything that isn’t broad spectrum protecting (UVA and UVB) or is rated at below SPF 15 can only claim to protect consumers against sunburns and not cancer.”
The most important thing one must do is limit sun exposure, use a good moisturizer or sunscreen daily, and use it every day before leaving the house. Dr Hartman recommends Vanicream SPF 30 or 60 for sensitive skin, Aveeno Continuous Protection, Blue Lizard Sunscreens, and Neutrogena Advanced Sunblock Lotion.
He also emphasized, “Moisturizer does not have to be expensive to be effective,” and advised women to stick to oil-free, non-comedogenic products that include a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, such as Nu-Derm Sun Shield SPF 50, Skin Medica's Environmental Defense SPF 50, Aveeno's Calming Creme Moisturizer SPF 30 and CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM SPF 30.
Additional sourcing by the author:
Reviewed July 29, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle