BREAKDOWN OF SKINCARE STEPS:
In part 5 of this series, we will look at step 10 of the skincare routine:
- Oil Cleanser (Makeup remover)
- Facial Cleanser
- Exfoliator/Wash Off Mask*
- First Treatment Essence
- Sheet Mask*
- Eye Cream
- SUNSCREEN (Daytime)
- Sleeping Mask/Pack* (Night time)
(*Doesn’t need to be used everyday; usually a 1-2x weekly treatment)
STEP 10: SUNSCREEN (Part 1 of 2)
Sunscreen is one of the most important products in your skincare routine. I’m going to give a simple but thorough explanation of the importance of using sunscreen to protect against UV rays. I’ll avoid getting too technical and scientific as I want this to be easy to understand and accessible to the everyday person who isn’t necessarily ‘into skincare’. If you want further in-depth knowledge than feel free to search further online or drop me a message below.
This sunscreen post will be split into 2 posts with part 1 covering the first 2 points below:
- What are UV rays – the difference between UVA and UVB
- Why and when should we apply sunscreen?
- Mineral vs Chemical sunscreen
- What is SPF and the PA/star rating system?
- What type of sunscreen should you look for?
- Sunscreen application
- My sunscreen recommendation
1. WHAT ARE UV RAYS?
Firstly, let’s understand what UV rays are, before we make sense of the purpose of sunscreen. This stands for ultraviolet rays which is a type of radiation produced from the sun that causes harm to our skin. (It can also be emitted to a lesser degree, from artificial sources like light bulbs, tanning beds etc).
UV rays encompass 3 main types:
- UVA: these are the rays that are the biggest cause of premature ageing. This affects and breaks down elastin and collagen in the skin and releases free radicals which results in accelerated ageing, wrinkles, brown spots, hyperpigmentation, discolouration and rough, uneven skin. Dermatologists estimate that as much as 80-90% of our skin wrinkles/signs of ageing, are due to long term exposure of UVA rays. At worst, this can lead to skin cancer. UVA is more potent than UVB as it can penetrate through clouds and glass/windows, as well as deeper into the skin to damage cells.
- UVB: these are the rays responsible for burning and many other skin diseases and cancer. (E.g. melanoma and basal cell carcinoma). UVB has a shorter wavelength so it does not penetrate as deeply into the skin as UVA but will focus its damage on the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin), making it red and sore.
- UVC: this is less important to us because it has the shortest wavelength that doesn’t penetrate through our atmosphere, so will not affect us like UVA or UVB rays.
2.WHY & WHEN WE SHOULD APPLY SUNSCREEN?
Even if you neglect other steps in your skincare routine, I cannot stress enough over how important it is to wear sunscreen every day. I always hear people saying they don’t need sunscreen because it’s not a sunny day or it’s cloudy/rainy. Based on what I’ve explained of UV rays above, this is the biggest misconception about applying sunscreen. While the intensity of UVB (burning) rays varies by time of day, season and location – which makes it easier to avoid at times – UVA rays are not the same and can be just as harmful on a cloudy, overcast or rainy day. Even if you can’t see the sun shining brightly, that does not mean radiation from the sun isn’t still penetrating through. They can penetrate and reflect off many surfaces like clouds, water puddles, snow, pavement and buildings. You can even get UVA exposure from being indoors all day, depending on what reflectors are around you, so sunscreen is still vital even when indoors.
Many people associate sun damage and sun protection with sunburn and tanning. Just because you don’t see the physical effects of UVB rays burning/tanning your skin, doesn’t mean the damage isn’t taking place in your skin cells. Burning is just the short-term consequence of too much sun exposure. In reality, the damage is gradually occurring long-term with daily UVA penetration deep within the layers of your skin, invisible to the naked eye until that sun spot, or wrinkle or dark pigmentation one day appears and you wonder how it got there, despite the preventative measures you’re taking with anti-ageing skincare.
Fact of the matter is, despite many marketing claims with serums & creams etc, the number 1 most effective and proven preventative anti-ageing product you can have is sunscreen – with a high enough protection and applying/reapplying the appropriate quantity on a daily basis.
(If you’re also someone who uses chemical exfoliators like AHA or BHA, then sunscreen is even more crucial as these products cause increased photosensitivity – which is when your skin has a higher level of sensitivity and reaction to UV exposure than is normal. This can cause skin to get irritated and sunburnt quicker and more intensely.)
I’ve heard the remarks so many times about how Asians don’t look their age and stay youthful for longer. Yes, it’s a combination of genetics, diet, skincare routine etc. But I believe a crucial difference is the cultural variation in how the sun is viewed between East and West. Westerners relish the sun – sunbathing and getting a sun-kissed tan is something to be envied and admired for. Asians on the other hand, are taught from a young age to stay out of the sun and apply sunscreen religiously to maintain healthy and youthful looking skin. Tanning not only prematurely ages you, but is not a sign of healthy skin; rather it’s our skin’s response to being harmed by UV radiation and is trying to defend itself against further damage (you can read a well informed post from a dermatologist about tanning/burning here). Not to mention you’re increasing your risk of skin cancer.
For me personally, when I see a tan, it’s not beautiful nor healthy. It is simply sun damage. I’ve grown up in the UK and I’ve never conformed to the Western view about sun tans. Just like how we view eating and exercising well as the way to stay healthy, that is how we should view avoiding excessive sun exposure too. And if you’re thinking, well what about vitamin D which we need from the sun? You can easily get this from daily Vitamin D supplements, which is recommended by health professionals, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere and have minimal sun exposure.
The main thing to take away from this however, is that sunscreen is your best defence against skin damage and premature ageing and you should wear it everyday to help prevent problems like loss of collagen and elasticity (which results in sagging, wrinkled skin), hyperpigmentation, brown spots, discolouration, rough, textured and dull skin. It is much easier to prevent skin damage and signs of ageing, than it is to correct it and make it disappear.