How to protect skin from the sun and prevent premature aging

How to protect skin from the sun and prevent premature aging
By Walter Ang
April 20, 2010
Philippine Daily Inquirer

"Sunblocks or sunscreens don't prevent your skin from tanning," said Belinda Hooshmand, dispelling a common misconception about what sunblock can and cannot do for the skin. "What a good sunblock can and should do, however, is to protect the skin from burning and from premature ageing."

Hooshmand is the consumer healthcare business unit manager for Merck Sharp and Dohme, the pharmaceutical company that now owns the Coppertone brand of sunblock products. She has a nifty mnemonic device for remembering the effects of the two kinds of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun that we should avoid.

"UVB ends with the letter `B' and causes burning while UVA ends with `A' and causes ageing," she said. UVB rays are more intense in summer months, at higher altitudes, and in areas closer to the equator like the Philippines. Aside from sunburns, UVB rays are the primary cause of the development of skin cancer.

UVA rays are more constant, year-round, and penetrate deeper into the skin's layers. Exposure to UVA does not show immediate signs of damage but over time, breaks down the skin's collagen, thereby resulting in spots, wrinkles and leathery skin.

Hooshmand listed several ways to avoid the harmful effects of the sun such as staying in the shade whenever possible; wearing dark-colored, tightly-woven clothing, wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses; and avoiding exposure to the sun when its rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

She also pointed out that aside from sand and water, sun rays also bounce off concrete, a reminder to weekend warriors who play sports or join fun runs in the city.

Of course, it's impossible to stay completely away from the sun, especially during summer when being under the sun is the whole point. That's when sunblocks come in as the skin's barrier by reflecting, scattering, or absorbing UV light.

"Through decades of changing lifestyles and sun intensities, Coppertone has remained a trusted brand in suncare for the skin," she said. "We're launching specialized products to suit specific needs of individuals. Starting this summer and for the rest of the year, we want you and your family to enjoy your time under the sun."

In Boracay, the Coppertone Sun Patrol went around the beach introducing the new variants which include Coppertone Sunscreen Very High 50+ SPF and Coppertone Sunscreen Kids Very High 50+ SPF, both of which have advanced UVA/UVB protection.

Both are fortified with vitamins A, C and E, antioxidants that helps skin defend against free radicals while nourishing its natural health. The Kids variant is waterproof, providing protection that lasts in and out of the water.

Those working on their tans can use Coppertone Tropical Blend Tanning Oil 4 SPF. It's specially formulated for "satin skin and a shimmering tan" and contains vitamin E and aloe vera to moisturize skin and prevent peeling and flaking.

To help keep facial skin hydrated and protected from sun damage, now there's Coppertone Anti-Ageing Face Cream with High 30 SPF. The face cream has a combination of sun-filters that works to improve the skin's elasticity so that it remains soft and silky to touch. It gives non-greasy texture and offers a comfortable after-feel on skin. It contains vitamin E and special olive leaf extract that supplies anti-oxidants and provitamin B5 that soothes and helps protect skin.

"Remember, we encounter UVA rays no matter what the season or time of day," Hooshmand said. "So this product is a must year-round." She also notes that all of these new products help hydrate and restore the skin's natural health. They are all dermatologist tested as well.

Hooshmand also explained how to use Coppertone's different levels of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) as a gauge to time how long you can stay under the sun. The SPF indicates how many times longer a person can stay under the sun with a sunscreen before getting a sunburn compared to no sunscreen at all.

This varies for everyone and depends on how fast one normally gets a sunburn. "Basically you multiply the SPF number to your `burning time.' For example, if you usually get a sunburn after ten minutes without a sunblock and you apply a sunblock with 4 SPF, that means you can now stay out for forty minutes before you get a sunburn," she said.

Most dermatologists recommend that people use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. It should be applied evenly and liberally before exposure to the sun and reapplied often. Reapplication is necessary after swimming, sustained vigorous activity, heavy perspiration and toweling off.

Hooshmand cautions not to overlook spots like the ears, neck, shoulders and the back of your neck. "Don't forget your scalp if you have thin or thinning hair or no hair," she adds.

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