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Sunscreen… What is it doing to our skin?

What a confusing and misleading subject… Could some sunscreen’s be doing more harm than good?


SPF – Sun Protection Factor

We all know that sunscreens are caterogised by their SPF rating but you probably have no idea what it actually means??  Or What it tells you about the sunscreen?  Let’s clarify this…


“It is important to remember that the SPF rating largely refers to UVB protection, as the index is based on reddening or sunburn, and is therefore an incomplete and possibly misleading index in terms of cancer prevention in skin.”

Vitamin A Skin Science, Dr Des Fernandes & Dr Ernst Eiselen.


Just remember UVB is for burning and UVA is for ageing… UVB rays are also responsible for the formation of skin cancers and that the effects of even just one sunburn will last a lifetime.


What SPF is best?

We’re taught the higher the SPF the better the sunscreen and the greater protection it will provide our skin…  This often misleads consumers into thinking that they can spend more time being exposed to the sun. But in actual fact, higher SPFs could actually be causing more long term damage to our skin.  Think about it, to make a sunscreen with a higher SPF lets say a 50+, it physically has to contain more chemicals.


“Scientists do not recommend anything stronger than SPF 15 -20 because there is minimal advantage from the higher SPFs, but significantly greater doses of sunscreen chemcials.”

Vitamin A Skin Science, Dr Des Fernandes & Dr Ernst Eiselen.


These chemicals or organic sunscreen agents, are then converted into free radicals once exposed to UV rays, which effectively ‘rusts’ our DNA – changing the structure of our cells and leading to skin ageing and skin cancer.


“A frightening statistic is that skin cancer has risen in the USA and Australia since high SPF products were introduced. We are not sure why. Do people perhaps stay longer in the sun and incur more damage, or are the protective molecules damaging our skin by generating free radicals?”

Vitamin A skin Science, Dr Des Fernandes & Dr Ernst Eiselen.


The general perception would be, that the level of protection offered between a lower and higher SPF is a large percentage. In actual fact the percentage is very low at about a 5% difference between an SPF 15 and SPF 50. This is really surprising and can be very misleading.



What should you look for in a sunscreen?

For your sunscreen to provide real protection from damaging ultraviolet light it should contain three essential elements… Adequate UVA cover, adequate UVB cover and sufficient antioxidant cover.

But why antioxidants?

“Antioxidants are free radical scavengers that help minimise the damage of UV rays that penetrate the sunscreen and filters” 

Vitamin A Skin Science, Dr Des Fernandes & Dr Ernst Eiselen

Antioxidants help to protect our DNA to ensure its integrity.  Using antioxidants in conjunction with sunscreens is a fairly new idea but Dr Des Fernandes has been incorporating them into his sunscreens since 1990.  This way the sunscreen offers a wide range of protection to the skin.  Not only physically protecting it but also repairing any damage that occurs due to UV exposure or the sunscreen ingredients.  His studies are proving that the inclusion of the antioxidants are providing real protection to our DNA against the damage caused by the UV rays.

(If you aren’t able to find a sunscreen that also contains potent antioxidants you can always use a seperate product)

Look for ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that act as reflectors. Reflectors are agents that reflect or block most UV rays, rather than absorbing the UV rays.  Titanium is a great, safe and very effective alternative for people who suffer reactions from other UV filters (chemicals).  Zinc oxide is another great UV reflector and is beneficial in reducing acne and enhancing collagen formation.


What sunscreen should I buy?

Since the introduction of SPF50+ sunscreens in Australia, it can be very difficult to find a sunscreen that is only an SPF 15 or 20. It’s definitely not impossible but you just have to do your research. We are lucky that Environ manufacture Alpha Day Lotion SPF15 – $80. Like I wrote in my previous blog (A Tan is a Scar), it truely is a fantastic product. It is available for purchase at our clinic.

Unfortunatly Environ’s other sunscreen, RAD, isn’t currently available in Australia. This sunscreen formulation, is unique as it includes the potent doses of antioxidants… (we’ll let you know when we’ve got it) But we have a solution – daily use of Environ’s Enhanced Vitamin A, C & E Body Oil $97 or Environ’s Vitamin A, C & E Body cream $80 will feed the skin with all essential nutrients it needs to be strong and healthy to fight off free radicals.


SPF & Antioxidants


Remember, Dr Des Fernandes recomends using a sunscreen containing both UVA and UVB elements and potent antioxidants.  Use a lower SPF and apply it in an adequate dose to ensure you’re protected… The recommended dosage is 2mg per centimeters squared.  No sunscreen is going to offer complete protection, so be sensible.  Limit your time spent exposed to the sun, cover up your skin, wear a hat and reapply your sunscreen!!!


Daily sunsreen and antioxidant protection can prevent photo ageing (premature ageing) and skin cancers!


Jodie xx

Your Personal Skin Technician