Too much sun exposure without proper protection is the number one cause of skin cancer and early aging. And in my mother's case, not wearing sunglasses probably contributed to her macular degeneration.
Sun damage is also the most common cause of crepey skin. The ultraviolet light in the sun's rays breaks down collagen and elastin in the skin, which helps it stay tight and wrinkle-free. Once these fibers break down, the skin can loosen, thin, and wrinkle.
Ultraviolet radiation speeds the natural aging process and is the primary cause of early wrinkling. Sun exposure can also cause an increase in melanin which results in hyperpigmentation of the skin, which typically causes brown and red spots and highly pigmented lesions.
Here are 3 tips that can help you protect your skin and health while enjoying the sun.
1. Choose a mineral sunscreen. It can be overwhelming to select the right sunscreen, as hundreds are on the market. Therefore, I narrow my choice by only considering mineral sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens use chemicals to prevent UV rays from entering your skin by absorbing the rays with a chemical reaction. Mineral sunscreens use mineral particles to avoid UV rays from entering your skin, with a combination of absorbing, scattering, and reflecting the rays.
There is concern about the safety of chemical sunscreens. According to the EWG's Guide to Sunscreens, in recent FDA testing, all non-mineral sunscreen chemicals absorbed into the body could be measured in blood after just a single-use. In addition, many have been detected in breast milk and urine samples. These findings are troubling because they show sunscreen chemicals circulating in the blood. The FDA has indicated that the agency does not have enough information to determine whether the chemicals are causing harm.
Chemical sunscreens often have more ingredients to provide broad-spectrum coverage from UV rays, including preservatives, dyes, and fragrances, which can cause skin irritations.
Dr. Cynthia Bailey, MD, board-certified dermatologist, scientist, and wellness expert, does not recommend chemical sunscreen. "Over the course of my career, I have seen chemical sunscreens fail to provide reliable UV protection for my patients under real use conditions," she says. "I see surprise sunburns, tanning, and darkening of freckles during their skin exams—all of which indicate DNA skin damage."
"Physical sunscreens, on the other hand, have proven much more reliable," Bailey continues. The FDA has said that only two active sunscreen ingredients are recognized as safe and effective: These are the physical sunscreen UV filters zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. All others, meaning all chemical sunscreen UV filters, need further study. I don't recommend chemical sunscreens."
So, while chemical sunscreens are more readily available and often don't leave a white cast, it's essential to read the ingredients label. Safe ingredients to look for in sunscreen are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
2. Choose a sunscreen with SPF between 15 and 50. In theory, sunscreen with a super-high SPF should give you the best protection against damaging UV radiation. But, according to experts, in practice, it doesn't work that way.
High-SPF sunscreens give you only slightly better protection than sunscreen with SPF 50, according to the Annual Sunscreen Report by the Environmental Working Group (EWP). At worst, they could give you a false sense of security and make you spend more time in the sun, upping your chance for burns and skin cancer. According to the EWG and the Skin Cancer Foundation, SPF 30 blocks nearly 97% of UVB radiation, SPF 50 blocks about 98%, and SPF blocks about 99%.
The EWG recommends choosing sunscreens within the SPF 15-50 range, applying a liberal coating, and reapplying every two hours and any time after swimming, toweling off, or excessive sweating. And, as I remind all of my daughters, do not forget to put sunscreen on your hands.
3. Protect from UVA Damage with Copper Peptides.
Two main types of sun ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause DNA damage in your skin, even from brief exposures. The shorter UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburn, while the longer UVA rays cause tanning as well as skin aging and wrinkles. Over time, the damage from either or both rays can lead to skin cancer.
Even with a good sunscreen, too much sun can overwhelm the system's protective system. As the dose of UV radiation increases, the skin's antioxidant defenses get overwhelmed. As a result, free radicals form and cause cellular damage, such as oxidation modification of proteins and cellular DNA.
While free radicals and the sun's UV rays damage the skin's ability to regenerate, copper peptides can positively impact skin fibroblasts (cells that generate connective tissue), potentially combating UV damage to the skin barrier.
According to Dr. Suzanne Turner, MD, the Senior Physician at Vine Medicine in Atlanta and a specialist in cellular medicine and longevity, "The research is being done now with copper peptides, especially with irradiated skin and radiation in general. When you're out in the sun, damage occurs to radiated skin. The presence of copper peptides initiates the DNA repair process."
"I use Restoracell with copper peptides as a repair instead of a sunscreen per se,” says Dr. Turner. “It's a protection that allows your cells to go through DNA repair versus a sunscreen."
And an important tip, apply Restoracell and sunscreen when driving. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, while glass blocks UVB rays pretty well, it doesn't block UVA rays. Windshields are treated to shield drivers from some UVA, but side, back, and sunroof windows usually aren't. So when you're in your car, you should protect yourself and your family from the sunlight shining through the glass. (I keep sunscreen in my car for that purpose).
The same holds for windows on airplanes, trains, and buses. Have you ever felt like you're burning up sitting on the sunny side by an airplane window? Yes, you're being bombarded by UVA up there, too, and maybe even more so because of being at a high altitude. (Airline pilots and crew members tend to get more skin cancer than people in other professions.) https://www.skincancer.org/blog/surprising-danger-planes-trains-automobiles/
To give yourself the best protection and repair while enjoying time in the sun, apply Restoracell with copper peptides, then follow with a good, mineral-based sunscreen with SPF between 15 and 50. And, don't forget the shade, hats, sunglasses, and clothing are part of the protection.
How to Apply
At what point in your skincare routine should you apply face sunscreen? Generally speaking, sunscreen should go on last—after eye cream, serum, moisturizer, and anything else you apply during your morning skincare routine. However, if you're wearing makeup, you can use it after your sunscreen. But if possible, wait a few minutes for it to absorb completely before reaching for your foundation.