Protection and prevention – the “P” in PEACH
PEACH protection is all about preserving your skin’s youthful health and preventing damage, principally sun damage.
Here’s how to protect your skin
1) Don’t smoke.
Boring, I know. You are sick of this message. But the thing I have noticed over 20 years of medical practice is this: Smokers have become almost immune to messages about lung cancer and heart disease, especially the young ones. Young people are, of course, immortal. but if I tell you smoking is giving you wrinkles TODAY, there’s a fair chance the message will get through, whatever your age.
2) Don’t drink to excess
Heavy drinkers damage their livers. People with liver disease get thin, sick-looking skin with lots of telangiectasia (“broken capillaries”). Drinkers are also chronically dehydrated, since all alcoholic beverages are diuretics, and they tend to quench their thirst with….more alcohol. Alcohol also converts testosterone to oestrogen, and a lack of testosterone leads to slack, thinned, dry skin.
3) Don’t run marathons
There is this entity called “runner’s face” – no facial fat, lax chronically-sun-damaged skin, hollowed face, wrinkles everywhere. Exercise and stay fit by all means, but find the balance.
4) Hats are cool – start a trend
5) Protective skin care
Let me guess. You have some Cancer Council sunscreen there in the glovebox. There’s BananaBoat in the bathroom.
But you don’t have any on today because you won’t be out in the sun.
All sunscreens in Australia today are good, but they can only work if you use them. The only way you will use them is if they are comfortable to use. Therefore, a comfortable moisturiser with SPF 30+ added is better than the cheap oily chemist sunscreen you’ll never use.
Don’t automatically buy sunscreens that are waterproof. Waterproof sunscreens have to oil-based, so they are all a bit uncomfortable. For everyday use, sunscreens need first to be comfortable and pleasant.
An SPF 30+ sunscreen filters out 96.7% of UVB. An SPF of 50 indicates the filtering of: 98%. That’s only 1.3 percentage points different. So there’s no need to search out sunscreens or moisturisers containing sunscreens with SPFa higher than 30. It’s much more important to actually use sunscreens, and…
To get the SPF protection stated on the packet or tube you have to apply the cream THICKLY. The international SPF standard allows creams to applied at 2mg/cm2. Which means that to get the degree of protection stated on the pack you have to spread 1ml of sunscreen (the size of a small grape) over an area of skin no larger than an A4 page. Covering yourself in sunscreen from head to toe should use up 35ml of sunscreen. Most people spread sunscreen as thinly as they can: and get only a quarter of the protection they think they are getting…..
That SPF number tells you about UVB protection but tells you NOTHING about UVA protection. Whilst it is true that UVB (290-320nm light) causes sunburn and is more damaging to skin, photon per photon, than UVA, it remains true that UVA (320 – 400nm light) can cause pigmentaion changes, deep skin ageing, wrinkling, and has been implicated as a cause of melanoma. Sunlight also has 20x more UVA than UVB. And UVA penetrates glass.
Sunscreens that are said to be “broad spectrum” are those that filter out UVA, but the degree of filtering that occurs is not specified.
If you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face every day will you avoid sun damage entirely? No. Firstly, because these offer an unspecified amount of UVA protection. Secondly, you have to be pretty obsessive about re-applications to maintain protection throughout the day. Thirdly, sunscreens that are invisible on the skin to the naked eye, by definition, are not screening out any visible light (400-700nm). Whilst it is not thought that visible light causes significant skin ageing, it can cause hyperpigmentation in those with melasma.
What ingredients to look for:
Zinc oxide. This covers UVB and UVA as well as anything. Leaves a fine, slightly white residue on the face.
Titanium dioxide. Much the same as zinc oxide
Benzones such as avobenzone. Benzones cover UVA and UVB almost as well as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but leave no white resudue.
Octylmethoxycinnamate. Covers UVB but not UVA. Still popular, but these days tends to be combined with say zinc oxide in order to extend the UVB cover of zinc oxide (and achieve a nice high SPF rating) whilst avoiding the extra concentration and thus white residue that would come with an SPF 30+ concentration of zinc oxide alone.
Octyl salicylate. Covers only 300-310nm wavelengths, which is hardly anything.
Mineral make-up blocks all light from hitting the skin. This is useful in the management of melasma.
What to buy:
A comfortable moisturiser that is pleasant to use every day and comes with broad-spectrum SPF30+ agents
What to do