Once upon a time, there was the Sun and the Skin


It is summer, and so the sun is shining quite fiercely here in my city of residence.  Being passionate about skin consequently makes me preoccupied with the sun, and how to best protect my self from it. I have decided to do a little series of posts (don’t know how many yet, but expect at least 2 more) about the complicated love-hate relationship between the Sun and the Skin. I say love-hate, because both beneficial and damaging events take place in our skin during this inevitable affiliation.

This will be the first chapter, and having heard it is best to give the bad news first, I shall call it:

SUN of a gun


I am sure I could go on about the negative effects of the sun for a day and a half, but I wont, because that would be depressing.

Here we go!

First piece of bad news:

You age. It is well known now that over 90% of skin aging is attributed to solar radiation. Recently the The New England Journal of Medicine published an article written by doctors Jennifer Gordon and Joaquín Brieva of Northwestern University, Chicago (USA), who have documented and described an extreme case of unilateral photoaging in a man aged 69 years.  UVA is the wavelength mostly responsible for this consequence.

Second piece of bad news:

You can get cancer. Ultraviolet (UV) light produces DNA damage, induce mutations, and, in the worst case, cause the development of tumors. The major natural source of UV is the sun, and solar UV is known to be one of the main causes of human skin cancers. The most dangerous type- melanoma is often the most innocent looking as preexisting moles are generally the sites of occurrence.

Third piece of bad news (gee this is turning into a gloomy post…) :

You turn ugly (my own personal opinion that one). Ugly or not, it is a fact that ultraviolet radiation causes blood vessel changes resulting in something called telangiectasias, which are itsy bitsy blood vessels crawling over your face and back of hands.  Also documented are pigmentation changes such as large freckles, known as age spots or liver spots, seen on the backs of the hands, chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back. And if this wasn’t enough to make you run manically around for a spot in the shade and a hat, sunlight also induces skin bumps called actinic and seborrheic keratosis, that make your skin look crusty and uneven (and ugly).

Thankfully we have a number of ways to still enjoy the sunlight without putting ourselves at immediate risk for any of the above mentioned members of my grim news rant, the most important part of the armor being sunscreens.

There are two groups of sunscreens; namely the chemical sunscreens, and the physical sunscreens.

Physical Sunscreens are products containing ingredients such a titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which physically block ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Physical sunscreens provide broad protection against both UVB and UVA light. The chemical sunscreens contain special ingredients that act as filters and reduce ultraviolet radiation penetration to the skin.

Physical sunscreens show higher protection properties compared to chemical sunscreens, and will also protect you for longer after application.

In order to ensure maximum defense, I like to layer a physical sunscreen on top of a chemical sunscreen with a good 15 min interval in between. But if I have to choose one due to lack of those 15 minutes (which happens most days) I’ll always reach for my tube of physical sunscreen.

As for SPF, I rarely go below 50.

I’m including a picture of the sunscreens I’m using at the moment:

From left to right:

1.    Sun Sense daily face SPF 50+

This is a great moisturizer as well as sunscreen, and contains full UVA/UVB protection with both chemical sunscreen (oxybenzone) as well as mineral sunscreen agents (titanium dioxide). I like this because it contains a good amount of physical sunscreen in addition to chemical, providing ultimate UVA/UVB coverage. It also doesn’t hurt that it is produced and tested in Australia!

It's 12.49 pounds on Amazon, SunSense Daily Face SPF50+ Invisible Tint Finish Sunscreen - 75 g .

2.    Neutrogena Ultra Sheer dry touch sunblock SPF 100+

This is a very high chemical containing sunscreen, with a whole of 5 different agents providing maximum SPF value. Great for long days outside.

This was also bought from Amazon for 12.50 pounds, Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch Sunblock Spf 100+ 3 Oz

3.    Peter Thomas Roth instant mineral SPF45

Marvelous little invention! It is sunscreen in a translucent powder form, so you can easily apply it over your makeup during the day! It contains Zink Oxide as well as vitamins A,C and E.

I think its the cheapest at 36.40 dollars, from BeutyBay.com, here

4.    Dermalogica water block solar spray SPF 30

For the body. Gives a nice oily sheen but dries fast! Perfect for the legs.

You get it for 36 pounds here Solar Defense WaterBlock Solar Spray SPF30

5.    Dermalogica total eye care SPF 15

This is one of my favorite products of all time, wonderful eye cream, and I love it just the more for having an SPF provided by titanium dioxide.

I also like that it contains bitter orange essence, which is said to help skin rejuvenation as well as broken capillaries. This little miracle in a tube also contains light diffusing particles perfect for people suffering from under eye circles, such as yours truly.

28 pounds Dermalogica Total Eye Care with SPF 15

Do you have a favorite sunscreen?  If you do, I’d love to hear about it!

Stay safe in the sun!

- Rolah


UV protection and sunscreens: What to tell patients


School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH


Department of Dermatology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA


doi: 10.3949/ccjm.79a.11110 Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine June 2012 vol. 79 6 427-436

The Mechanisms of UV Mutagenesis

Invited Review

Hironobu IKEHATA* and Tetsuya ONO

J. Radiat. Res., 52, 115–125 (2011)

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