The skin's biggest enemy when it comes to premature ageing is sun damage or photo ageing
Is your skin looking older than your years?
If so, your past sun exposure is probably the cause. In the UK there are more and more cases of skin cancer each year, with some proving fatal, and numbers are also rising faster than in any other form of cancer. Most skin cancers are caused by damage from UV (ultraviolet) rays in sunlight - these cancers can be prevented if we protect ourselves from the sun.
"The skin's biggest enemy when it comes to premature ageing is sun damage or photo ageing," says Dr. Lowe. "You should apply at least an SPF 15 sunscreen with a broad spectrum UVA rating on all exposed areas of skin." Dr. Lowe will not recommend a day cream to a patient if it is not a proven SPF15 plus UVA protection.
There are now three products in his anti-age skincare range that contain SPF15 and UVA protection:
- The award winning Super Charged SPF15 Day Cream
- The Secret is Out Lifting Cream (this sold out within four weeks of launching!)
- The Double Duty SPF15 Hand Cream - a rich and quickly absorbed multi-tasking hand cream with skin smoothing and skin lightening properties.
The risk of skin ageing and cancer from the sun is very real, but there are a lot of myths about how to protect yourself. The best advice is stick to the facts.
Dr. Lowe, who has written one of the most comprehensive books for Doctors and Scientists on sunscreens, dispels the myths and provides the truth about the dangers of the sun.
MYTH: Most sun damage is done in childhood so there's no point covering up now.
TRUTH: "If you've had a lot of sun exposure as a child, you may have latent cancers in your skin waiting to appear," says Dr. Lowe. "There's even more reason to take care now because new hits of sunlight can activate those cancers."
MYTH: You can protect your skin by just picking a high SPF.
TRUTH: The SPF measures protection against the UVB rays that cause burning and skin cancer, not the deeper-penetrating UVA rays. "We now know UVA rays can damage DNA, cause skin cancer and are a major contributor of skin aging, so pick a product with UVA protection as well as a good SPF," says Dr. Lowe. "If you have high SPF but no UVA protection you are lulled into a false sense of security - you may not be burning but the UVA rays are damaging your skin. Remember too that sunscreen has its limits. Most will rub off, wash off and wear off. Reapply after two to three hours outdoors and wear protective clothing on a very sunny day," he says.
MYTH: Everybody needs SPF15+ daily to protect against skin cancer.
TRUTH: "If you have fair skin or have a family history of skin cancer then I advise using SPF15 with UVA protection daily, going up to SPF30 in sunny weather," says Dr. Lowe. "But people with olive or darker skin don't have the same risk of skin cancer so don't need as much protection, an SPF15 is sufficient. That said, all skin types will age, so using a daily UVA/UVB screen protects against premature wrinkling and pigmentation caused by year-round sun exposure."
MYTH: One-a-day sunscreens will keep you safe.
TRUTH: "I'm not convinced," says Dr. Lowe. "They may last longer than conventional sun cream but I feel that all sunscreens should be reapplied immediately if you have been sweating, swimming, rubbing or wiping your skin."
MYTH: Daily sun protection overloads and aggravates the skin.
TRUTH: "Not true, as long as you choose wisely," says Dr. Lowe. "Check labels for benzophenone, oxybenzone and PABAs, as these ingredients can cause sensitivity in some skin types. If you have sensitive skin, you may be less likely to react to other sunscreen ingredients. Some more greasy, 'heavy' sunscreens cause or worsen acne - choose one of my daily face creams e.g. Supercharged SPF15 Day Cream or The Secret Is Out Lifting Cream."
MYTH: The best cream to buy is a total sun block.
TRUTH: They don't exist. "The only sun block is a brick wall," says Dr. Lowe. "No sunscreen can shut out 100% of UV rays. Even windows let through UV rays. Most clothes don't block the sun completely either - a thin T-shirt gives an SPF of around five. If your skin is vulnerable to damage, you need to cover up with closely-woven sun protection fabrics and stay in the shade between 11am and 2pm.' And don't be fooled by numbers on a bottle: an SPF 50 only blocks out 0.2% more UV rays than an SPF 30 which only blocks 2% more than a SPF15."
MYTH: Skin cancer only shows up as a mole.
TRUTH: "The most deadly form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, can occasionally look like an enlarged freckle, a red spot or even a 'bruise' under the fingernail that doesn't heal," says Dr. Lowe. "The second most dangerous type, squamous cell cancer, tends to be a scaly patch that's commonly mistaken for eczema. If an 'eczema' patch doesn't heal with treatment, go back to your GP or consult a dermatologist."
MYTH: Tanning beds only damage skin if used long term.
TRUTH: A shocking new study found that just ONE session on a sun bed before the age of 35 increased the risk of melanoma by 98 per cent. "Sun beds emit a huge amount of UVA," says Dr. Lowe. "We think young people are at much higher risk because their skin's defence mechanisms aren't fully developed and their skin is more susceptible to DNA damage. Tanning beds will also cause your skin to drastically age, which will become apparent after about five to ten years. They also may cause severe darkened skin patches on the face and body."
MYTH: Burnt skin needs to be covered in a high SPF cream.
TRUTH: Burnt skin needs to stay out of the sun until it's healed, a process that takes at least 10-14 days. "If your skin is burnt, its' protective barrier has been totally stripped away," says Dr. Lowe. "That means any further UV rays can penetrate much deeper and wreak havoc with your DNA, your collagen and elastic fibres that then lead to skin cancers and wrinkles. Also, sunscreens will not stick to sunburnt skin."
MYTH: Chemical Free Sunscreens are better.
TRUTH: "Contrary to popular belief, both types of sunscreen are chemicals, they just work in different ways. Physical chemicals (e.g. Titanium and Zinc Oxides) reflect while others absorb UV. There is no evidence that physical sunscreens are superior to absorbing sunscreens and may be less cosmetically nice to use," says Dr. Lowe.
MYTH: After sun minimises skin damage.
TRUTH: Many after sun products contain antioxidant vitamins. "You're best using sun cream with antioxidants each morning and a recovery cream at night (such as Dr. Lowe's Night Recovery Cream) which also contains antioxidants, as they help to mop up damage from UV rays. It is also important to use them during sun exposure, and afterwards," says Dr. Lowe.
THE SUNNY SIDE OF ULTRA-VIOLET
Sun exposure generates vitamin D, an important nutrient for protecting against internal cancers. So how do you weigh up the benefits and dangers of the sun? "The answer is simple - get the best of both worlds," says Dr. Lowe. "Protect your skin with sun cream and take a daily vitamin D3 capsule (the most absorbable form of D3) along with a multi-vitamin. A 1000iu vitamin D3 capsule is ideal and is now the recommended daily dose."
HOW TO CHECK YOUR SKIN FOR CANCER
It is extremely important that you regularly check your skin. Dermatologists urge people to use the ABCD rule to assess any changes in their skin, not just moles.
A: Asymmetry (does the area have an irregular shape?)
B: Border (does the area have a jagged outline?)
C: Colour (has the area become either darker or lighter?)
D: Diameter (has the area changed in size?) If you see anything suspicious, get it checked out ideally by a Dermatologist or GP urgently.