What does SPF do for skin on a cellular level? How should you be using it? And – crucially – which new formulations are out there that will make it super-simple to add effective protection to your everyday skincare routine?
Put simply: UVB rays are fairly superficial and fall mainly on the upper epidermis layer of the skin. They are responsible for tanning and the immediate damage and sunburn you might experience when you’ve been sitting in the sun for too long – but they can also cause hyperpigmentation and skin cancer in the long run.
UVA rays penetrate the deeper layer, or dermis, of the skin. They stimulate free-radical production, leading to oxidative stress and indirect DNA damage. Fail to protect your skin and you risk hyperpigmentation and photoageing.
“UVA rays age the skin by destroying the skin’s plumping collagen stores and creating damage to skin cells that, over time, results in skin weakness, loss of elasticity, loss of volume and uneven pigmentation,” explains Dr Perry.
“This accumulation of damage caused by the UV rays in sunlight – especially as we are now living longer – is also contributing to an increased risk of skin cancer.”
This risk can be reduced with diligent, year-round SPF use, which, depending on the formulation, either works as a blocker that reflects UV, or as an absorbing filter for all the UV nasties.
The SPF rating of a sunscreen tells you about the level of protection it offers from UVB rays. Only when the sunscreen is labelled ‘broad spectrum’ does it also shield skin from UVA light.
But, as well as providing immediate protection, we ideally need products that help to shield skin against future problems including premature ageing and environmental stressors, and repair the damage that’s already been done.
The busy bees in white coats have been, well, busy in cosmetic labs developing effective, protective suncare that works harder than ever. Here’s our edit of the best new formulations out there – each one a different type of multitasker and all with a UV-shielding baseline of SPF 50.
THE POLLUTION SHIELD
This gel-cream hybrid protects against UVA and UVB rays and shields skin from pollution and free-radical damage. The antioxidant-rich formula contains a magical botanical: Life Plant PFA extract comes from a plant that exists in extreme UV-exposed conditions, so it protects from environmental stress.
Chanel UV Essentiel Complete Protection SPF 50, £46, chanel.com
Sisley’s iconic and best-selling Sunlëya G.E. has been reformulated with SPF 50 protection for 2019. The new cream
still has all the anti-ageing benefits of
the original – einkorn wheat extract to promote firmness and dill extract to fight wrinkles – along with an exclusive complex that stimulates collagen production, protects cellular DNA and combats pigmentation.
Sisley Sunleÿa G.E. Age Minimizing Global Sun Care SPF 50, £180,
THE SKIN PERFECTOR
As a technological innovator in suncare, new launches from Swiss brand Ultrasun are met with anticipation. This tinted formula combines suncare, skincare and complexion-perfecting colour. At its heart
is UVA, UVB and infrared protection alongside Ultrasun’s patented lamellar technology, which includes a rare enzyme that protects the skin from UVA damage.
Ultrasun Face Tinted Anti-Ageing and Anti-Pigmentation SPF 50+, £36, marksandspencer.com
THE EVERYDAY HERO
If you want a simple, no-fuss SPF to slip effortlessly into your skincare regime, then look no further than this rigorously researched and effective formula. The SPF contains Clarins’ unique, 100 per cent plant-based, anti-ageing and hydrating complexes.
Clarins Dry Touch Sun Care Cream for Face SPF 50+, £19, clarins.com
Images courtsey of istock and the brands