Sunscreen is still important
About half of all skin cancers are found on the head and neck, including melanoma — the deadliest skin cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can also cause premature aging.
UV protection is essential all day, every day, so is using a moisturiser with sunscreen a good idea? The answer’s yes, but with reservations. There’s a danger that moisturisers containing sunscreen can lull us into a false sense of security. Why? Because we tend to use it like a regular moisturiser: that is, sparingly.
To get the full claimed protection, you’d need to use it like a sunscreen: apply it liberally (more than half a teaspoon at a time to the face and neck) and smear it on the skin rather than working it in; put it on at least 15 minutes before going out; and reapply it every couple of hours.
Used like this, though, you’d be paying more than $10 per application of the SK-II Advance Protect Essence ($175 for 50 mL).
As well as protecting us from cancer, sunscreen can reduce the signs of premature aging, such as wrinkling, rough skin, broken or burst capillaries, and uneven colouring. The sun is thought to be responsible for about 90% of the visible signs of aging among Australians.
In the past regulatory authorities didn’t allow this sort of product (called a secondary sunscreen) to carry a specific SPF claim on the label, and the assumption was that most people didn’t use it as their primary sunscreen.
Now SPF claims are allowed, though, there are concerns that some people are using it as their primary sunscreen, but aren’t getting the stated protection because they don’t use enough.
However, if it’s a choice between a regular moisturiser or one with sunscreen, it’s better to wear the latter on an everyday basis. While the sun might not be fierce at the beginning and end of the day, UV radiation, in particular UVA, is still very much present.
UVA, which penetrates more deeply into the skin than the ‘burning’ UVB, is responsible for aging and melanoma, so it’s worth being protected all the time. Just use a proper sunscreen as well, particularly if you go out in the middle of the day, when UV peaks (between 10 am and 3 pm).
Interesting skin facts
- No moisturiser has so far been shown to turn back the clock. No matter how expensive it is, a moisturiser can only keep your skin moist and reduce the appearance of fine lines.
- Dry skin doesn’t cause wrinkles but can make them look worse — UV radiation damages the skin’s support structure, breaking down collagen and elastin to form wrinkles.
- Your skin can repair itself. There’s some evidence that avoiding the sun — which includes rigorous use of sunscreen — allows the skin to start repairing itself from at least some of the past damage done to it.
- Too much moisturiser can make your skin look older — it keeps the old skin cells hanging around on the surface for longer, while the fresh, new cells lie waiting underneath.