Want to look younger? Make friends with sunscreen

CHARLES TOWN – I do a lot of facials and see a lot of skin. Although I see a fair amount of deep wrinkles, skin cancer and pre-cancers, I also see a lot of beautiful skin. Some of the most wrinkle-free skin I see belongs to older women who have never spent a lot of time outside.

I recently performed a facial on a 70-year-old woman, and I was amazed at how perfectly beautiful her skin was.

I could tell from her British accent that she was not originally from here. Turns out, she is from England, here visiting her daughter. Not only does she live in England, but makes her home close to the Welch border where they only see a handful of sunny days each year.

Makes you think. Makes me think I am going to go re-apply my sun screen.

I think we all know that sun damage is the No. 1 cause of skin cancer, but it is also the top cause of lines, wrinkles and saggy skin – those dreaded signs of aging. 

Too much sun and tanning cause the elastin in our skin to break down, which makes it lose its ability to bounce back. Think of a rubber band left out in the sun.

We all love to be outside especially when we get those sunny 80-degree, low-humidity days, but it is important to protect yourself and your family with sunscreen.

With so many options on the market, which one is the best for you and your family?

Below is some information that you might find helpful.

Let’s start with the letters SPF, which stands for Sun

Protection Factor. The SPF indicates the level of sunburn protection provided by the sunscreen.

All sunscreens must be tested with a SPF test procedure. The test measures the amount of ultraviolet radiation exposure it takes to cause sunburn when a person is using a sunscreen versus how much UV exposure it takes to cause a sunburn when they do not use a sunscreen.  

The product is rated and then labeled with the appropriate SPF value indicating the amount of sunburn protection provided by the product. Higher SPF values (up to 50) provide greater sunburn protection.

Because SPF values are determined from a test that measures protection against sunburn, which is caused by ultraviolet burn radiation, SPF values only indicate a sunscreen’s UVB protection.

However sunscreens that pass the new broad spectrum test will have demonstrated that they also provide UVA, or UltraViolet Aging, protection that is proportional to their UVB protection.

So keep in mind that even though you choose a lower SPF because you do not burn easily, you may not be giving yourself adequate protection from the aging rays.

There are two kinds of sunscreens: physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens physically prevent the sun from reaching the skin.

It puts a barrier between you and the sun. Chemical sunscreens chemically eat up the sun’s damaging rays. Which is better? 

Both have pros and cons. It is not uncommon to have a sensation of burning and stinging to chemical sunscreens.

Ever had sunscreen get in your eyes either via sweat or swimming and it burned? That is a reaction to the chemical which makes a lot of people, especially kids, not want to wear it on their faces.

There are many different chemical sunscreens. You may have to do some trial and error to find one that does not irritate your skin and eyes.

If your sunscreen is causing you to break out, try a different one. Compare the ingredients. It is usually just one ingredient that is causing the irritation.

Some of the more common chemical ultraviolet filters (sunscreens) are: octylcrylene, avobenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, oxybenzone and homosalate.

Physical UV filters use either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which are minerals, to block the sun rays from reaching our skin.Titanium is used to tint makeup. Zinc is that white pasty stuff we know as Bull Frog that life guards wear on their noses.

Science has done a lot over the years to make both not so pasty on the skin. Although physical sunscreens may feel a bit “heavy,” you almost never have a reaction to them. 

Some manufacturers have started to add titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to sunscreens to counteract the irritation you get with chemical sunscreens because titanium and zinc tend to be soothing to the skin.

So now that you know a little about sunscreens, how often do you need to apply them?

When you’re outside, apply in the morning and reapply a few times throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is if you need sunglasses, you need sunscreen.

If you are spending any amount of time outside, especially from the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the rays are the most intense, it is recommended that you reapply every two hours or so.

Also, read the manufacturer’s directions. Usually a sunscreen is only 100 percent effective for a couple of hours and after two to three hours the effectiveness starts to diminish.

If you are swimming or sweating, look for sunscreens labeled “water resistant” and then follow the manufacturer’s directions for reapplying.

Anna Sokel has been a professional makeup artist for more than 27 years. She owns Sokel Makeup & Skin Care at 123 N. Charles Street in Charles Town. She can be reached at 304-728-8801, on Facebook or by emailing Sokelmakeup@aol.com.

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