Sun Protection: What you need to know

What are UVA, UVB, and UVC?
Most people ask me what’s the difference between these UV rays. Then follows the question, “…so which is the bad one?” Well, I always try to give brief and concise answers so here it goes.

Light Spectrum

To answer the first question, UVA (320-400 nm) is associated with photosensitivity and much of photoaging. Photoaging refers to wrinkle formation, skin atrophy, skin fragility, and loss of elasticity. UVB (280-320 nm) causes sunburn and is associated with skin cancers. It is important to note that these adverse effects are not completely or exclusively caused by one type of UV ray. On the other hand, UVC (200-280) is absorbed by the ozone and is not able to reach us. So the answer to the second question is that both UVA and UVB are bad.

 

How should I protect my skin against UV rays?
The easiest way is to avoid the sun. Walk in the shade, use an umbrella, or wear clothes that cover more.

face cover

But if you don’t want to look weird, just wear a sunscreen or sunblock. Sunscreen contains chemicals that absorb the UV rays; these include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Sunblocks contain ‘physical’ agents and block off the UV rays; these include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

Like all other drugs or chemicals, adverse effects may occur. One noteworthy adverse effect is hormone disruption seen with some sunscreens with oxybenzone and octylmethoxycinnamate. I suggest sticking to the physical sunblock agents for now.

While on this topic, I have to mention one popular misconception about sun protection. Some people think ‘if the weather is cold, then there’s not much sun, then I don’t need to wear my sunblock.’ This is absolutely not true. Some of you might go hiking, skiing or spend some time up in a mountain cabin during winter and this is the time that you have to wear a sunscreen or sunblock. This is because you’re high up in a mountain, which is closer to the sun and snow reflects up to 85% of UVB. You might also stay out longer because you can’t feel the ‘real’ heat from the sun. This spells out a bad combination of longer and more intense sun exposure for your skin.

Winter sun

 

What should I look for in a sunscreen or sunblock?
You’ve probably seen many products (other than sunscreen and sunblock) with SPF written on it, including BB and CC creams, foundations, primers, and even lip care products. SPF refers to Sun Protection Factor which mainly reflects the protection against UVB; the number that follows that acronym is derived from a formula. It’s the “minimum erythema dose (MED) through a film of sunscreen divided by MED over unprotected skin”. Pretty simple, eh? It just means that if you use a higher number of SPF, your skin can also handle a higher dose of sun exposure without getting red or burnt. It’s related to the time you can spend under the sun before getting burnt. However, this doesn’t mean you should maximize your sun exposure at the beach. Avoiding sun exposure is still the best way to prevent skin aging and cancer.

neutrogena

Besides checking the SPF number in your products, you should also look for the words ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘PA‘. Broad spectrum means that it protects against both UVA and UVB while PA refers to the Protection Grade of UVA. This system is based on persistent pigment darkening rather than on the redness or erythema on which the SPF is based. The more plus signs you see after it (PA+++), the better.

You should also consider the type of activities you’ll be doing while wearing the product. Are you swimming? Surfing? Will you sweat a lot? Or do you need sun protection only for daily commutes to your office? Whatever your reasons are, keep in mind that some products lasts longer than others and you need to reapply them depending on how long they’ll last. There are water resistant and waterproof types. Water resistant sunscreen or sunblock retains its SPF about 40 min of water immersion while the waterproof one retains its SPF for a whopping 80 minutes of water immersion. Perfect for water sports fanatics!

 

Other things to consider
Always try out the product in store whenever possible. Check the scent, the consistency, and the color. You don’t want to buy a really expensive cream which leaves a horrible white cast; that would render the product totally unusable for the face. The product should also say “non-sticky” and you should check if it’s actually non-sticky.

So the last but not the least question that probably entered your minds at the start of reading this article is…”what is the best sunscreen or sunblock brand”? All I can say is that I have tried several products in the past and so far I haven’t found the perfect product. There are some close ones though and I’ll write reviews for those so make sure to watch out for my next articles. In the meantime, keep protecting your skin from the sun. ‘Til next time!


Say Goodbye to Acne Scars with TCA CROSS

Have you heard about TCA CROSS?

TCA means trichloroacetic acid; it’s an acid popular for its use as a chemical facial peel. It has been used to reduce skin pigmentation but is now also used in the dermatologist’s office to treat scars. The procedure is called ‘chemical reconstruction of skin scars’ or CROSS, hence the name TCA CROSS.

TCA bottle

What is it for and how is it done?

This is typically done for post-acne scars, some of which appear like box cars or ice picks.

boxcar-scars

The typical appearance of a boxcar scar.

The procedure involves application of high concentrations of TCA focally on the atrophic acne scars. The higher the concentration of TCA, the deeper it reaches beneath the scar. Your skin will then develop some discoloration and heal in a few days to weeks. Repeat application may be done as deemed necessary by your dermatologist.

TCA application

TCA being applied to individual scars.

How does it work? TCA induces inflammation followed by collagenisation, leading to a reduction in the appearance of scars and cosmetic improvement. Inflammation is often misunderstood as harmful; but it is actually how our body gets on the road to recovery. In this case, the skin is stimulated to undergo a healing process so that it can ‘bounce’ back.

 

The results? Well, these are what I found from some published studies online: there was a decrease in the depths of acne scars and increase in collagen fibers histologically. The dermal volume is increased and elastin fragmentation and reorganization was also seen. This means that the fibers making up our supportive connective tissues are multiplying or getting thicker, bringing back our skin’s previous appearance. There are tons of online images of before and after TCA application. Here’s one of them and it’s pretty amazing:

 

tca-cross-before-and-after3

 

Drawbacks, you ask? Perhaps, it’s the downtime of waiting for healing to happen as well as the initial discoloration. Compared to other methods, the healing from TCA CROSS is rapid and associated with fewer complications since the chemical is applied specifically to the scars, sparing normal tissue around it. Despite the high concentrations, it is still safe to use because of its self-neutralizing property (it doesn’t get absorbed into the circulation).

 

So for people contemplating on whether to use it or not, the best advice I can give is to do your research first. It is also best if you consult a dermatologist since he/she can gauge the severity of your scars. Good luck and hope to hear from someone with a success story!

 

References:
Bhardwaj, D. and Khunger, N. (2010). An Assessment of the Efficacy and Safety of CROSS Technique with 100% TCA in the Management of Ice Pick Acne Scars. J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2010 May-Aug; 3(2): 93–96.

Why Use Dead Sea Salt?

The Dead Sea has a high concentration of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride. Its salinity is several times higher than the regular sea salt hence its therapeutic use since the earlier centuries.dead sea

 

The medical benefits of the Dead Sea minerals have been existent for a long time now but it was only in recent decades that these benefits spread to many different continents through the import of halotherapy or salt rooms and skin care products.

Salt rooms claim to be good for respiratory and skin conditions. So, being familiar with the use of plain saline solutions in hospitals but not with salt rooms, I had to do a little research on it.  And my search results turned out pretty well.

Let’s start off with the respiratory treatments. I found this study in which patients with asthma stayed for 4 weeks at the Dead Sea. The results were improved lung function, reduced number and severity of attacks, and improved efficacy of β2-agonist treatments. The researchers who did the study attributed this improvement to the presence of magnesium in the Dead Sea salt; the absorption of the element through the skin and lungs provided anti-inflammatory and vasodilatatory properties to the organs. With this, I’m thinking that salt rooms could be used for cystic fibrosis patients since they are sterile and may help clear out some of the thick mucus in the lungs.

 


Now, let’s talk about the skin benefits. What I’ve found were studies involving Dead Sea salt solution soaks. This time, patients had atopic skin and their forearms were submerged in the solution for 15 min; the control used was tap water. The study then measured different parameters up to the 6th week such as transepidermal water loss (TEWL), skin hydration, skin roughness, and skin redness. Now, I’m not a fan of research studies where subjects are asked to rate improvement themselves or basically if human judgment was used to measure anything. So I’m really glad that this study was objective in measuring these parameters. They used Tewameter TM 210 for TEWL, Corneometer CM 825 PC for stratum corneum hydration, PRIMOS optical 3D in vivo skin measurement device for skin roughness, and finally Chromameter CR 300 for skin redness. Now that’s a mouthful! The results showed that the Dead Sea solution significantly improved skin barrier function, enhanced stratum corneum hydration, and reduced skin roughness and inflammation. The authors also attributed this improvement to the magnesium salts because they are said to bind water and enhance skin repair.

There are a lot of other studies that further support the use of Dead Sea salt in medicine. And I am happy that this will serve as an additional treatment option for patients who have already exhausted different remedies for their asthma, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, or even erythroderma.

I am even happier that now, there’s no need to travel to expensive salt rooms in Europe because we have salt rooms in the Philippines! I just found this out recently when I attended an event by Aqua Mineral Ph. These are located in Robinson’s Malate, Gateway Mall and Century City Mall.

They also have several skin care products with the Dead Sea salt mineral as main ingredient. Reviews to follow! 🙂

aqua mineral products

You may reach Aqua Mineral at aqua@cosmetigroup.com.ph and www.facebook.com.ph/aquamineralph or follow them at Instagram @aquamineralph and Twitter @aquamineral_ph.

 

References:

Harari M., Barzillai R. and Shani J. (1998) Magnesium in the Management of Asthma: Critical Review of Acute and Chronic Treatments, and Deutsches Medizinisches Zentrum’s (DMZ’s) Clinical Experience at the Dead Sea. Journal of Asthma Volume 35, Issue 7, 1998.

Proksch E., Nissen H.P., Bremgartner M., and Urquhart C. (2005) Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin. International Journal of Dermatology Volume 44, Issue 2, pages 151–157, February 2005.

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