Sunscreen + Antioxidants: A Belt’n’Braces Approach to Ageing Prevention

ashtonI was recently asked at a consumer event if sunscreen was really a daily skincare necessity (sunscreen is so boring, after all; serums seem much sexier).

They can be messy, greasy in finish, they can make your make-up vanish before lunch and they can block your pores.  They might even stop you getting your necessary vitamin D.  What’s to like?

My view on this is simple. 1) You haven’t found the right sunscreen yet. 2) You can get vitamin D from a foodstuff or supplement (and anyway, its such an important vitamin, why would you rely on unreliable, potentially carcinogenic UVB for your supplies anyhoo?)  3) Yes, it’s utterly essential-the belt that holds it all (and by all I  mean the ageing skin) together. As is an antioxidant ‘pair of braces’. Surprisingly hard to find a pic of both as in fashion, both are generally considered de trop (sorry Ashton). But not in skin…..oh no.

I think part of the resistance to acceptance of this simple notion is the confusion that surrounds what ingredients to look for.  You need protection against both UVB and UVA all year-round, so tinted moisturiser with an SPF 15 and no UVA filter is not enough. Bear in mind that UVA is present in winter and travels through glass. UVB is fairly easy to block. Good ingredients include titanium dioxide (physical block), the salicylates (like octisalate) and the cinnamates (like octinoxate). Harder is to get full UVA protection. Zinc oxide (physical blocker) and titanium oxide both protect well, as does avobenzone and ecamsule (both chemical blockers).

I’m a big fan of physical blockers. That makes some people nervous-a white-ish, hint-of-death, chalky finish comes to mind. But the beauty of modern sunscreens is that the particles are so fine, you lose the nasty pallor but you are beautifully protected.  There are also plenty of choices in the all-important non-comedogenic camp- breakouts need not be a concern. So that’s my take on the belt. Buckle up. Apply enough (a generous teaspoonful) daily, and use a minimum of SPF30 broad-spectrum protection. And while you’re at it, protect your neck, chest and hands. And don’t even ask yourself the question ‘do I need sunscreen today?’ Take my advice, you do. Once you engage in that inner dialogue, game over-you haven’t found the right sunscreen.

But we don’t reapply sunscreens through the course of the typical working day-I know I don’t. So practically, what can we do to minimize any breakthrough UV (and indeed infrared radiation, of which we are learning more) that doesn’t get deflected and reaches our precious dermis? Adopt the braces-which means utilizing a smartly formulated antioxidant preparation.  Vitamin C in its L-ascorbic acid form (otherwise it doesn’t get to the dermis) and Vitamin E make a great, synergistic combination. They mop up those nasty little free radicals-and Vitamin C has a multitude of other benefits too, so it suits almost every skin-type.

If you’re smart, you’ll start doing these simple steps daily before you even think about heading into a doctor’s office for something more invasive . It’s just common sense.

    • Mia
    • April 1st, 2013

    Loving the informative blogs! Hope you can help me?? I am wanting to get myself a good sunscreen for my face of spf 30, but am struggling to choose a one for my skintype. I have combination skin and redness on cheeks, which tends to be quire dry. Can you recommend one?
    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Mia,
      I’d approach your basic skincare first to try to address the driness in the cheeks. It may be as simple as switching to a non-foaming cleanser (like Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser) and using a non-oily but hydrating moisturiser where needed – I really do find Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion suits so many people. You can then pick a sunscreen that is a good base for make-up. For a dry/combination skin-type, I like Sunsense Daily Face SPF50 and Skinceuticals SPF 30 HyperBright UV Protection. Hope that helps!

    • Mia
    • April 5th, 2013

    Thank you, yes very helpful!
    I have recently bought some cetaphil cleanser and moisturiser following your advice on your blogs / Q & As 🙂 Looking forward to trying them!
    I’m also trying to track down a good over the counter spot treatment of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, can you recommend one?
    Many Thanks

    • Dear Mia,
      It’s a challenge to find a variety of BPO preparations in the UK. All the products I’m a fan of are 5% – esp Obagi Clenziderm Therapeutic Lotion. The base is very important too – it needs to be very hydrating, to help offset the irritancy.La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo (US version) is also good. Start with alternate day application and build up slowly to daily use, and you should be fine in time.
      Dr Sam

    • Abbi
    • April 21st, 2013

    Dear Sam
    Thank you for your fab blogs, my skin is improving with the advice in your articles!
    I am a little confused with sunscreen, as I have an oily tzone with enlarged pores and my skin is prone to sensitivity and redness. I am looking for a sunscreen that won’t make clog my pores or irritate my skin. Can you recommend anything?
    Many thanks!

    • Abbi,
      Thank-you! that’s great news. Try Avene SPF 50 Emulsion or Obagi Sunshield SPF 50. Both are well-tolerated and non-comedogenic. They also work well under make-up….perhaps the Obagi a bit better, but it’s a bit more expensive.
      Dr Sam

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