With summer fast approaching, it's time to knock out the sunscreen and get prepping for those luscious day trips to the beach. Or maybe you're jetting off somewhere fabulous with a tropical climate and need to protect your skin from those pesky rays. Either way, if you're outside for long periods of a layer of sunscreen is an absolute must. I spoke to beauty expert and skin care specialist Nathalie Eleni to find out what happens to your skin if you don't wear SPF.
Eleni believes that "SPF is singularly one of the most important factors in keeping your skin healthy," and should be a major part of your daily skin routine. Even though it's dull and dreary most days in the UK, that doesn't stop UV rays from getting through, as dermatologist Joel Schlessinger previously told Bustle in 2015.
"Because UV radiation is somewhat less intense; it would take your skin slightly longer to burn on a cloudy day than it would on a sunny day. However, this doesn't mean you can completely forgo sunscreen protection altogether."
When it comes to applying sunscreen daily, Eleni tells me that you should apply a moisturiser with SPF 15 to keep your skin protected "when in and out of the sun for a few minutes at a time." But if you're constantly outdoors or in a hotter climate, "you should aim for something higher (like 30+) and apply it 30 minutes before going outside," and you should reapply every two hours. By applying sun cream regularly, you're effectively applying a barrier on your skin that uses a combination "of ingredients that prevent the suns UV rays," Eleni says.
So what happens if you decide to skip the SPF? Well, as Eleni explains "damaging sun rays can cause hyperpigmentation, otherwise known as brown spots/patches that discolour the skin." These patches are also known as age spots, and according to the Mayo Clinic they occur when UV light "accelerates the production of melanin". Eleni adds that sun exposure can also cause broken capillaries which damages the collagen and can cause "loss of elasticity, sagging skin, wrinkles, and burning that can lead to scarring." If you have noticeable damage already, Eleni advises that you can have treatments such as peels and lasers which "can help with the appearance of pigmentation on the skin by lightening and treating it." While it "can't fully get rid of the damage," it can improve it somewhat.
Too much exposure to UV rays can also lead to skin cancer, and according to Cancer Research UK 9 in 10 cases of melanoma "could be prevented through enjoying the sun safely and avoiding using sun beds." Remember to always check with your GP if you're worried about any changes to your skin.
Adding SPF into your skin routine may sound like a daunting prospect, but with the significant increase in moisturisers and other skincare products having SPF as an added ingredient, it's really not that difficult. Eleni also recommends adding vitamin C in conjunction with your SPF as they both "bounce and repel damaging rays and also add antioxidant protection." Plus, if you apply a topical vitamin C — "as long as it's in its l-ascorbic acid form" — it can also help to lighten your pigmentation along with ingredients such as niacinamide, kokic acid and mandelic acid," Eleni tells me.
If you're struggling to figure out what to add to your regime, Eleni has some fantastic recommendations.