Don’t forget the SPF this Autumn!
Few of us would dream of heading off on our summer holidays without packing our sunscreen. But do you ensure you’re using an SPF all year round … even at this time of the year?
There’s no doubt that the sun makes us feel good; just think of how your mood lifts when you open the curtains and it’s a gloriously sunny autumn morning outside. As the temperatures fall, strolling through the local park as you kick your way through the crisp leaves really is one of life’s great pleasures.
But while it may feel chilly, don’t let that fool you. During the colder months you still need to be protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. So while it may sound strange to use SPF all year round that’s exactly what you should do – even on overcast days.
“It’s true that the sun, in moderation, can have an uplifting effect on our mood, as well as boost our vitamin D levels, improve circulation and increase metabolism. But too much is very harmful,” explains aesthetics expert and surgeon Dr Julia Sen. “Damage is not influenced by how hot or cold it is outside, rather the ultraviolet (UV) radiation – and a cloudy October day can still have the same UVA levels as a hot, sunny one in July. Over-exposure can have both short and long-term consequences, yet despite countless health warnings the numbers of both non-melanoma and melanoma cancers in the UK have increased in the past few decades.”
Using SPF helps our skin tolerate the sun’s rays – and that’s just as true during autumn and winter as it is in the summer. As a general rule of thumb, if you skin goes red within ten minutes then an SPF30 means it will take 30 times longer for this to happen, while a SPF50 allows even longer outdoors. However, because the SPF only measures protection against UVB rays, you need to use a broad spectrum sunscreen that guards against UVA too.
WHAT ARE UV RAYS?
UV is the ultraviolet light given off by the sun that is invisible to the human eye. Depending on their wavelengths, they are officially categorised as UVA, UVB, and UVC (the shortest rays absorbed by the ozone layer). The UV Radiation Index measures the intensity of the sun, with 3-5 being moderate; 6-7 is high; 8-10 being very high; and anything over 11 is extreme.
UVA: This is the longest of the three rays and is the one that causes our skin to age. UVA penetrates through the clouds and even windows, through to our dermis (the layer of skin that lies beneath the epidermis). Prolonged exposure actually shrinks collagen and elastin fibres, causing age spots, wrinkles and loss of elasticity. Interestingly, the amount of UVA exposure doesn’t change whatever the weather or the time of the year.
UVB: These rays cause sunburn and their intensity depends on the time of the year and time of day. They penetrate the epidermis (the top layer of your skin) and stimulate melanin – it’s why we get freckles; the more time you spend in the sun, the more melanin is produced. Too much UVB exposure leads to sunburn as our bodies fight to reverse the damage. Blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow to the affected area, causing redness and swelling.