Melanie Grant is the founder and director of Double Bay Clinic.
She has over 13 years working alongside Australia's best cosmetic doctors and has dedicated her professional life to developing tailored skin treatments using the latest cutting edge lasers and technology. Having seen and treated a wide array of skin conditions and concerns, she writes for MMM about the number one skin concern and the myths surrounding SPF and sunscreen.
As someone that helps people every day in getting their skin looking its best, the number one question I'm asked is - What is the best anti-ageing product? And no matter the person's age, background or current skin condition my answer is always the same - sunscreen is the best beauty and anti-ageing product available. Hands down.
I'm always amazed at the myths and misinformation that surrounds all of us. So here are a few tips to get the most out of my favourite beauty product.
Myth #1: The SPF in my makeup is enough
If you're relying on the sunscreen in your makeup you're definitely not getting enough protection. The sunscreen in your makeup should only be used an extra layer, not your main source of protection.
Tip: You should always apply a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 and that contains at least 5% zinc or titanium. The easiest approach is to use a moisturiser with a built in sunscreen.
Myth #2: SPF will tell me how much protection I'm getting from the sun
The SPF indicates only UVB protection, not UVA. You might, for instance, wear an SPF 60 and if the sunscreen doesn't contain a UVA blocker, regardless of your skin type, youwill still be at risk for skin cancer, wrinkles, and burns from UVA. Also the term "broad spectrum" on the bottle doesn't guarantee UVA protection. Even if the product contains only the tiniest amount of UVA blocker, it can still bear the label for "broad spectrum" coverage.
The SPF tells you only how much longer you can be in the sun without burning, so if you would normally burn in 30 minutes with no sunscreen, then an SPF 30 would allow you 15 hours without burning. How many of us are out for 15 hours? As long as you use an SPF 15, what really matters is the quality of the sunscreen's ingredients, not the SPF.
Tip: Check for zinc or titanium, sunscreens that have 5 to 10 percent are best.
Myth #3: I can skip it
Maybe you think you can pass on sunscreen because you don't sit in the sun for hours. Sunscreen is not just for sun worshippers. Make it a habit to wear sunscreen 365 days a year and your skin will thank you for it. Even when it's cloudy outside, you most certainly will still get sun damage through cloud cover.
If you skip sunscreen because you don't like how it feels on your skin, then shop around. There are so many great sunscreens on the market, with different formulations. Don't give up!
Tip: For sensitive skin try and stick to a physical blocker such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Sunscreens that are labeled for babies or children are often great for "sensitive skin" also.
Myth #4: All sunscreens are the same
Not so. Sunscreens can differ in the way they protect your skin. Some use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to filter out UVA and UVB rays. Others use chemicals such as avobenzone to do the job. Newer active ingredients include Helioplex and Meroxyl SX.
Tip: Some of these newer products are photostabilised, which means they won't break down as quickly.
Myth #5: Last year's bottle is still OK
You should be using enough product so that you're replacing it at least once per year. If you're applying enough, you're not going to have leftovers next year.
Tip: Always check the expiration date on the bottle as some sunscreens break down quickly.
Myth #6: Dark skin doesn't burn, so you don't need sunscreen
Absolutely all complexions can burn! A darker skin may not need as high an SPF as someone with red hair, as they will have more melanin in their skin for natural protection. However, that extra melanin doesn't guard against the UV damage that accelerates ageing and causes cancer.
Tip: If you have dark skin, you need a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
Myth #7: The sun gives your hair great highlights
Sun exposure damages your hair as well. The natural 'highlights' are evidence of damage that can make your hair incredibly dry and straw-like in texture causing breakage.
Tip: Protect your hair by using products like hair sunscreens with a UV shield.
Myth #8: Getting a tan can heal and prevent break outs and blemishes
A tan can temporarily camouflage the redness of a pimple and dry out the skin's surface, however sun exposure will eventually lead to more breakouts. Sun damage causes a buildup of dead skin cells that in turn create congested pores. The sun also dehydrates the skin. When this happens your sebaceous glands attempt to compensate by producing more oil, causing more blemishes.
Tip: Cleanse and exfoliate to prevent further breakouts and choose an oil free sunscreen that feels comfortable on the skin.
Myth #9: There's no benefit to an SPF higher than 30
A higher number is slightly better. SPF 90 provides 99 percent sunburn protection, versus 96 percent with SPF 30. So over a lifetime, a few more percentage points of protection can add up to a lot less sun damage.
For more information regarding Melanie's skin treatments, please visit her website at www.doublebayclinic.com.