So now that you’ve finally figured out how to stay sun safe, new scientific studies suggest the SPF you’re wearing may not be doing enough to protect your skin from all the sun’s damaging rays.
Why should you care? Well, the solar spectrum is a wide one that emits several forms of radiation. You’re probably familiar with UVA and UVB—the culprits behind sunburns, skin cancer and photoaging (those pesky brown spots and wrinkles)—but what about infrared rays?
Infrared radiation (IR) comes from anything that emits heat, including ovens, hair dryers, radiators and you guessed it…the sun. That cozy, warming sensation you feel when you’re outdoors is the result of infrared rays. Most IR simply bounces off skin’s surface without much fanfare, says Paul Frank, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. But some of the IR spectrum—specifically infrared A radiation (IRA)—can penetrate skin reaching deep down to where the cells are formed. A study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that IRA may generate free radicals that alter collagen, elastin and protein structures in skin. What that means for you: fine lines, age spots and dryness. Oh my!
Compared to UV rays, IRA is weak; but what it lacks in muscle it makes up for in numbers. “Over half of the solar energy that reaches the skin is infrared,” says Nadim Shaath, Ph.D., cosmetic chemist and president of Alpha Research & Development in White Plains, NY.
But will your sunscreen save the day? Maybe not. While sun salves are chock-full of ingredients that block UV, most IRA rays slip right past. “The best way to bolster your skin against the damage is to neutralize those free radicals with an antioxidant,” says Ni'Kita Wilson, YouBeauty's Cosmetic Chemistry Expert. But not all antioxidants are created equal. “You want to find a product with a high percentage of a potent antioxidant like vitamin C,” she says. Still, it’s hard to tell if there are enough antioxidants in your favorite cream to keep your skin safe. That's why many dermatologists suggest applying a separate antioxidant-rich serum, says Wilson.
Ones that pack a punch: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic containing a 15 percent concentration of L-ascorbic acid; and Somme Institute Serum that includes ascorbyl methylsilanol pectinate, a powerful, stable form of vitamin C.
Another option is to manage the damage. Skin that’s under attack produces matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), a group of enzymes capable of breaking down collagen. Two topical skin treatments containing MMP-inhibiting agents: Prevage Triple Defense Shield SPF 50, with the antioxidant and MMP-blocker idebenone; and Neocutis Journée Bio-Restorative Day Cream SPF 30+, which delivers green tea and vitamin C along with MMP-obstructing peptides.
So for all those fountain of youth seekers, yet more compelling evidence to support the importance of antioxidants. Add one to your morning routine with a sunscreen slathered over top.
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