Would you ever design your dream house with a home theatre and indoor swimming pool but without a kitchen or bathroom? That’s exactly what you are doing when you are spending the bulk of your ‘beauty’ budget on the crème de la crème of skincare ingredients and in-house treatments but skimping on the basics.

Remember the DR L protocol? Today I’m focusing on the most important layer of all: DEFEND.

These are the non-negotiables without which any skincare regimen will crumble. This is skin minimalism pared down to the key elements of any healthy skin approach: that of PROTECTION of your skin DNA and telomeres from UV and free radical damage together with STRENGTHENING of your skin barrier.

They may not be as ‘sexy’ or as ‘edgy’ as the darlings of the skincare world (I’m talking about that tingle of excitement you feel when you see that your new moisturizer contains growth factors), but they still come up trumps in my book. If you do nothing else for your skin – use these.

Specifically, today’s spotlight will be on SUN PROTECTION.  


Sunshine – it feels sooo good but can do so much harm

I understand the irresistible pull of an afternoon lounging on a lilo with some exotic cocktail in your hand and how you feel so healthy and gorgeous with your glowing golden tan which makes the colour of your new white top really pop. But in the same way that “a moment on your lips; a lifetime on your hips” applies to fast food, when it comes to the sun, it’s a matter of  “a day’s fun of sunbathing; a lifetime of skin cancer and ageing”. Let’s be clear: The sun is not your skin’s friend.

The sun’s ABCs

I’m not only talking about the 3 types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun – UVA, UVB and UVC here. And let’s not forget the importance of visible light including blue light from our devices (yup, we are living through the age of digital ageing).  I’m also talking about what they cause: Ageing, Burning and Cancer. 

So if the thought of those invisible UV rays penetrating into your skin and causing DNA damage and skin cancer down the line aren’t enough to have you reaching for your sunscreen, let’s talk about photoageing. 

A = Ageing This is the damage which builds up from unprotected sun exposure making you look years older than you would. This is also why in South Africa, aesthetic physicians are having to put a lot more filler into the right side of the face which is more exposed to UV through driving. It is UVA which is able to infiltrate down to the deep layer of the skin where it damages the collagen scaffolding which makes our skin elastic. The result: a skin more prone to wrinkling and sagging.

Need proof of this destructive power of the sun? Meet William McElligott, a 66 year old truck driver and a living and breathing cautionary tale. 

Truck Driver, William McElligott’s face : The left side of the truck driver’s face was exposed to the sun, the other side shaded in the the cab.
Photograph : The New England Journal of Medicine

This is no Photoshopped Face App of ageing in action. The left-hand side of the 66-year-old’s face is deeply lined, pitted and sagging after 28 years of sun exposure through the side window of his delivery van. The right-hand side, shaded by his van as McElligott delivered milk around Chicago, is the taut, unblemished face of an apparently much younger man.

OK, so you don’t spend hours in your car or in the sun a day? See whether these pictures taken from a twin study where one twin spent more time in the sun, are more compelling.

Twins (natural age 61) with significant difference in sun exposure. Twin B (B) had approximately 10 hours per week greater sun exposure than twin A (A). Twin A had a body mass index 2.7 points higher than that of twin B. The perceived age difference was 11.25 years. Reprinted with permission from Plast Reconstr Surg. 2009;123(4):1321–1331. 

Even if you can’t see the damage yet, it will come back to bite you a few years down the line. I can’t count the number of times a day a patient of mine is amazed when I say that a new spot is sun damaged and they exclaim that they don’t spend time in the sun anymore. UV portraits and technology such as the Visia skin analysis highlight the point that your behaviour today influences what your skin will look like tomorrow.

UV Portraits by the photographer, Cara Philips

B = BURNING

It is pretty intuitive that getting burned by the sun cannot be good. During the summer months, I get many sheepish looks from patients whose blush matches the colour of their skin.  But a sunburn is not just a nuisance. It’s a warning that you have exposed your skin to enough UV to cause DNA damage putting you at a greater risk for skin cancer. Just a single blistering sunburn in childhood increases your chances of getting melanoma later in life.

C = Cancer

But you don’t have to burn to get cancer. In South Africa, particularly in the summer, our dose of UV is so high that even short incidental exposures – like walking from your car to the shop or chatting to a friend in the school carpark adds up to huge lifetime UV doses. And when it comes to tanning – even if you never burn –  my advice is simple: don’t. That supposedly enviable sun-kissed look is a sign that you have already been exposed to enough UV to damage your DNA. And while malignant melanoma is the skin cancer patients and dermatologists fear alike, we need to be equally aware of the more common non-melanoma skin cancers which make up 20% of ALL cancers diagnosed in South Africa. They may have a lower mortality rate but they can result in disfiguring surgeries. The estimated total annual cost of treating skin cancers in South Africa in 2015 was an astounding 92.4 million Rand! Let’s not contribute to that figure further.

Great, mission accomplished and your sunscreen is now front and centre on your bathroom shelf. Congratulations, you can now tick off the number one most essential part of your skincare regimen. To understand more about this essential part of your skincare regimen, click here to learn the top 10 need-to-know facts about sunscreen. 

root4 3D defence SPF50 mineral sunscreen:

hield + Neutralize

A MINERAL FORCEFIELD WHICH SHIELDS YOU FROM DAMAGING UV RAYS, POLLUTION AND BLUE LIGHT FROM DEVICES. 

This gloriously creamy sunscreen combines broad spectrum, mineral SPF 50 protection with nourishingly powerful ingredients to moisturize, protect and give your skin a dewy glow. Non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been whipped together with healing antioxidants into a silky butter which is as safe for our coral reefs as it is for your skin.  Pomegranate seed oil, beeswax, jojoba seed oil and sunflower seed oil hydrate, leaving the skin radiant and soft while antioxidant rich Vitamin E, carrot seed oil, carrot root extract and beta carotene neutralize and repair skin-damaging free radicals while protecting from pigmentation.

A SUNSCREEN FOR EVERYONE 

Gentle enough to use on babies and the most sensitive skin types, it is sink-into-your-skin, blend-like-a-dream protection that everyone in the family will love. 

A SUNSCREEN FOR EVERYWHERE

Amazing for both face and body, on its own or under make-up, this soothing no-drip, eye-friendly formula is a winner whether at work or at play. 

A SUNSCREEN FOR EVERYDAY

This fragrance-free and lightweight multitasker is safe enough for daily use and sleek enough to make serious long-lasting protection an indulgent, no-brainer ritual.

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