We know the facts: Australia has the highest incidence of sun damage and skin cancer in the world; sunscreen should be SPF 30 or higher and offer broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection; and it should be used every single day of the year.
But a not-so-well-known fact is only about seven per cent of sunlight is UV radiation. The other 93 per cent of the sunlight pie chart is made up of visible light and infrared (the heat we feel).
The scary sunscreen truth
Next fact: UV reaches the dermis (the second layer of the skin), while visible light and infrared infiltrate right through the skin to ligaments, muscles, organs and bones, affecting the quality and appearance of skin. “It’s like putting a piece of rubber in the sun – it’s going to perish because of visible light and infrared damage, not UV rays,” explains Richard Parker, skin care scientist and founder of Rationale. And it’s this 93 per cent that’s now under the microscope.
The new need-to-know research
“For the past 50 years, dermatologists have focused on the devastating impact of UV on the skin, [but] now we are turning our attention to the impact of the sun’s other forms of radiation – visible light and infrared – and their effects on conditions such as melasma and rosacea,” says Dr. Vivian Bucay, a dermatologist based in the US who notes that Australian researchers are pioneering new sunscreen technologies that protect against the full solar spectrum.
Although the average Australian woman is savvy about sun protection, incidences of certain sun-related ageing issues are rising. Take for example melasma, the blotchy, brown facial pigmentation that often comes with pregnancy, and is prevalent in Australia. “Anyone with melasma knows they need to use sunscreen religiously, and they do, but the condition doesn’t improve for various reasons, including the fact that regular sunscreen doesn’t protect against visible light and infrared,” explains Parker.
The area you’re forgetting to sunscreen
You’re religious about your face, chest, and hands, but there is one place you’re probably not putting SPF where you really should: the back of your neck. “Those with short hair, women who wear their hair up and especially men are more likely to have wrinkly, pigmented skin here – it’s the new anti-ageing zone!” declares Parker.
The multi-pronged approach to skin protection
Rationale B3-T Superfluid Sunscreen SPF50+: One of the first formulas to pioneer the new generation of sunscreens. It protects against the full sunlight spectrum of UV, visible light and infrared. “Adding a green tea extract gives the formula a brown pigment that scatters visible light and absorbs infrared,” explains Parker. “The formula is also very volatile and dries down very quickly, so the water evaporates off the skin and leaves behind a film that is uniform and tenacious.”
Ultaceuticals Ultra Protective Antioxidant Complex: Up the ante on your sun protection with this formulation, which contains antioxidants to help neutralise free radicals.
Elucent Anti-Ageing Serum: Using alpha hydroxyl acid at night can help bring alkaline sun-exposed skin back to an optimal acidic level.
A beauty editor and vitamin C fanatic who has worked across a range of print and digital publications, including Stellar, marie claire, Gritty Pretty and Badlands Journal.