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What You Need to Know about Sunscreen

(hint: high SPF is not the whole story)

Some scientists fear that sunscreen may damage skin.

Almost all aging and damage of the skin is due to sun exposure. When we are exposed to the sun, the skin absorbs ultraviolet radiation (UVA & UVB rays) that cause instability in the molecules of the body tissue, releasing harmful compounds called free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with an unpaired electron that, in an attempt to locate its electron “mate”, can seriously disrupt the cells’ functions.

Sunscreen cuts down the amount of radiation that can penetrate the skin, but most sunscreens contain ingredients that have been shown to boost the number of free radicals over time once they absorb into the skin (usually 2-3 hours after application). The only way to protect against boosting these free radicals is to reapply more sunscreen often. Are you really going to remove your makeup every 2 to 3 hours to reapply your sunscreen? In a UC Riverside study, published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine, Kerry Hanson reports one hour after a ten minute session of UV exposure, the ingredient benzophenone-3 elevated free radicals by 64% compared to the control, while octyl methoxycinnamate and octocrylene boosted free radicals by 33% & 16%, respectively. These are the “three most commonly used ingredients in sunscreens worldwide, and their chemical structures are very similar to other molecules that we know generate free radicals”.

Sheldon Pinnell, a professor of dermatology at Duke University School of Medicine, also thinks the UC Riverside study has validity. “It’s known that some sunscreens behave in this manner. They get inside the skin and absorb energy, and that energy becomes free radicals, which can potentially cause harm, ” he says, naming avobenzone (which the UC Riverside study didn’t test) as one that “can form fairly active free radicals.”

The science has made one thing clear: Adding high-quality antioxidants to sunscreen can counteract any free radical activity, as long as there is enough of them in the formulation. Once absorbed, anti-oxidants can last about four days. Impress™ has added some of the most powerful anti-oxidants to our PrimeShade™, as well as melanin, a know cancer fighting agent. Our Soothe & Protect anti-oxidant pads are also an excellent supplement to most sunscreens.

Another step toward the ideal sunscreen formulation is to build it with photostable ingredients that do not absorb into the skin, but rather remain on the surface of the skin (such as the zinc oxide & titanium dioxide found in PrimeShade™). By dwelling on the surface, the danger of internal free radical damage is mitigated. With PrimeShade™, reapplication is not required (unless the sunscreen has been removed) because the product does not absorb into the skin.

Most sunscreens have an oil base that clogs pores causing acne breakouts, enlarged pores and a heavy uncomfortable feeling. We use a silicone base in our PrimeShade™ sunscreen that allows the pores to breath and the skin to feel fresh and natural as though nothing is on it. Our PrimeShade™ is also formulated to work as an ideal primer for your makeup!

Most sunscreens burn the eyes. Not PrimeShade™! The skin around the eyes is the thinnest skin on the body. It is incomprehensible to us why any sunscreen would be formulated that burns an area in need of more protection than any other area.

Amy B. Lewis, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine claims, “there are huge amounts of data that show that lack of sun protection causes DNA damage, melanoma, basil-cell and squamous-cell skin cancer, and horrible deformed moles and wrinkles, and there is great evidence for prolonged use of sunscreen to protect against all of those things”.

The data confirms that sunscreen is the best defense against sun damage and premature aging of the skin, especially when it contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide and antioxidants to neutralize free radicals.