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How the Perimenopause & Menopause can change our skin

How the Perimenopause & Menopause can change our skin

 

How getting our skincare on point can help us to feel a little bit more ‘Meno-poised’

Perimenopause and menopause are massive life events for women. Seen as a taboo until very recently, discussions and awareness are thankfully welcomed more now than they have ever been. Yet these changes are still misunderstood, misdiagnosed and sometimes ignored. I am a Menopause Coach and my aim is to pass on some sound advice. If you are suffering right now or think you are at the beginning of this journey I want to empower you to recognise what is happening within your own bodies. Providing some confidence to seek help from your GP or a health specialist. Plus if you are reading this but not affected by the menopause personally I hope to arm you with some useful knowledge to be able to understand and support others around you.

 

In this article I’m going to talk about the difference between perimenopause and menopause. I’ll also discuss some of the changes we may experience in our skin and what we can do to alleviate these.

 

Almost every women will go through these changes which arecaused by long term hormone deficiencies. Ultimately, it’s when we stop having periods because our ovaries stop producing eggs and, as a consequence, our hormone levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall. But this is generally not a smooth transition because our hormones fluctuate rather than fall steadily causing all sorts of issues. It’s really important to say that we must recognise it’s not just women in their forties and fifties that will experience this. Those who are non-binarythat were female at birth, trans men who haven’t gone through gender re-assignment surgery, anyone who has had a hysterectomy (uterus removal) and/or oophorectomy (ovary removal) and in rare cases teenagers and even children can also experience these symptoms.

 

Research has shown that one third of perimenopausal and menopausal women in the UK wait at least a year to receive treatment for their symptoms and for one in ten it takes more than nine doctor appointments to make a diagnosis. This is all whilst experiencing a multitude of symptoms which can cause real suffering. Physical and mental health can decline during this time. We shouldn’t have to endure these changes just because it’s a ‘natural’ process that women go through. Withthe appropriate treatments and lifestyle changes it can be effectively managed and quality of life can be improved.

 

What is Perimenopause?

This is when we are experiencing menopausal symptoms due to hormone changes but we still have our periods. Even if these are changing in frequency and nature. The average age to start having perimenopausal symptoms is around forty five. Although everyone’s experience is different. The perimenopause can last for many months or years and can be a rocky road.

 

 

What is Menopause?

In Greek it translates as ‘month’ and ‘cease’ and is when wedon’t have a period for twelve consecutive months. The average age of menopause is fifty one and forty nine for BIPOC  communities (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour). But again this can be different from woman to woman. Most people concentrate on the menopause but it’s the perimenopause beforehand which can be really disruptive.

 

What is Post Menopause?

The time in our life after the period of twelve consecutive months with no period.

 

What part do Oestrogen & Progesterone play?

For many of us the hormones oestrogen and progesterone work in synergy to regulate the menstrual cycle and produce eggs. They are preparing our bodies for possible pregnancy every month and we experience a period when pregnancy doesn’t happen. As we approach menopause our ovaries make fewer of these hormones and our fertility decreases. Once we are post menopause we can’t become pregnant. Testosterone also has an important role to play in growth, bone mass and maintenance of the female sexual anatomy. So can cause problems when it too starts to decline.

 

Oestrogen is a big player in keeping our whole bodies running smoothly, not just our menstrual cycle. It directly effects our immunity, mood, muscles, hair and skin to name just a few. So when it starts to fluctuate during the perimenopause and menopause this leads to a deficiency resulting in a whole host of symptoms.

 

What are the symptoms?

There isn’t a test available that can give us a definitive diagnosis. If you are not feeling quite like your normal self, ‘out of sorts’, experiencing symptoms you haven’t noticed before I would suggest keeping a diary of your mental and physical health or better still use a menopause app to track what’s going on. There are nearly forty different symptoms associated with this period in our lives. It’s not just hot flushes and feeling a bit cranky! Below are many of them although this isn’t an exhaustive list:

 

Feeling tense/nervous
Trouble sleeping
Dizziness/feeling faint
Loss of interest in sex
Muscle and joint aches and pains
Difficulty concentrating
Irregular periods
Heart palpitations
Tiredness/lack of energy
Crying frequently
Feeling irritable
Headaches
Stress incontinence
Skin becomes dry and itchy
Loss of interest in things
Hot flushes
Brittle nails
Numbness in parts of body
Vaginal dryness
Osteoporosis
Feeling unhappy
Body odour changes
Bloating
Night sweats
Breathing difficulties
Memory loss
Mood swings
Breast soreness
Changes in body shape and weight gain
Recurrent urinary tract infections
Digestive problems
Hair loss
Tinnitus

 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, keep a note of them and read what you can from reliable sources. Make an appointment to see your GP or a health professional armed with your evidence and knowledge.

 

How does the perimenopause and menopause affect our skin?

Many of us will see the biggest changes to our skin during this time. It may feel tighter, drier, itchier and rougher with a dull appearance. Rosacea and broken capillaries may develop. Fine lines will seem more prominent. We may even see a return of acne or experience it for the first time. Much of this isn’t exclusive to the skin on our face either, changes happen to the skin all over our body.

 

So why does this happen? Most of the cells in our skin have oestrogen receptors. Oestrogen has four key functions within our skin which, when depleting, will cause changes:

 

1.Oestrogen produces hyaluronic acid

This is a gel like substance produced just below the skins surface. It’s a natural hydrator and is able to retain water so it’s a real skin superhero. It gives the skin fullness, reducing fine lines and dryness. But as oestrogen declines, so does the production of hyaluronic acid. Therefore our skin finds it harder to retain moisture leaving it dry, dull and scaly. The natural shedding of dry dead skin cells slows right down too. The radiant glow we maybe once had seems to fade away. When skin cells don’t shed effectively skincare products that are applied cannot penetrate effectively and do their job.

 

Oestrogen stimulates the sebaceous glands

Therefore sebum (oil) is produced to keep the skin nourished and smooth. When this depletes skin becomes drier, scaly and rougher.

 

 

Oestrogen also builds collagen

This is a connective tissue that gives skin its strength and structure. When they decrease, stiffen and break apart this results in deeper lines, sagginess and loss of tone.

 

Oestrogen produces ceramides

Ceramides are a lipid that binds the top layers of the skin together so that it can retain water and protect from irritants.When these decrease the skin finds it harder to hold on to water. Again resulting in drier skin which can become sensitised due to its protective layer being compromised.

 

It’s been found that oestrogen levels start to decrease in the skin up to ten years before we are fully menopausal. So these symptoms of decreasing moisture and changes to the structure of the skin can creep up on us over a period of time. Testosterone can also wreak havoc by producing excess sebum which can lead to an oilier skin, blemishes and blocked pores. We can also see an increase in facial hair too. The rate in which our skin cells renew slows down massively. But help is at hand, we can tweak our current skincare routines to seepositive results.

 

What can I do to improve the health of my skin?

There are lots of small changes we can make to see and feel a difference in our skin. Healthy radiant skin is possible whatever our age and no matter what treatment for perimenopause and menopause we decide to take.

 

Start with reviewing your current skincare routine

Focus on the basics, don’t have an over complicated regime. Choose products that are gentle, nourishing and hydrating by looking for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides and squalene to support the skins natural barrier and moisture. Peptides and retinoids are collagen boosting ingredients and will help to combat loss of firmness and fine lines. Treat skin as ‘maturing’ skin and try to see this as a positive because it is. We are lucky to see our skin change and develop with age, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times.

 

Choose gentle cleansers such as balms, oils and milks which won’t strip the skin.

 

Always keep a facial mist to hand. These are wonderful hydrating sprays that you can use any time of day or night.

 

Opt for serums that contain vitamin C to brighten the complexion and hyaluronic acid to hydrate.

 

Use a gentle exfoliator to remove dry dead skin cells and encourage new cells to form.

 

Try not to over use acids and peels such as glycolic or lactic acid. They still have a place in many skincare routines to exfoliate, brighten and stimulate the skin but pare back a little.

 

Retinoids (vitamin A) are an incredible addition to an evening routine but if you haven’t used them before introduce themgradually. They can make a real difference to the appearance and texture of the skin.

 

Moisturise with a cream suitable for your skin. Don’t feel you have to use a super rich formulation if your skin isn’t particularly dry. There are lots of different textures to choose from for this age group.

 

Sunscreen should be a daily staple, even in the winter, and especially after applying retinoid the night before.

 

Don’t overload the skin with too many thick rich products.  Be mindful of how your skin looks and feels and if it needs more product you can apply it. I always suggest cleansing the face and applying your evening routine products several hours before bed. This way you can then see and feel if you face needs more moisture just before going to bed.

 

Treat the skin on your body much the same as the skin on your face. You may be experiencing dry, dehydrated, rough, itchy skin as hormone levels fluctuate. Use a gentle shower gel and moisturise daily. Use a gentle body exfoliator once or twice a week to remove dry dead skin cells. You don’t need to use harsh scrubs as this might make the situation worse. Many body care products contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and ceramides etc. So keep your eyes peeled for these if you have particularly dry skin.

 

Ultimately concentrate on feeding and nourishing the skin. Think of your new skincare routine as a real act of kindness to yourself.

 

And also think about:

 

Feeding the skin from the inside

Keeping hydrated with drinking water, feeding our body nutritious gut friendly food and reducing our sugar intake will not only benefit our skin but all systems of the body. A good quality Omega 3 supplement can make a positive impact.Omega 3 are a crucial component of the lipid membrane of skin cells. So this is also a good place to start feeding the skin from the inside out. Check with your GP before taking if you have any concerns.

 

Breakouts

Don’t treat the skin harshly if you experience spots and blackheads. There is no need to try to strip the skin of oil. This will only create further problems. Treat the area where the spots are rather than the whole face.

 

Moles

Keep a check on moles as it’s more common to find pre-cancerous and cancerous changes at this time.

 

Bruises

We are more prone to bruising due to the falling levels of oestrogen but also simply because the skin is thinner.

 

Healing

Our skin is slower to repair and heal as we get older. We don’t have as many growth factors and stem cells to regenerate.

 

Stress

The route of all evil. If we are able to reduce stress in our lives this will have a positive impact on our perimenopause and menopause experience including what happens with our skin.

 

Below are some handpicked products stocked at Perfumery & Company which are perfect for perimenopausal and menopausal skin. However, they do stock many more items suitable for maturing and hormonal skin so do check out their website or pop in if you are local to them:

 

Clarins Super Restorative range

This range has been specifically designed for menopausal skin. Like a comfort blanket for the face. The day and night creams have been formulated to our specific needs at these different times of the day, protecting the skins barrier during the day and reactivating the skin cells at night. Containing organic harungana extract which is a tree sap with healing, soothing and revitalising properties. It’s known as one of nature’s retinols so is ideal for skin of this age. This range offers face creams for different skin types. I have been trialling the day and night cream for very dry skin. If your skin isn’t very dry you could opt for the moisturisers for all skin types.

 

Clarins Super Restorative Day Cream

Suitable for very dry skin (another cream is available in the range for all skin types and has a lighter consistency)

Containing vegetal squalene to rebuild and protect the skin’s natural barrier encouraging a smoother surface texture. What I love about this cream is that even though it’s for a very dry skin it isn’t too rich. It penetrates effectively into the skin so shouldn’t feel too heavy for someone with dry skin. Apply in the morning onto clean skin after serum. Always take the cream down the neck and onto the chest area.

 

Clarins Super Restorative Night Cream

Suitable for very dry skin (another cream is available in the range for all skin types and has a lighter consistency)

Along with organic harungana this cream contains a vitamin C derivative to brighten and organic sea lily to improveoverall hydration.  This is a super nourishing cream for dry to very dry skin. Apply in the evening onto clean skin after serums/oils.

 

Neals Yard Remedies Women’s balance range

This is a body care range featuring a specific blend of essential oils that smell like a spa in a bottle – Rose Absolut, geranium and frankincense that not only nourish parched skin but are clinically proven to bring about balance and harmony to mind and body. A lovely delicate fragrance. This range has been designed specifically for women’s natural cycles and life stages. They are a joy to use and help to relax and calm.

 

Women’s Balance Shower Oil

Suitable for all skin types

I love a shower oil and this one is no exception. Macadamia and sea buckthorn cleanse and nourish dry, dehydrated skin perfectly. Whilst the unique blend of essential oils definitely brings some calm and balance. Massage into wet skin and see it transform into a milk to provide hours of moisture.

 

Women’s Balance Massage Oil

Suitable for all skin types

This is a luxurious massage oil to use after a shower on dry skin. Containing the same incredible essential oil blend apply any time to restore feelings of calm. Warm a few drops in your hands and breath in the aroma. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths before massaging in circular motions all over the body. I like to use this in the morning after my shower as it doesn’t leave skin feeling greasy, it sinks in beautifully. But I’ve also used it at night, specifically to give myself a warming foot massage before bed. Remember to gently exfoliate once or twice a week to ensure the massage oil can penetrate effectively.

 

Body Cream

Suitable for all skin types

Containing hyaluronic acid to intensely moisturise, this rich body cream feels like a real treat to use and is perfect for dry skin. It will keep your body moisturised for up to twenty four hours. It brings immediate relief and comfort to skin that feels parched and itchy leaving it smooth and moisturised. Containing the same spa like fragrance as the rest of the Women’s Balance range, it has definitely formed part of a relaxing bed time ritual for me.

 

I really hope to have imparted some useful information about this much misunderstood stage of life and shared a few hints and tips on ways to look after your skin through this time.

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The importance of Sun Protection – Do you want to be a grape or a prune?

The importance of Sun Protection – Do you want to be a grape or a prune?

Those teenage days of laying on Brighton beach covered in baby oil are well and truly behind me. I remember my best friend lathering herself in cooking oil and she literally fried! We didn’t know any better. But thankfully things have changed, there is a lot more knowledge about the damaging effects of the sun and so much choice to protect ourselves including specific products for the face, body and scalp. 

Our skin is the largest organ of the body, we wear it every day, so we need to look after it and protect it properly. The sun can be great for us both physically and mentally. I love that feeling of the warm sun on my skin. It’s so uplifting. But unprotected and/or excessive exposure is extremely damaging. It can be the difference between having skin that looks like a plump smooth grape or a dry wrinkly prune (I know which I would prefer) and this is without the added danger of skin cancer.

 So let’s start with the basics – What does SPF stand for?

All sun protection products will display an SPF number. It indicates the products Sun Protection Factor. There are differing SPFs and the number (i.e. 30 or 50) extends the amount of time our skin can normally be exposed to the sun unprotected before burning. So let’s say that we choose a product of SPF15.  This means that once we have applied the product to our skin it will multiply our natural protection (when we don’t apply sunscreen) by fifteen times before we would start to burn. So an SPF15, in theory, would protect us for 150 minutes. However, I say ‘in theory’ because I don’t think it’s wise to rely on this calculation to prevent burning. It can give a false sense of security that we will be fully protected until our SPF time is up. This can be really damaging for our skin. I wouldn’t lay in the sun for two and a half hours straight, let alone when the sun is at its strongest (11am-3pm) using a SPF15. I wouldn’t lay in the sun for this long anyway. It would definitely result in sunburn and most sunscreens won’t remain effective after one and a half to two hours of being applied anyway.

 It is much safer to opt for either SPF30 or SPF50 and reapply regularly. Please don’t go any lower. It’s not worth it. The higher the SPF number, the more protection our skin will get. I always use a factor 50 or 50+ on my face and either a factor 30 or 50 on my body.  As I’ve mentioned, I love that feeling of the sun warming the skin but I try to be so careful and spend more time in the shade these days.

 As a general rule this is how the SPF numbers are categorized:

Low – 6 to 14 (long gone are the days of using Hawaiian Tropic SPF2!)

Medium – 15 to 29

High – 30 to 50

Very High – 50+ (this must provide at least SPF60 in testing)

Very high SPFs are suggested for those with red hair and freckle because burning can happen super quick. High SPFs are for people, like me, with fair skin. A medium SPF would be ok if you are any type of ethnicity where your skin tans easily and rarely burns. But I would suggest using a higher SPF to be safer (just one that doesn’t contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as these can form a visible ghostly look on the skin, although technology is evolving all of the time.

What is a broad spectrum sunscreen?

As well as making sure that we are choosing a high SPF always look to see if the sunscreen is broad spectrum. This means that it will help to protect from UVA and UVB sun rays. Some sunscreens only protect against one.

UVA are the ageing rays (think A for ageing) which penetrate deep into the skin (to the subcutaneous level) destroying its collagen and elastin causing premature ageing, wrinkles, uneven surface, sagging, pigmentation. UVA also penetrates clouds and glass so even on a cloudy day or when sitting by a window (driving in our car) we need protection.

UVB are the burning rays (think B for burning) which cause skin damage. They have the ability to alter the structure of skin cells (damaging their DNA) and can ultimately lead to skin cancer. Skcin, a melanoma and skin cancer charity, recently reported that one in thirty six UK males and one in forty seven females will be diagnosed with melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) in their lifetime and it’s one of the biggest killers in the 15-34 age group. They talk a lot about taking steps to prevent this from happening by using a broad spectrum sunscreen and reapplying regularly (even in cloudy weather). They also promote early detection by regularly checking moles for changes, being aware of any new growths and seeking medical advice if we notice anything different. Early detection is crucial.  The World Health Organisation have identified UV light as a proven human carcinogen.

It’s important to note that the sun protection factor (SPF) is usually only relevant to UVB light (burning rays) so it is only giving us half the picture about how much the product is going to protect us. Look out for the letters UVA in a circle on sun products as this proves that it will provide at least a third of its protection against UVA (as well as UVB) and will be broad spectrum.

What type of sunscreen should I use?

So we’ve looked at what the Sun Protection Factor means . Let’s now look at the types of sunscreens available.  There are two main types – Chemical sunscreens and Physical sunscreens (which are sometimes referred to as Mineral or Natural)

Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV light and turn it into heat. When applied they trigger a chemical reaction within the skin which activates their protective mechanism.  It’s usually recommended to apply twenty minutes before going out in the sun as this allows the process to take place. Some commonly used chemical UV filters are octocrylene, helioplex, avobenzone, oxybenzone.

Physical/Mineral sunscreens are sometimes referred to as natural sunscreens, usually for marketing purposes. They work by reflecting the UV light away from the skin. However, it has been recently proven that they only reflect a very small amount and absorb most of it, turning it in to heat within the body like chemical sunscreens. They are effective as soon as they are applied. But because they sit on the skin they need to be reapplied often especially after swimming or exercise etc as they may have been washed or sweated off. Physical sunscreens are usually made with minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Although they will go through a chemical process to become part of the sunscreen so are not necessarily ‘natural’. These minerals are pulverised (mostly invisible to the naked eye) and when applied in a sunscreen they sit on the surface and reflect the UV rays. They can sometimes leave the skin looking ghostly, can feel a bit greasy and may not create the best base for make up if this is being applied after SPF. However, formulas are evolving continuously.

Is there a way of tanning safely?

The crux of the matter is that there is no safe tan.  When our skin tans this is a sign of DNA damage. It’s our body trying to protect itself from the UV light. So a tan is sun damage. Melanocytes are cells that are responsible for creating a pigment called melanin. This is what determines our skin tone. The more melanocytes we have the darker our natural skin colour. When exposed to the sun they produce more melanin to try to protect the skin. But this is actually sun damage. Avoid the hours between 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its hottest. This is the time that we are most likely to burn. It is possible to still tan in the shade. The sun reflects off of water, floor tiles and sand right onto our skin. But we are less at risk of burning. If tanned skin is what’s wanted, try to opt for self-tans. Many of the formulas are fantastic these days.

How much should I apply and how often should I apply it?

Most of us don’t apply enough sunscreen. We need to be more generous. Slather it on!  Don’t be shy! If we look at our forefinger and middle finger with the knuckles facing down we need to apply a line of facial SPF to each of those fingers from base to tip and that’s how much we need to apply to our face, neck and ears. Depending on how tall we, are a couple of teaspoons is good guidance for each area of our body i.e. each arm, each leg, chest, back. Don’t forget feet and hands too!  Most of us may find we go through SPF quicker than we usually do if we take this advice on board.

Regardless of the factor reapply sunscreen every one and a half to two hours if we are sitting in the sun, more frequent if we are in the water. When applying to the face first thing in the morning it should always be the last cream applied to the skin (after cleansing, toning/acid toners, eye creams, serums, moisturisers/aftershave balms) and before applying any make up.

I have an SPF in my moisturiser/primer/foundation, surely that’s enough?

There are a few reasons why SPF in a moisturiser or other product isn’t the best option for us. Firstly SPF is a combination of powerful ingredients which will overtake any active or expensive ingredients within any other cream.  So if we are buying a pricey ‘anti-ageing’ moisturiser with an SPF it will literally be an expensive SPF moisturiser without the benefits of the other ingredients.

Secondly, an SPF within another product like a moisturiser will often give a false sense of security. We apply it in the morning and that’s it. When in reality we should be applying it throughout the day at intervals. SPF needs to be reapplied and there are some fantastic SPFs available on the market these days that can be sprayed over make up.

Thirdly, chances are that we aren’t as thorough when applying moisturiser as we are when applying a dedicated SPF so our faces won’t be fully covered. We might be a bit more slap dash with our moisturiser compared to applying an SPF.

Another reason is that a moisturiser containing SPF will usually only protect against UVB rays, so we may not burn but we aren’t protected from the UVA rays. These are the rays that have a detrimental effect on our collagen and elastin.

And lastly, moisturisers with an inbuilt SPF will invariably not be water or rub resistant. So if we apply make up over the top of it with a brush or our fingers we will rub some of it off. If it’s been a particularly hot day and you’ve sweated it will be gone!

It's so much better to layer up. Allow our moisturiser to deliver great skin benefits, our SPF to protect our skin in the best way possible and our foundation to provide fabulous colour and coverage. Be aware that if several different products are being applied with differing SPFs the overall SPF rating will not accumulate. We can’t add them up and be triple protected. We will be protected at the level of the highest SPF that we have applied.

What is the best SPF for me?

The best SPF is the one that we are going to use and continue using.  If it’s at all possible, try several before buying and see how they feel on the skin. Find one that you like where the texture works for you and keep on using it. Bear in mind if make up is going to be applied on top. Does it provide a nice base? SPFs have come a long way since the days of being greasy and gloopy. There are many non-oily and non-comedogenic (won’t block pores) formulations available. And at the other end of the scale there are richer creams for those with a dryer skin type.

But what about Vitamin D, don’t we need sun exposure for this?

We need some exposure to the sun to produce Vitamin D.  Without it our bodies are unable to properly absorb calcium and we may be more susceptible to high blood pressure, headaches, low mood, poor quality sleep, osteoporosis, diabetes and arthritis to name a few. Food sources are quite difficult to come by. So exposing our skin to UVB is the primary way of making it in our bodies. The sun’s UVB rays interact with a protein called 7-DHC in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D.

It’s been recommended by The British Skin Foundation that we get at least 20 minutes of sun exposure a day to fortify our vitamin D production. These can differ from person to person depending on skin type, weight etc and generally the darker your skin the more exposure you will need. Many people, mainly women, now take daily Vitamin D supplements as they are deficient. So here we have a juxtaposition – the need to protect our skin from the sun’s rays and the need to exposure our skin for vitamin D absorption.  So how can we get vitamin D exposure safely? Clinical studies have shown that sunscreen use doesn’t lead to vitamin D deficiency. In fact, it is the case that people who use sunscreen daily can maintain their vitamin D levels. One explanation for this is that no matter how much sunscreen we apply to our skin, there will always be some of the sun’s rays which will reach the skin. For example, an SPF50 will filter out 98 percent of UVB rays and this is only if we apply it properly. So it is possible to synthesis the vitamin D necessary for our bodies whilst still wearing sunscreen.

Other important considerations

  • Most sun damage is done in the first twenty years of our lives. The appearance of age spots and pigmentation when we’re older is due to sun damage when we were younger. So sun protection needs to become a habit early on in life.
  • Even though the darkest of skin tones have an inbuilt SPF of around 13 and are not quite as vulnerable to UV light they still need protection from UV damage by using an SPF. A minimum of SPF30 is recommended. No one is immune from sun damage unfortunately.
  • If our SPF doesn’t have an expiry date, assume that it will last a year. After that it loses its efficacy. Buy new SPF every year.
  • In Europe SPF label classification is not the law, it’s just for information because it is classed as a cosmetic. In the US SPF classification is required as it’s considered a drug. However, European manufacturers are permitted to use seven proven UVA filters while the US can only use three. This means that European products definitely have the potential to be more effective.
  • A lot of skin damage (in addition to on the face) happen to the back of the neck, tops of the ears and tip of the nose. We mustn’t forget these areas when applying product.
  • If swimming in a chlorinated pool it’s necessary to shower before applying more sunscreen.
  • If acne is a problem opt for an oil free SPF as some can be too rich and block the pores which will only exasperate the situation. But thankfully there is a lot of choice available.
  • Don’t use SPF instead of moisturiser, they do different things. Apply moisturiser first and follow with SPF.
  • Always double cleanse (cleaning our faces twice) at the end of the day if SPF has been applied. SPF is designed to stay put on our skin, to protect it, so it will take more rigorous removal. Balms and oil cleansers are best for this in conjunction with a soft flannel.
  • SPF isn’t just for use abroad, the sun is still very strong in the UK. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this is the case though. If you go shopping in Boots or a supermarket during the summer months that’s when all of the big sunscreen displays are on sale. Go in during winter and you won’t find them. Most people think that sun protection is only needed during the summer months. But the sun’s rays are always there, even on cloudy days, even in winter. 75% of UV rays can penetrate through windows too.
  • If on holiday and sunbathing, carry a small bottle of micellar water and cotton pads in a beach bag. Instead of putting layer upon layer of SPF on which can end up blocking pores, trapping sweat and dirt (which can cause blemishes), remove with the micellar soaked cotton pads and apply a fresh layer. Keep pre soaked pads in a small lunch box for extra convenience.
  • Sunscreens work best on exfoliated skin. Otherwise we are just sealing the SPF to dead skin cells which can rub off more easily.
  • Avoid using perfume on top of SPF as it will break down its efficacy stopping it from working as well, plus it can cause pigmentation and sensitivity.
  • Avoid using retinoids, peels, glycolic acids when in the sun for long periods (I wouldn’t recommend being in the sun for long periods anyway) as skin will be a bit more vulnerable to sun damage and sensitivity.
  • Aftersun is a must. Apply after a shower to dry or damp skin once chlorine, sunscreen, sweat, sea salt etc has been thoroughly washed off.
  • If you are a teenager or in your early 20s please don’t think that SPF is decades away. It really isn’t. Most sun damage occurs before your 21st birthday but it won’t show up for a while. Now is the time to start taking ownership for protecting your skin.
  • Don’t forget hands. When we protect our faces (and the rest of our bodies) we should be protecting our hands too. If pigmentation is already a concern, this may get darker when exposed to the sun. Slather SPF on them during the day and cover in a hand cream containing a proven ingredient that works on signs of ageing i.e. retinol, AHAs, to treat any damage that has already been done.

I really hope this has given an insight into the world of SPFs and shed some light on what is, sometimes, a confusing area of skin and body care.

 Let’s take a look at a selection of great Sun Protection products available at Perfumery & Company. They stock, among others, two excellent sun care ranges – Clarins and Lancaster.

Clarins Sun Care

Clarins have a comprehensive range of sun care. Here are a few that I have tested and they are all broad spectrum:

 

For the face

Clarins SPF50+ Very High Protection UVA & UVB Dry Touch Sun Care Cream for the Face

This gives the highest level of sun protection. It contains a complex of six plant extracts to work on signs of skin getting older i.e. fine lines and age spots/pigmentation and dehydration which can all be side effects of sun exposure. Clarins state this is a cream suitable for all skin types. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it for oily skin types because, even though it’s a dry touch cream, it seems too rich for oily skin and may sit uncomfortably on the surface. If applying makeup over the top I would suggest leaving a few minutes before doing so in order for the cream to sink in. This will then create a lovely base for foundation to sit on.

Clarins also have the above cream in a SPF30 High Protection UVA & UVB Dry Touch Sun Care Cream for the Face.  If your skin is naturally darker and doesn’t burn easily, this is another option to consider. But if in doubt opt for the factor 50+.

For the Body

Clarins SPF 50 High Protection UVA & UVB Sun Care Gel-to-Oil for Body

This can be applied to wet or dry skin. The gel to oil texture makes it easy to massage in. It’s  a great hydrating body product suitable for all skin types.  I would suggest applying to either dry or damp skin rather than wet skin as I don’t think it would massage in as easily. This body care product contains the six plant extracts to help prevent visible signs of ageing and dehydration.

Clarins Soothing After Sun Balm for Face and Body

Enriched with anti-oxidants to prolong your tan.

This is a light cream balm texture which is easily absorbed into the skin.  Great for all skin types.  Sunflower extract helps to soothe skin if it is sore from too much sun exposure. Aloe vera, watermelon and shea butter hydrate and soften the skin. It acts as a great body moisturiser for all skin types. If you have a tan that you are wanting to maintain this cream will prolong it with the help of safflower extract.

Lancaster Sun Care

Lancaster is synonymous with excellent sun care. Here are some that I tested and they are all broad spectrum:

For the face

Lancaster Sun Beauty Sublime Tan SPF30 High Protection UVA & UVB + Visible Light & Infrared Velvet Cream for face

All of the Lancaster products featured here have a patented Full Light technology which not only protects from UVA and UVB rays but also visible light and infrared light. Lancaster state that this cream is designed for medium to dark skins. I think this is because it is SPF30 rather than SPF50. It contains a special complex called Sunsicalm which soothes skin suffering from any sun sensitivity. The texture is light and easily absorbed which would provide a great base for make up for most skin types, except maybe very dry skin.

For the body

Lancaster Sun Sensitive SPF50 High Protection UVA & UVB + Visible Light & Infrared Oil Free Milk for body

Specifically formulated for sensitive skin that often turns red and feels uncomfortable. But it’s suitable for all skin types. The texture is a light weight oil free milk which leaves a silky matt finish to the skin once it’s dried.

 Lancaster Sun Sport SPF50 High Protection UVA & UVB + Visible Light & Infrared Cooling Invisible Mist

This has been specifically formulated to be applied to wet skin but isn’t designed for use on the face. Water and sweat resistant (no sunscreen is waterproof), this is a convenient product aimed at those who are very active.  I would say that it should still be applied frequently, especially after swimming and other activities. It is a cooling mist which dries quickly but it’s very important to apply it thoroughly. As it’s a mist, you can’t always see where it has been applied to the skin so ensure it is massaged in properly.

Lancaster Sun Beauty Sublime Tan SPF30 High Protection UVA & UVB + Visible Light & Infrared Velvet Milk for body

Lancaster suggest this is ideal for medium to dark skin, skin that tans gradually and sometimes burns.  Again, I think this is due to the fact that it is SPF 30 instead of SPF 50. A richer cream texture which is moisturising and hydrating. Perfect for any skin type including dryer skins.

Lancaster Golden Tan Maximizer After Sun Lotion

This is an after sun moisturiser for the face and body. It’s a light velvety lotion texture which hydrates and soothes the skin. If you have a tan that you would like to prolong this product will help to do this for up to one month. I assume that this is due to the fact that new skin cells production generally take around 28 days to replenish. Suitable for all skin types.

The guys at Perfumery and Company are on hand to personally advice you and answer any questions you may have. If you don’t live close enough to pop in, give them a call or check out their website.

But remember, don’t let any sun screen give you a false sense of security. Don’t stay out in the sun for prolonged periods even with sun cream on. They are designed for shorter periods. And anyway, who wants to look like a prune when we can look like a grape!

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