Sun Care Essentials for Aestheticians

Written by Dr. Craig Kraffert

One-on-one counseling during visits and treatment sessions can help clients avoid sun-related problems. Constructive and supportive messaging with sensitivity to each client’s overall sun and skin situation is essential. Today’s culture is trending towards embracing the natural tone of people’s skin, but, in some regions or social circles, the idea that tanning is attractive will be a factor for clients. Sun care guidance is most important for those with lighter, sun-fragile skin, while a gentle counseling approach may be particularly important for those who are already experiencing advanced sun damage.




Sun avoidance is a key sun care concept. Routine outdoor activities, including walking and jogging, can be planned early morning or late evening to minimize sun exposure. Shade-seeking behaviors are beneficial and worth discussion. In certain settings, moving just a few feet can eliminate direct sun exposure. Tanning booth exposure is harmful since it increases cancer risk and causes visible skin aging. The idea of protective ‘base’ tanning before a vacation or big event is similarly ineffective and harmful. Clients should understand that the risks of natural and booth tanning are similar.


Clothing habits are also a big factor. Hats with brims protect well with many fashionable options existing. Long sleeves provide full arm protection on long, sunny days and some remain cool even in hot weather. Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) clothing ensures a numeric SPF equivalent protection and are recommended. Nevertheless, while UPF clothing is trending, traditional wardrobe options often provide good protection and better value. Driving gloves can save the hands of frequent daytime commuters and professional drivers but may be overlooked by clients unless it is pointed out. Chest and neck skin is also quick to become sun damaged and current fashion trends often expose these areas. This leads to one of the most important sun care principles: skin that is not covered by clothing is skin that will benefit from sunscreen application.





Sunscreen protection is a core component of all sun care programs. Cosmetic companies increasingly offer makeup foundations and lip care with broad spectrum sun protection, but these products typically sacrifice water-resistance to maximize cosmetic elegance. Check the labels and counsel clients accordingly on re-application.


For sunscreen, broad spectrum, water-resistant product, SPF 50 or higher, are ideal. Both chemical and physical sunscreen ingredients are usable, but it is still worthwhile to check the specific active sunscreen ingredients. There is no solid scientific evidence of sunscreen ingredient toxicity, but oxybenzone and avobenzone may be slightly problematic and are not favored. Many people also do not realize that SPF labeling with numbers above 50 is discouraged by the FDA. Products labeled as SPF 70 or SPF 100 are not necessarily stronger or more reliable. These high SPF number products may contain avobenzone, a potentially unstable ingredient that is falling under increasing scrutiny.


Elegant, prestige sunscreen products are best for the face, neck, and hands. Less elegant and more cost-effective options are sensible for chest, arms, and legs. There are great variations in look, feel, and wear of sunscreens; it is important for skin care professionals to vet sunscreens carefully and stock what best appeals to their client demographic.




There is a growing role of supplements in skin care. While there are many oral products offering potential skin benefits, three ingredients are trending and noteworthy.


Vitamin D


When sun exposure is severely limited (likely the case for those practicing safe sun care via the above methods), the risk of vitamin D deficiency increases. Research shows strong correlation between vitamin D deficiency and poor health outcomes, including increased risk of cancer, mental decline, and immobility. Correlation and causation are different, but many believe that there is a cause and effect relationship between vitamin D levels and health outcomes. Intense research on this topic is ongoing.


Sun exposure is no longer required for healthy vitamin D levels. Sun care regimens incorporating strict sun avoidance should also consider daily vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D level testing can help guide supplementation, but it is generally considered safe to take up to 4,000 International Units of vitamin D3 daily to prevent deficiency.


Polypodium Leucotomos Extract



Polypodium leucotomos extract (PLE) comes from a tropical fern plant grown in Central and South America. Native Americans have used the plant extract for centuries to treat inflammatory disorders and skin diseases. PLE is available over-the-counter and works because of its strong antioxidant effects, its impact on cellular and immune system biology, and prevention of sun-induced skin cell DNA damage.




Inflammation of all types is damaging to the skin. By reducing internal inflammation, regular consumption of low dose aspirin (if approved by the clients’ health care provider first) can help reduce the toll of skin aging in the form of wrinkles and sagging skin, as well as blunt the inflammation of acne and rosacea. Aspirin also helps maintain skin vibrancy. It reduces sagging and wrinkling tendencies by limiting the collagen-degrading effects of inflammation. Increased levels of healthy collagen correspond to healthier and more functionally sound skin.


Skin care professionals are ideally situated to recommend sun care solutions from sunscreen to complete sun care product regimens. Valuable sun care product categories include sunscreen, retinol for rejuvenation, brightening products for irregular pigmentation, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory formulations to help defend against environmental aggressors. Client regimen suggestions should be based on individual skin and sun care needs matched to a palette of effective and enjoyable case-specific products.

Resources Headshot March 2018Dr. Craig Kraffert is a board-certified dermatologist and President of Amarte, the luxury skin care and spa brand fusing Eastern skin care innovation with modern Western dermatology. He also is the founder of and ReddingDerm, a five clinic dermatology practice in northern California and Oregon that specializes in both aesthetic and clinical dermatology.


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