Moving Forward

Every day we are exposed to so much new information on television and social media that our brain can hardly process it– news about the virus, vaccines, economy, borders, at-home sheltering, homeschooling – the list seems to continue endlessly, providing a foggy understanding of what’s to come. But, iIt’s not all bad news; – several websites are choosing to highlight perspectives of the good in this all, considering it the silver lining uncertain time.But, something that isn’t as popular in the mainstream media, though, is how the virus is specifically affecting the spa industry specifically

Grouped together with hair salons, nail spas, and medical offices, aestheticians have been considered non-essential businesses and have not received much aide from the government. Where does this leave us skin care professionalsas business owners, staffed employees, and solo aestheticians? How do we stay strong through the pandemic to ensure our business is sustained until we can go back to work? And what will the new normal look like once we can go back?

I reached out to a few of the leading educators in our industry and asked them to address the top questions like these and more things other coronavirus-spa related topics. Starting on page 00, you can learn effective tips on helping medical personnel clients take care of their skin, how to best communicate and stay in touch with clients during the shelter-at-home, what is appropriate skin care advice for clients to be doing at home, how to stay mentally healthy during the pandemic, and even how to immediately sustain and grow your business once spa doors reopen

As for me and my team, we are all working from home, tirelessly bringing you as much education as possible for you to absorb during your time off. Our sheltering at home will come to an end, and when it does, we want you to be as prepared as possible for the new normal. Stay safe!

How Platelet-Rich Plasma is Used for Cosmetic Enhancement and Injury Treatment

Platelet-rich plasmatreatments are the latest injectable-based procedures to be used as a sort of “catch-all” for a seemingly endless slew of aesthetic problems. The combined elements of celebrity endorsement, efficacy doubts, and an increasingly experimental industry have made platelet-rich plasma a hot topic this past year. This procedure has seen an ongoing rise of off-label usage, with some outstanding results, ranging from breast lifts to hair restoration, to vaginal rejuvenation, and more

Breakout Busters


A perfect ingredient for gentle exfoliation, pineapple is a natural anti-inflammatory, as it reduces redness and clears blemishes. Try Blemish Banisher Overnight Mask by DermAware Bio-Targeted Skin Care.

National Awareness Month








LED in skin care can provides major relief to all sorts of skin conditions. Blue LED, in particular, canprevent and kill acne-causing bacteria. Blue light penetrates deep into skin to treat cystic acne conditions. Try LightStim for Acne Handheld LED.











Benzoyl Peroxide

A superior acne-destroying agent, benzoyl peroxide helps control acne-causing bacteria by minimizing unwanted oils, dirt, and dead skin cells.Try Acne Wash by DMK- Danné Montague King.



Do Moisturizers with SPF Provide Adequate Protection?

Often, clients ask whether it best to apply a moisturizer first and follow with sunscreen or use a two-in-one product combining moisturizer with sun protection. The short answer is that it depends on the product’s formulation and quality. The first consideration is the choice of sunscreen because some are not safe to be used daily.


Chemical sunscreens such as avobenzone, benzophenone, benzophenone-3, oxybenzone, cylcopentasiloxane , cyclomethicone,homosalateaminobenzoic acid (PABA), trolamine salicylate, cinoxate,dioxybenzoneensulizolehomosalatemeradimateoctinoxateoctisalateoctocrylene, padimate, and sulisobenzone are not recommended, especially for daily use, because of varying degrees of toxicity, hormone disruption,carcinogenicity,and other health concerns. They are absorbed into the skin and into other organs and give a false sense of security to the consumer that has been conditioned to solely rely on the SPF number. In reality, chemical sunscreens absorb ultraviolet rays into the skin instead of reflecting them away as physical sunscreens do and this means they let some ultraviolet rays into skin cells. Those cells get damaged and may mutate into cancerous cells aging the skin prematurely. Furthermore, chemical sunscreens have an unpleasant and very recognizable smell and may cause skin and eye irritation, enlarged pores, and sometimes rashes. So, why are they popular? It is easier and cheaper for manufacturers to formulate chemical sunscreens compared to physical sunscreensThis is why most products on the market – mass market and professional products alike – are made with chemical-based sunscreens. 


Physical sunscreens work differently. They reflect the UVA and UVaway from the skinpreventing ultraviolet rays from reaching skin cells. They offer the most complete protection to the skin and skin cells. Physical sunscreenscontain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but be aware that there are significant differences of quality available to manufacturers; the lower quality products do not give a nice look and feel on the skin, tend to leave an ashy appearance, and may contain heavy metals because they are minerals extracted from the earth. The higher quality products are micronized, as to not leave an ashy or whitish film on the skin and are free of toxins and heavy metals and are safe for daily use, year-round. Furthermore, they donot cause skin or eye irritation. Nanoproducts are considered unhealthy as micronized and nanoparticles are totally different and there is more public awareness about the difference; howeversome suppliers still promote nanoproducts despite scientists’ concerns about their safety. Therefore, select products that use the highest quality micronized zinc and titanium dioxide for the best ultraviolet protection, prevention of premature aging, and overall look on the skin. 


Moisturizers fill several functions depending on how elaborate the formulation is and how many active ingredients work in synergy to deliver results to the skin. Moisturizing ingredients hold moisture in the skinThe best moisturizers include ingredients that improve skin conditions, bring antioxidant protection, and slow skin cell aging. Some also offer protection from pollution.


It is not advisable to use a two-in-one product made with chemical-based sunscreens, nor is it advisable to use a daily moisturizer that contains petrochemical ingredients because of their negative effects on the skin and health concerns (hormone disruption and cancer).


When applying a cream, whether it is a moisturizer, sunscreen, or two-in-one product, and if the product creates sweat, this indicates the product is made with ingredients that clog pores.Oil glands may become overactive and breakouts may worsen, so it is best to avoid those.


two-in-one moisturizer that includes high-quality zinc oxide or titanium dioxideand are solid options for sun protection. The SPF might be a 15 for daily routine, 30 if the client spends a little more time outside, and 50 water-resistant for sports,extended sun exposure, or swimming. But, there is more to a sunscreen than the SPF because the SPF only relates to the protection from UVB rays. The quality and concentration of the ingredients, as well as the talent in formulating the product, differentiate an average product from an outstanding one that will make skin look radiant and healthy for years.


In all, directing clients to use the correct sun protection for their skin type and needs will help eliminate skin damage, cancer, and hormonal disruption.

Sun Damage: Understanding sun care in relation to acne, aging, and cancer

After enduring the long gray cast of winter, there is no question that feeling the suns warm embrace on bare skin induces a therapeutic pleasure response. It makes sense scientifically, since the bodys ability to produce serotonin, also known as the happy hormone, is directly affected by sunlight. Lack of sunlight can actually lead to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder, in which patients individualsdisplay symptoms of depression associated with a drop in serotonin levels experienced during months with reduced sunlight.


However, despite the feelings of well-being sunlight exudes, indulging in it has a dark side. Exposure to ultraviolet rays accounts for a staggering 80% to 90% of the visible effects of aging. The sun emits two basic types of ultraviolet rays that reach skin: long-wave UVA and short-wave UVB. Both wavelengths create free radicals that impair cellular function, altering genetic material, and damaging the collagen and elastin fibers found within the skin. Accounting for 95% of the ultraviolet light that reaches skin, UVA rays penetrate far beyond the dermis, wreaking havoc on each layer of the skin, and is responsible for wrinkles and visible aging. UVA rays are also a major contributor to skin cancers. UVB rays are shorter waves, directly responsible for sunburns, which can lead to skin cancers later in life. When choosing a sun protection factor sunscreen, it is important to select a product that offers both UVA and UVB broad-spectrum coverage to ensure adequate protection.


When choosing a sunscreen, look for a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB formula with a sun protection factor of 30 or above. SPF (sun protection factor) denotes the amount of time skin is protected. Multiply the SPF by the amount of time it takes skin to burn without protection, and this will give the amount of time in minutes the sunscreen will protect skin. Keep in mind that a SPF of 30 blocks out 97% of UVB rays, so as the sun protection factor increases, the amount of increased protection is negligible. Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours or more often if sweating or swimming.


With so many formulations available to clients, there are sunscreen options for every skin type and preference. The key to selecting the right product is understanding how each works and which will better suit a client’s needs.

Chemical Sunscreen 

What differentiates physical from chemical sunscreens are the ingredients found in each and the way they offer protection. Chemical sunscreens are comprised of active ingredients which are non-natural, chemical compounds and work by absorbing the suns ultraviolet rays by way of a chemical reaction that transforms ultraviolet rays into heat. Ultraviolet rays are then forced to dissipate and the skin is protected. Since skin absorbs chemical sunscreens, trace amounts might seep into the bloodstream, presenting an opportunity for irritation, discomfort, or allergic reactions. After applying chemical sunscreens, wait at least 20 minutes before sun exposure to ensure maximum effectiveness.Common ingredients found in chemical sunscreens includeoxybenzone octisalateavobenzone octocrylene, and octinoxate homosalate.

Physical Sunscreens 

In contrast to chemical sunscreens which penetrate the skin, physical or mineral sunscreens work by providing a physical barrier between the suns rays and the skin. Physical sunscreens offer sun protection at the moment of application and are less likely to clog pores. Damaging ultraviolet rays are deflected and scattered away from the skin. The most common ingredients in physical sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, with zinc oxide offering slightly better coverage against UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide is also antimicrobial and noncomedogenic, making it ideal for acneic skin. Also noncomedogenic and gentle on the skin, titanium dioxide is a natural mineral used as a thickening, whitening, and lubricating agent in sunscreens and cosmetics. Titanium dioxide is a great choice for sensitive skin that is prone to redness; however,it is better suited for casual sun exposure since its ultraviolet absorption spectrum is not as broad as zinc oxide.


While dry skin will benefit from using a daily moisturizer that incorporates sunscreen, those with oily or combination skin should select light creams, fluids, or gels labeled noncomedogenic to avoid excess clogging of pores. Oil-free products provide a non-greasy finish without contributing excess shine to the complexion. Those with sensitive or sensitized skin should opt for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formulas to minimize the chance of irritation. Lightweight and long-wearing, chemical-free, mineral sunscreens are well-tolerated by sensitive skin types.


A common misconception touting the benefits of sunlight is the belief that basking in the sun will effectively remedy a bout of acne. While blemishes appear to diminish following sun exposure, the effect is as misleading as it is fleeting. In response to sunlight, the body dispatches melanin, which gives the skin its color, to absorb ultraviolet light and protect the skin from further damage. While this bronzing effect temporarilymasks redness associated with acne, the potential damage being caused by exposure to the suns rays far outweighs its short-lived benefits. The underlying causes of the acne breakouts should rather be addressed and paired with the appropriate treatment and sun protection to maintain a smooth, healthy complexion.


In fact, too much exposure to the suns rays can actually worsen acne by exacerbating dryness due to the overstimulation of the sebaceous glands. This leads to an excess of sebum production, referred to as seborrhea, and the formation of blemishes. Excessive drying of surface skin cells can cause them to harden, a response is known as keratinization. This process interferes with the skins natural shedding process, preventing the release of sebum out of the pores and resulting in the formation of comedones. Cumulative sun damage also leads to an inconsistency in the thicknessof various areas of the skin. This can result in the emergence of acne lesions as sebum and P.acnes bacteria combine with dead skin cells to clog pores due to the improper sloughing of these excess layers of skin. Not only does ultraviolet radiation cause an increase in inflammation and redness in the skin, the potential for discoloration(especially in clients suffering from acne marks,) is heightened. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a bothersome condition which can persist for months or even years.


It is especially important to be diligent with sun protection when using oral or topical acne medications, as certain active ingredients can heighten skin sensitivity to UVA and UVB rays. These medications can cause excessive drying of the sebaceous glands, depleting the skin’s natural moisture barrier and triggering a rapid rate of cell growth and exfoliation. This process leaves the skin exposed and more vulnerable to the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. Some of the more common ingredients used in the treatment of acne include glycolic acid, retinoids, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. Isotretinoin and doxycycline are more aggressive forms of acne management that have the propensity to cause rapid sunburn and should be taken with extreme caution and diligent sun protection.


A safe alternative for treating mild to moderate acne breakouts that is easy to use and backed by scientific research is phototherapy. The light emitted by these devices does not generate the same cancer-causing wavelengths as the suns rays. FDA-approved for acne, blue light therapy works by penetrating deep into the pores to kill the bacteria P.acnes on the skin. Red light can penetrate deep into the skin to activate hemoglobin, cutting off the blood supply of sebaceous glands, so the pores arenot able to secrete as much sebum. The best results can be seen when red and blue light are used together.


When used consistently, sun protection can help to prevent, slow down, or even reverse the signs of sun damage. It is important to avoid the peak hours of sun exposure between the hours of 10 P.M. when the suns rays are strongest. Opt for tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection. Be diligent about wearing sunscreen every day of the year, including cloudy days.


When choosing a sunscreen, look for a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB formula with a sun protection factor of 30 or above. Sun protection factor denotes the amount of time skin is protected. Multiply the sun protection factor by the amount of time it takes skin to burn without protection, and this will give the amount of time in minutes the sunscreen will protect skin. Keep in mind that a sun protection factor of 30 blocks out 97% of UVB rays, so as the sun protection factor increases, the amount of increased protection is negligible. Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every two hours or more often if sweating or swimming.


With so many formulations available to clients, there are sunscreen options for every skin type and preference. The key to selecting the right product is understanding how each works and which will better suit a client’s needs.

Chemical Sunscreen 

What differentiates physical from chemical sunscreens are the ingredients found in each and the manner in which they offer protection. Chemical sunscreens are comprised of active ingredients which are non-natural, chemical compounds, and work by absorbing the suns ultraviolet rays by way of a chemical reaction that transforms ultraviolet rays into heat. Ultraviolet rays are then forced to dissipate and the skin is protected. Since skin absorbs chemical sunscreens, trace amounts might seep into the bloodstream, presenting an opportunity for irritation, discomfort, or allergic reactions. After applying chemical sunscreens, wait at least 20 minutes before sun exposure to ensure maximum effectiveness.Common ingredients found in chemical sunscreens includeoxybenzone octisalateavobenzone octocrylene, andoctinoxate homosalate.

Physical Sunscreens 

In contrast to chemical sunscreens which penetrate the skin, physical or mineral sunscreens work by providing a physical barrier between the suns rays and the skin. Mineral sunscreens offer sun protection at the moment of application and are less likely to clog pores. Damaging ultraviolet rays are deflected and scattered away from the skin. The most common ingredients in mineral sunscreens are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, with zinc oxide offering slightly better coverage against UVA and UVB rays. Zinc oxide is also antimicrobial and non-comedogenic, making it ideal for acneic skin. Also, non-comedogenic and gentle on the skin, titanium dioxide is a natural mineral used as a thickening, whitening, and lubricating agent in sunscreens and cosmetics. Titanium dioxide is a great choice for sensitive skin that is prone to redness; however, it is better suited for casual sun exposure since its ultraviolet absorption spectrum is not as broad as zinc oxide.


While dry skin will benefit from using a daily moisturizer that incorporates sun protection factor, those with oily or combination skin should select light creams, fluids, or gels labeled non-comedogenic to avoid excess clogging of pores. Oil-free products provide a non-greasy finish without contributing excess shine to the complexion. Those with sensitive or sensitized skin should opt for fragrance-free, hypoallergenic formulas to minimize the chance of irritation. Lightweight and long-wearing, chemical-free, mineral sunscreens are well-tolerated by sensitive skin types.


While wearing sunscreen regularly will provide ample prevention from future injury to the skin from exposure to ultraviolet light, learning to identify and promptly treat present sun damage can turn back the hands of time and provide an opportunity to detect malformations of the skin that could possibly lead to skin cancerCommon signs of sun damage includeskin discoloration and hyperpigmentation,loss of elasticity and droopingbroken capillaries and spider veins,fine lines and wrinkles, and atypical moles, reddish-brown patchesand raised scaly growths. Other signs of sun damage can includethinner, more translucent skin,loose, sagging skin on the neck area resulting from a breakdown in collagen,broken capillaries,dry, rough, leathery skin,large freckles, age spots or liver spots,blotchy or ruddy complexion,and chronically chapped, dry lips due to sun exposureas lips are often overlooked when applying sun protection factor but are just as prone to sunburn.


Always consult a Dermatologist to diagnose, monitor, and rule out skin cancers.


There is a multitude of ways to treat the various signs of existing sun damage. Fine lines and wrinkles can be minimized by implementing a daily regimen of results-driven correctives and serums which contain age-fighting ingredients such as vitamin C, which work to repair existing damage and neutralize free radicals; prescription retinoids which stimulate collagen production; and alpha hydroxy acids for increased cellular turnover. For deep-set wrinkles, injectable fillers can provide an instant plumping and smoothing effect, while the injection of neurotoxins can be utilized to minimize the movement and depth of expression lines.


Age spots, discoloration, and hyperpigmentation can be addressed through the use of skin-lightening ingredients such as kojic acid, glycolic and lactic acids, arbutin, niacinamide, and azelaic acid, as well as stronger, prescription topicals such as hydroquinone and corticosteroids. A series of chemical peels which toremove the topmost layer of skin to reveal new, smoother skin is beneficial for a host of skin concerns. In order to prevent recurrent hyperpigmentation or discoloration triggered by this procedure, it is important to prime the skin using depigmenting agents, such as hydroquinone, beforehand. Laser and intense pulsed light therapies work by destroying melanocytes which thatproduce melanin without damaging the skins surface. For isolated spots, cryotherapy may prove beneficial at precisely lightening a specific small area. Intensive fractional resurfacing treatments can improve tone and texture by stimulating the growth of healthy new tissue by delivering microbeams of light into the lower layers of skin, which creates deep, narrow columns of tissue coagulation. This procedure is ideal for the face, neck, chest, and arms and is an excellent choice for correcting a multitude of sun damage, including fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, hyperpigmentation, and age spots.


When applying sunscreen, always be mindful to extend the application down the neck and across the décolleté. The skin on the neck is much more delicate and thinner than the skin on the face and has few oil-producing glands, making it more susceptible to visible aging. Over time and with continued exposure to the suns rays, the neck can develop irregular pigmentation, looseness, sagging, and broken capillaries. A combination of hydrating topicals, prescription retinoids, growth factors, and peptides are beneficial in the treatment of loose skin; however, more impressive results can be achieved through the use of non-invasive radio frequency, ultrasound, and intense pulsed light treatments to combat loose skin and stimulate collagen and elastin production.



While wearing sunscreen regularly will provide ample prevention from future injury to the skin from exposure to ultraviolet light, learning to identify and promptly treat present sun damage can turn back the hands of time and provide an opportunity to detect malformations of the skin that could possibly lead to skin cancerCommon signs of sun damage includeskin discoloration and hyperpigmentationloss of elasticity and droopingbroken capillaries and spider veinsfine lines and wrinkles; and atypical moles, reddish-brown patches, and raised, scaly growths. Other signs of sun damage can include thinner, more translucent skinloose, sagging skin on the neck area resulting from a breakdown in collagenbroken capillariesdry, rough, leathery skinlarge freckles, age spots or liver spotsblotchy or ruddy complexion; and chronically chapped, dry lips due to sun exposure, as lips are often overlooked when applying sunscreen but are just as prone to sunburn.


Always consult a dermatologist to diagnose, monitor, and rule out skin cancers.


The most alarming form of sun damage resulting from overexposure to sunlight are skin cancers. Skin cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells, which can result in tumors that may be malignant or benign. There are three types of skin cancers, and it is imperative that professionals familiarize themselves with the characteristics of each to be able to serve as the clients first line of defense in identifying possible cancers and precancerous lesions.


Basal cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that originates in the basal cells, which make up the outermost layer of the skin and are thought to be caused by long-term exposure to ultraviolet light. While commonly occurring on parts of the body exposed to the sun, basal cell carcinomas can develop anywhere. These can appear as a translucent, pearly white, or flesh-colored bump, often seen on the face and ears or as darker lesions with slightly raised, translucent borders. Basal cell carcinomas can also appear as flat and red scaly patches or white, waxy lesions with no clearly defined borders. Encouraging regular skin checks will ensure clients become familiar with their skin, so they will recognize any unusual or changing areas that require further examination.


Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of skin cancer, often resulting from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or commercial tanning beds. This type of slow-growing cancer develops in the squamous cells that comprise the middle and outer layers of the skin and, if left untreated, can spread to the tissue, lymph nodes, and bones. A red, scaly sore or scab that does not heal in a reasonable amount of time or an unusual flat patch of rough skin should be examined by a physician to rule out the possibility of skin cancer. 


Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, develops when DNA damage from sun exposure to skin cells triggers mutations, leading to rapid multiplication of skin cells that form malignant tumors. Melanoma can occur on any part of the body, developing from exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight, tanning lamps, or even resulting from intense sun exposure or sunburns occurring in early childhood. Early detection is vital in preventing the spread of this aggressive cancer.


While there is a solution or modality to remedy every form of sun damage, the best prescription is sun prevention. Implementation of a results-driven skin care regimen that addresses skin concerns should be complemented with a daily, broad-spectrum coverage sunscreen to not only protect the skin,but prevent the introduction of future damage or compounding current sun damage. There is little room needed for evidence substantiating the suns detrimental effects on the health of the skin. Help clients aim for consistency in making sun protection a daily affair andremind them to schedule an annual checkup with a professional to note and monitor changes in the skin since early detection could be monumental.



Suzanne Whigham 2019




A graduate of Aveda Institute of Lafayette, Suzanne Whigham has served as a licensed aesthetician for nine years with extensive training in various treatment modalities and techniques. She especially enjoys educating others through in-depth consultation, encouraging a whole mind-body approach to skin care. 

HEV Light: The truth about blue light’s impact on skin

Sun exposure – it is an obsession with aestheticians.From the time professionals first become enamored with the epidermis, weare tuned into the detrimental effects of ultraviolet radiation.  It is those pesky invisible rays that cannot be seen but professionals know are there damaging DNA, increasing oxidation, and inciting melanocyte mayhem. The outcome is premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and cancer.  


Since individuals are exposed to these unviewable ultraviolet rays outdoors, many take solace in the dimly lit indoors where they feel protected from their harmful effects. But what about technology?From computers, smartphones, and tablets to LED lightbulbs,individuals must tango with another form of disruptive illumination – high energy visible (HEV) light.  


According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report for 2018, American adults spent over nine hours per day in front of a digital device– that is a lot of face to screen time with devices emitting high energy rays that are wreaking havoc on the epidermis.


Unlike ultraviolet, these rays are not only visible, but they invade the interior of individuals’ homes, offices, cars, and even darkly lit bedroom chambers. They are often referred to as blue light because these rays are seen as blue in color and give the sky its signature hue. However, high energy visible rays may be present even when light is perceived as white or another color. When exposed to some blue light during the day, it helps to stimulate alertness, elevate mood, and regulate the body’s own sleep-wake cycle. But too muchhigh energy visible light can damage tissue and keep individuals awake at night,so a fine balance of blue is the ideal.


Whenever individuals step outside, they are exposing themselves to a myriad of types of light. And, even when inside, whenever using a laptop, e-reader, or phone, individuals can expose them to high energy visible light. So, what causes the difference between all of these light forms and what effect do they have on the largest and most protective organ? To find the answers, consider how the sun’s radiation is classified by checking out the electromagnetic spectrum.



The electromagnetic spectrum is how scientists break down the energy being emitted from the sun. The spectrum of visible light (what the human eye can see) is made up of the colors of the rainbow. Invisible light includes UVA and UVB and, although unseen, it is still capable of damaging skin. This spectrum consists of many different wavelengths of rays. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the amount of energy the wave carries. And conversely, the longer the wavelength, the less energy. Some examples of invisible, very long wavelength waves are radio, microwave, and infrared rays. Gamma, x-rays, and ultraviolet radiation are also invisible and have very short wavelengths, packing a powerful punch of destructive energy. UVA radiation penetrates deep into the dermis. Unprotected exposure can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging),and as well assuppression of the immune system. This explains why herpes may flare after catching some excessive solar rays, such as at the beach or in a tropical locale. UVB rays usually burn the superficial layers of skin. They also play a key role in the development of skin cancer. UVA and UVB are both bad, so broad-spectrum sunscreens are used to protect the skin from their injurious effects. Visible light hovers in the middle with a rainbow of colors. If infrared could be seen, it would be just beyond the red band and ultraviolet would be just beyond the violet. So, where is high energy visibleor blue light in all of this? They are the last beams of color that humans can see right before the wavelengths are short enough that the rays become invisible and transform into UVA. Scientists disagree about the exact boundary between high energy visible and UVA, further supporting the fact that these waves have some similarities.  


To determine how much skin damage blue light can do, a study was conducted to measure the generation of excess free radicals – mainly in the form of reactive oxygen species – in the skin after exposure. High levels of reactive oxygen species can induce skin pigmentation, increase skin erythema and inflammation, and may even lead to cancer.1, 2, 3. It has been known to induce psoriasis, acne, and vitiligo.4,5.Then, there is also the activation of photoaging that includes lower collagen production leading to thin, dehydrated skin and presents as wrinkling and roughness. The scientists conducting the blue light study were surprised to discover that half of the free radicals generated in the skin were caused by visible forms of light.6.


To discover if genes are affected by exposure to high energy visible light, Lipo Chemicals studied human cells after being exposed to six hours of light and. They found that 90 genes were altered by blue light exposure, 40 of which affected skin regulation. These genes were involved with various processes such as inflammation, healing, barrier repair, melanogenesis, and pigmentation production. The results support the variety of previously described effects of high energy visible light on skin and increases the understanding of what is believed to be the detrimental impact that leads to accelerated skin aging.



So, what are the sources of high energy visible light?Outside, approximately 25% to 30% of sunlight consists of blue light rays. Inside, primary sources include residential and commercial lighting, computer screens, tablet, pad, and e-reader screensand smartphone screens.


LED, compact fluorescent, halogen, and incandescent light bulbs and fluorescent tubes lighting the inside of homes and offices all contribute, with LED bulbs emitting the most rays.  The amount of high energy visible emitted by electronic devices may be relatively small, but users are positioned close to the source and look directly at it for hours at a time, which may increase eye risk in particular. But,But it is still important to keep things in perspective  a person spending a short amount of time outside will have much greater exposure than spending hours inside in front of screens. The following table compares exposure levels from various sources including the biggest contributor: –natural sunlight.



Light Source

HEV Power Output (µW/cm2)

Exposure Time Required to Equal 15 Minutes in Full Sun


1000 through 1500

15 minutes

LED lighting



Compact fluorescent lighting


10 hours



10 hours

Computer screen


13 hours

Incandescent lighting


38 hours


Light SourceHEV Power Output (µW/cm2)Exposure Time Required to Equal 15 Minutes in Full Sun


Sunlight1000 through 150015 Minutes


LED Lighting2701 Hour


Compact Fluorescent Lighting3810 Hours


Smart Phone3610 Hours


Computer Screen3013 Hours


Incandescent Lighting1038 Hours


Power values measured by BlueSpec light meter; 425 nanometers through 465nanometers. Light source distances (approximately): LED, CFL, and incandescent lights (three to six feet);, computer screens (24 inches),; phone (12 inches).



There are two ways to save skin from the deleterious effects of excess high energy visible light: block it so it does not penetrate skin and orcounter the effects of reactive oxygen species through the use of quenching compounds.

Block High Energy Visible Light  

A little blue light goes a long way,and a great way to reduce overexposure is by stopping it from hitting the skin. Of course, limiting time outdoors, in front of screens, and in certain types of lighting is critical. But, when it is time to venture out or when putting in 10-hour days at a desk job, consider the following. 


Sunscreen:Individuals are already familiar with the use of sunscreen to block the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation on skin. Although effective against ultraviolet rays, sunscreens are not designed to specifically block visible light. Broad-spectrum lotions that contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide do provide some blockage and are recommended for daily use. Look for ones that also contain other blue light eradicating agents such as melanin and antioxidants.


Fractionated Melanin: This photoprotective pigment is not only found in skin but also in other animals and plants and absorbs all wavelengths of light. Melanocytes make melanin, which gives skin its color – and is the first line of defense against the damaging effects of light. Unfortunately, melanin in its native state in skin does a poor job of protecting against blue light. But, fractionated melanin produced from corn was specifically designed to absorb high energy visible light. It is also a big molecule and will not penetrate skin, therefore staying on top to protect.


A spin on this ingredient, liposhield high energy visiblemelanin, was invented by Vantage Specialty Chemicals and is a patent-pending compound that acts as an umbrella against blue light. Changes in gene expression due to high energy visible light exposure were blocked in 39 of the 40 genes related to skin function. Look for this novel ingredient showing up in skin and hair care products targeted for protection against blue light.


Topical Lutein: This is another hero ingredient used to protect tissue. FloraGlo Lutein Topical was invented by researchers at Kemin. When tested in-vitro using living cells, cell viability was improved by 35% to 45% after the cells were exposed to blue light compared to the control group, indicating that FloraGlo Lutein Topical effectively reduces the cell damage imposed by blue light. Also, results showed less reactive oxygen species generation in skin cells treated with FloraGlo Lutein Topical and exposed to blue light. FloraGlo Lutein Topical was able to reduce reactive oxygen species release in human epidermal keratinocyte cells by 44% to 60% and by 53% to58% in human dermal fibroblast cells when compared to the control (100%).


Protective Clothing: Wide brim hats, wraparound sunglasses with anultraviolet rating, and clothing made from materials that have an SPF rating help keep blue rays at bay. Computer glasses made with yellow-tinted lenses block the blue and help protect eyes from harm and stress brought on by most modern-day monitors.


Apps and Glare Screens: There is a rise in the development of apps, software, and glare screens that help filter blue light. The apps and software can adjust the temperature of a screen to a reddish-orange hue. There is also a night mode on many devices. Investment in glare screens for computers and handheld devices can help halt high energy visible light. Both promise to reduce the stimulation produced by blue light and also help to get more restful sleep.

Quench High Energy Visible Light 

Reactive oxygen species are highly volatile chemicals that can create damage within cells. They are generated by excessive blue light exposure, but their destructive reactivity can be quenched by the presence of antioxidants. Unless one lives under a rock, being exposed to high energy visible light and its possible cascade of calamitous cellular events is inevitable.Therefore, incorporating antioxidants into one’s lifestyle and skin care choices is critical to maintaining healthy and gorgeous skin.


Antioxidants: As much as individuals attempt to limit the amount of light on their skin, exposure is still unavoidable and free radicals happen. The best defense against the reactive oxygen species that develop from blue light is to drench one’s system, both internally and externally, in order to quench these malicious molecules. Although there are hundreds to choose from, the following can be both consumed and used topically to reduce the photoaging effects of overexposure. 


  • Tocopherol (Vitamin E):This classic, fat-soluble vitamin can be found in sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, and their oils. Squash, kiwi, and trout are also rich with E and topically it prevents skin aging and inflammation.7
  • Epigallocatechin Gallate:This polyphenol that is abundant in green tea helps to counteract many of the negative effects of rogue reactive oxygen species.7,8 Drink it and wear it for optimal results.
  • Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)Excessive exposure to light decreases the amount of vitamin C, particularly in the epidermis where it is needed to attack light-induced reactive oxygen species.7,9 Reduction of the stratum corneum by exfoliation and products prepared with a pH below 4 help the transport of ascorbic acid into tissue.10Oral supplementation and foods abundant in C, such as rose hips and chili peppers, increase quenching, and help to maintain healthy cells.


Algae Extract: Scenedesmus rubescens, red algae, is known for its unique self-defense capabilities. Living in freshwater lakes, it developed a unique set of active components against external stressors such as heat, drought, and exposure to blue light and ultraviolet light. Extended testing of scenedesmus rubescens confirmed its unique holistic effect against skin damage caused by blue light. This mighty microscopic algae produces a unique mixture of amino acids, vitamins including B3, and minerals. Some of the more interesting compounds produced are algal polysaccharides. These are carbohydrates with bioactive properties including anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antimutagenic, and immunomodulatory (meaning they can enhance the immune response).11


A study was conducted on the effects of extracts from scenedesmus rubescens to assess its potential to protect skin from photoaging. Human dermal fibroblast cells were analyzed for the presence of photoaging markers when exposed to irradiation. The cells that were treated with the extract of this red algae had an increased survival rate of over 200% when compared to the untreated cells. Total collagen production increased by 34% and, specifically, collagen III increased by 29%. But wait – there is more. Tyrosinase activity (which can lead to hyperpigmentation) was inhibited by over 70% and cell sunburn formation (when exposed to UVB) was decreased by 37%, outperforming a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 50.12Overall, this unique algae extract has promising properties worthy of including in a daily skin care routine.


If professionals and clients are serious about strategizing against the deleterious effects of light, protection against UVA and UVB is not enough. It is time to get onboard with the necessary practices and products to reduce photoaging due to overexposure tohigh energy visible light, both from outdoor sun and indoor modern technological devices. Get out of the blue and into healthy skin.


  1. Xu H, Zheng YW, Liu Q, Liu LP, Lup, FL, Zhou HC,Isoda H, Ohkohchi N, Li YM. Reactive oxygen species in repair, regeneration, aging and inflammation. 2017. DOI:10.5772/intechopen.72747.
  2. Pelle E,Mammone T, Maes D, Frenkel K. Keratinocytes act as a source of reactive oxygen species by transferring hydrogen peroxide to melanocytes. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2005;124:793-797.
  3. Rhodes LE, Gledhill K,Masoodi M, Haylett AK, Brownrigg M, Thody AJ, et al. The sunburn response in human skin is characterized by sequential eicosanoid profiles that may mediate its early and late phases. FASEB Journal. 2009;3947-39566. 
  4. Briganti S, Picardo M. Antioxidant activity, lipid peroxidation and skin diseases. What’s new. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2003:17:663-669.
  5. Liu L, Li C, Gao J, Li K, Zhang R, Wang G, et al. Promoter variant in the catalase gene associated with vitiligo in Chinese people. Journal of Investigative Dermatology.2010;130:2647-2653. 
  6. L Zastrow, N Groth, F Klein, D Kockott, JLademann, and L Ferrero. Detection and identifi¬cation of free radicals generated by UV and visible light in Ex Vivo human skin. IFSCC Magazine. 11(3), 297–315 (2008).
  7. Masaki H. Role of antioxidants in the skin: Anti-aging effects. Journal of Dermatological Science.2010;58:85-90.
  8. Kim E, Hwang K, Lee J, Han SY, Kim EM, Park J, Cho JY. Skin protective effect of epigallocatechin gallate. International Journal of Molecular Science. 2018;19(1):173.
  9. Shindo Y, Witt E, Packer L. Antioxidant defense mechanisms in murine epidermis and dermis and their responses to ultraviolet light. J Invest Dermatol.1993;100:260-265.
  10. Lee WR, Shen SC,Kuo-Hsien W, Hu CH, Fang JY. Lasers and microdermabrasion enhance and control topical delivery of vitamin C. J Invest Dermatol. 2003;121:1118-1125.
  11. Misurcova, Ladislava, Orsavova, Jana,Ambrožová, Jarmila. Algal polysaccharides and health. 2015. 109-144. 10.1007/978-3-319-16298-0_24.
  12. Campiche R, Sandau P, Kurth E, Massironi M, Imfeld D, Schuetz R. Protective effects of an extract of the freshwater microalga Scenedesmusrubescens on UV‐irradiated skin cells. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2018.


Tanis Rhines




Tanis Rhines is a cellular and molecular scientist turned aesthetician revealing the truth about all things aesthetics. She is the co-founder of Ask the Estheticians and a prolific writer, tackling topics as a biotechnologist, breaking down the data, and revealing its application to skin care often in a humorous but always in an honest way. Rhines is known as the “Organic Beauty Scientist” and is passionate about busting myths and educating people to be brainy about their beauty. 

Sun Protection: A look at sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, and other sun safety measures

The body’s response to overexposure of the sun is a tan. It is an inflammatory immune response. The skin, being the largest organ and in charge of protecting the body, sends the body’s available melanin supply to try to further protect it from continuous breakdown from the sun.


Any time the skin is injured or stimulated, it releases protectors such as collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid to cause the body to protect and heal itself. Melanin is another protectant that can be stimulated to protect the skin. The more melanin available in an individual’s genetic background, the more their body can produce to protect the skin. Have you ever wondered why some skin tones produce a dark bronze and other skin tones become splotched with freckles? This is the result of more melanin in the body. In both cases, the skin is trying to protect itself, but the skin that has the most melanin can bring melanin up in an umbrella effect.


The amount of pigmentation in skin directly relates to the UVB levels to which past ancestors were exposed. The current understanding of evolution places the first appearance of Homo sapiens in Africa, one of the continents with the highest concentration of UVB-rich sunlight due to its proximity to the equator. To reap the benefits of UVB without irradiating, evolution developed extra melanin in skin. This darker pigment served as a natural sunscreen (approximately a sun protectant factor of four through six), absorbing the brunt of UVB while allowing a small amount in for the health benefits. This system worked great until humans began migrating from Africa to places in the world with less light.


Due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis, sunlight filters through more of the atmosphere the further away a location is from the equator, which reduces the amount of UVB that makes it through. Thus, people who settled in northern areas had difficulty absorbing UVB. Over time, paler complexions developed to allow more vitamin D production. Such evolution produced the rainbow of human skin tones seen today.


With the Industrial Revolution came various technological advancements in transportation, such as airplanes, someone from Ohio with a Fitzpatrick II could now rapidly migrate to regions with plenty of sunshine like Mexico or Africa. However, their skin would not have time to adapt or evolve to these new sunny environments, and excessive sun exposure led to burning, aging, and more severe health conditions like skin cancer. This eventually prompted the creation of sunscreens and led some people to avoid the sun altogether.


The Fitzpatrick scale measures the body’s ability to handle sun exposure. Theoretically, the lighter the skin is the less exposure the skin can handle, and the darker skin is the more exposure it can handle.


Sun exposure causes free radicals to form. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that steal from other paired cell structures and DNA and when DNA is altered this is how cancer is formed. Overexposure to the sun is the number one cause of cancer, but it is not just true that individuals only need it for a sunny day or an all-day softball event; it is cumulative sun damage that affects the skin most, so while one day out at the beach or one burn might seem harmless, ultimately those habits over time will affect the skin negatively. An unprotected day of snowboarding can burn and further break down the skin, just like an unprotected day of sunbathing at the beach can, too. Sun protection while bathing in the sun is imperative, no matter the weather or Fitzpatrick classification.


The sun projects light in a spectrum and, with the thinning of the ozone layer, more rays reach earth. UVA rays are known to cause damage to DNA and the dermal structure of skin, attribute to melanomas and other cancers and aging, and can penetrate through glass. UVB are shorter rays known to penetrate for burning the skin.



When the skin is damaged by the sun, this causes an inflammatory response – this is what a tan is. Clients think it is glorious, but they have just triggered a chain of events that will break down the skin. The free radical damage leads to the body releasing main extracellular matrix – self-destruct enzymes that break down collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. Consistent destruction of protectors leads to premature aging. You may not notice it today because it is the cumulative effect that cause the overall damage.


Keep in mind that clients should protect themselves from overexposure to the sun’s rays by wearing sunscreen on all areas that can be exposed to the sun. UVA rays can penetrate through glass and it is a good practice to apply sunscreen to all areas that are exposed, even when driving in the car or eating in front of a glass patio door. The rays emitted from a tanning bed are UVA rays, as well.



Active ingredients in sunscreen work by reflecting or absorbing and neutralizing the ultraviolet rays from the skin. Sunscreens that perform the job of reflecting are known as physical sunscreens. Sunscreens that absorb or filter through the sun rays are known as chemical sunscreens.


Heat reflecting sunscreen ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and work by refracting or scattering the sun’s rays away from the skin. When using a physical sunscreen, a client can go in the sun right away because these refracting sun protectors protect from both UVA and UVB rays of the light spectrum immediately. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are also known to be safe for the environment.


Chemical sunscreens include ingredients like octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, ecamsule (Mexoryl), homosalate, padimate A, and padimate O. These ingredients release energy by absorbing ultraviolet light. Think of a screen door on a house; the screen door is filtering the light and, often, it may be hard to tell if the front door is open or closed because the screen door is filtering so much light out. When chemical sunscreens are used on the skin, the chemical is absorbing the light and dispersing it as heat in the body.


These sunscreens should be put on 20 to 30 minutes before entering the sun. Clients with sensitive skin conditions, such as rosacea or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, should use physical and heat-reflecting sunscreens, as chemical sunscreens will activate the sensitivity or inflammation.



SPF stands for sun protection factor, which determines how long the user can remain in the sun without burning. An SPF of 15 means the skin can remain in the sun 15 times longer than it normally could without getting a sunburn; however, there are several variables such as sweating, swimming, and reapplication time, as well as the correct amount of sunscreen applied. Higher SPFs filter slightly more ultraviolet light, but the difference is minuscule, as the difference between an SPF of 15 and SPF 30 is a difference of approximately 4%. A sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 should be chosen for daily use. Keep in mind to reapply while bathing in the sun, sweating, and swimming. Water-resistant sunscreen will break down and wash off after approximately 40 to 80 minutes in the sun without reapplication.


The correct amount of sunscreen is one ounce for the entire body. A two-ounce bottle would be two applications; a 16-ounce bottle is 16 applications. Apply enough sunscreen to the body to fill a shot glass. Most people do not use enough sunscreen and, as a result, they may be getting only half the protection shown on the bottle. It is also important to completely apply the sun protectant factor to the entire body, not just to places seen in the mirror. Places like the hairline, around the mouth, the ears, nape of neck, back of arms, legs, and the bottom are often overlooked.


An SPF of 15 applied to the face in an SPF moisturizing product and an SPF of four foundation makeup product applied to the face will not render a total SPF of 19. The sun protection factor will be an SPF of 15.


Sunscreens are regulated over-the-counter drugs that come with an expiration date. It is important to keep sunscreens in a cool place, wrapping it in a towel, keeping it in an ice cooler, or another cool place when visiting the beach.



Sunscreens protect users not from browning completely, but they protect from the harmful rays that come from baking in the sun. If a client wears full sun protection, they will still get a great tan. In fact, they will have a better tan – they just will not expose themselves to all the harmful rays of the sun.


Although there is no safe way to tan without protection, sunless tanning or spray tanning can give the skin the desired bronzing without the inflammation and breakdown of the skin. However, the skin is more suspectable to burning after a spray tan. The skin, although looking physically tanned, still does not have a longer sun protection factor just because it looks darker. Sunscreen should still be applied.



Choose sun-screened garments, long-sleeved clothing, and brimmed hats that have an SPF additive. There are companies that make an SPF additive that can be added to the wash and protects clothing for up to 20 washes.


Choosing clothing that has been designed for sun protection and tested to confirm its ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) will give a client greater control over their overall level of ultraviolet exposure.


Always look for a garment’s laboratory tested ultraviolet protectant factor rating (if it is available) to evaluate its true ultraviolet protection level. Ultraviolet protectant factor-rated clothing enhances everyone’s protection against ultraviolet-related health risks, but it is especially helpful for:

  • people with fair skin that burns easily
  • children, who have thinner, more sensitive skin
  • people at high elevations, in equatorial regions, on snow, or water (sun intensity is greater in each of these environments)
  • those with sun sensitivities increased by drugs, including acne treatments, antihistamines, antibiotics, certain anti-inflammatories, herbal supplements, vitamin C, tyrosine inhibiting supplements, or drugs such as hydroquinone


Ultraviolet protectant factor is the rating system used for apparel. It is like sun protection factor, the rating system used for sunscreen products. SPF pertains only to a sunscreen’s effectiveness against UVB rays, considered to be the more damaging type of light. Ultraviolet protectant factor gauges a fabric’s effectiveness against both UVA and UVB light.


Wearing ultraviolet protective clothing and these other precautions gives clients tools to keep their skin healthier. Be smart about the sun and it will be easier to soak up the fun when outdoors.


Darker Fitzpatrick types who rarely show signs of burning can still develop skin cancer, so they, too, will benefit by being proactive about sun protection.



Antioxidants are known to be helpful in inhibiting free radicals and inflammation due to sun exposure. Have clients use antioxidants like vitamins C and E in the morning before applying sunscreen to protect from the damaging rays that get past sunscreen. Sunscreen alone is not enough to protect clients from sun damage. A study in 2006, by Haywood, found that sunscreens only block 55% of the free radicals caused by sun exposure. For skin to be well protected from sun and pollution, clients should use topical antioxidants and daily sunscreen. While there is no one product that can protect clients completely from the sun’s rays, studies show that antioxidants like vitamins C and E help. Apply them before and after serious sun exposure to get the best result.


When applied together, vitamins C and E act as a natural form of sun protection. Together, they have greater effectiveness than either vitamin does alone. Therefore, even if some of the vitamin C in a product is degraded or oxidized, the remainder works better in the presence of vitamin E. Combined, they provide four times more protection against free radicals. Wrinkles are reduced and skin stays healthy and beautiful.


A single, strong blast of ultraviolet light can destroy half the skin’s natural supply of vitamin E, so apply a sunscreen supplemented with vitamins C and E before going into the sun. Some studies show that the anti-inflammatory action kicks in to reduce damage even after one has been in the sun.


When skin is damaged by the sun’s rays, the body produces free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that have an uneven number of electrons. The uneven number is what makes them unstable. To become stable, the atoms steal electrons from other stable atoms. When this happens, it can cause permanent damage to skin. A professional will start to see premature signs of aging like wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, fight aging by destroying the free radicals that destroy the collagen supply. They work by donating an electron to the unstable atom to make it stable and neutralize free radical damage.


Vitamin C

Look for products containing vitamin C, listed as L-ascorbic acid, as this is the best form of vitamin C for skin in combination with vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol or tocopherol acetate).


Vitamin C is one of the few topical ingredients that has clinical studies to back its effectiveness. Taking vitamin C as a supplement in food can make sunscreens more effective. It works by decreasing cell damage and aiding in the healing process. The body needs vitamin C to produce fibroblasts, as they are required for collagen production and to heal damaged skin. Ways to take in vitamin C include eating foods rich in vitamin C, taking vitamin C supplements, and using skin care products that take vitamin C directly to the skin.


L-ascorbic acid is the most effective form of vitamin C in skin care products. There are many products on the market today that have vitamin C or one of its derivatives as an ingredient (for example, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl palmitate), but L-ascorbic acid is the most effective useful form of vitamin C in skin care.


Vitamin C should be near the middle of the ingredients list and have a 5% or higher concentration to get the biggest benefit. Clients should look for skin care products with vitamin C in opaque, airtight containers that are made to keep vitamin C stable.


Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin found naturally in many foods. Like vitamin C, it is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage. When the body absorbs vitamin E, the antioxidants work on all cells to prevent the damage that free radicals cause. Eating a diet high in vitamin E is just one way to protect one’s self from free radicals. When it is applied to skin, it works directly on skin cells, neutralizing free radicals in skin and preventing signs of aging.


Vitamin E protects against ultraviolet radiation and free radicals that have contact with skin. There are not many studies of vitamin E on humans, but studies on rodents have shown that vitamin E may reduce the risk of skin cancer caused by sun damage. Studies also show that when it is used before sun exposure, skin is less red, swollen, and dry. As an oil, vitamin E can help improve skin hydration. It may even have some anti-inflammatory effects. The best way to get vitamin E is through food. Multivitamins and vitamin E supplements are also a good source of vitamin E.


Skin care products with vitamin E include vitamin E creams that will help minimize skin’s roughness, wrinkles, and facial lines. It will also help skin to retain its natural moisturizers. Like vitamin C, vitamin E’s main function in skin care is to protect against sun damage. There are vitamin E sunscreens, after-sun products, creams, lotions, and serums.


Skin care products that contain both vitamins C and E are more effective than those that contain only one of these vitamins. On the other hand, deficiencies in either of these vitamins increase the risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Combine vitamins C and E to a client’s sun protection routine for the best sun protection.



Allowing skin to burn sends the skin into the inflammation cascade. Recommend that clients wear a daily broad-spectrum SPF that should be reapplied throughout the day. Adding antioxidants into a sun care routine will help to eliminate sun damage, as well as aid in healing from sun damage when added in after-suncare routines.



Cynthia Malcom 2019




Internationally certified CIDESCO diplomat Cynthia Malcom Taylor is the founder of Edgar Renee Aesthetic Education and Consulting Group as well as other beauty-based companies. Malcom Taylor has gathered all the knowledge that she has learned behind the treatment table within the last 20 plus years in the beauty industry alongside of advanced training. She has placed that knowledge in a bottle to heal, treat the skin, and assist aestheticians in obtaining the best results in skin care treatments. She continues to offer expert advice, while working as a guide in the field of aesthetics to help to strengthen professionals in the aesthetic industry. Her goal is to create a stronger more knowledgeable aesthetic professional as a standard.

Sun Sensitivity: Identifying, Avoiding, and Treating Photosensitivities in Clients

Have you ever had a client say they went in the sun for just a minute or two and all of a sudden had a sunburn? Having an unexpected sunburn is a classic sign of a photosensitivity reaction. Photosensitivity, or sun sensitivity, is inflammation of the skin induced by the combination of sunlight and, sometimes, certain medications or substances.Have you ever had a client say they went in the sun for just a minute or two and all of a sudden had a sunburn? Having an unexpected sunburn is a classic sign of a photosensitivity reaction. Photosensitivity, or sun sensitivity, is inflammation of the skin induced by the combination of sunlight and, sometimes, certain medications or substances.


There are a few different types of photosensitivity. Solar urticaria develops large, very itchy hives or red welts after only a few minutes of sun exposure. Depending on the individualperson, the hives could last a few minutes or a few hours. And, if the sun exposure is great enough, it can have systemic effects and cause headaches, nausea, weakness, dizziness, and respiratory issues like wheezing. Furthermore, if people an individual isare prone to this skin condition, they may have it for many years or, sometimes, their entire lifves. Solar urticaria photosensitivity does not involve external chemicals – just the body’s own immune system reaction to ultraviolet exposure.Polymorphous light eruption is the most common type of photosensitivity and it shows up as tiny, red dots about 30 minutes after being in the sun. It differs from solar urticaria in that the individual person having the reaction typically gets it less and less the more often they are in the sun. They build up more of an immunity to the reaction also referred to as hardening. Chemical- induced photosensitivity happens after a drug or chemical agent combines with ultraviolet radiation to cause a photo-toxic or allergic reaction. Photo-toxicity occurs after a person has taken an oral medication or applied a chemical to their skin. This inflammatory reaction causes the skin to turn red, which looks like a sunburn. Sometimes, this type of skin reaction can even turn brown, blue, or grey. Photo-allergy is a photosensitivity reaction that happens after chemicals on the skin (, like sunscreens, aftershaves, and other ingredients, like sulfonamides,) react with the sun. Again, a sunburn-like reaction may occur but this time with a stinging or burning sensation, rash, itching, dryness, swelling, and even blisters. The first time a client learns that sunscreens could cause a photosensitivity reaction, they maybe shocked because sunscreen is obviously made to protect skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. However, not all sunscreens are made the same. Some sunscreens are made in a laboratory and tested under lights that are not true to real life conditions, including ultraviolet ray, heat, and sweat. This is why it is imperative to choose a sunscreen that is not expired and is created by a reputable company. Some may even have a label that says Skin Cancer Foundation Approved, which means it has undergone additional testing. This does not mean that sunscreens without this approval are not good or effective; , as because it can be a very time consuming and costly process, especially for a startup or smaller boutique skin care company.


Being able to identify when a client is having a photosensitivity reaction is important, but more important is being able to prevent them. Some of the most common causes of photosensitivity reactions seen in the skin care industry are caused by topical products, topical and oral medications, and corrective treatments. Clients should always be referred to their physician if they have flu-like symptoms, including fever with chills, nausea, headache, and weakness. 


Topical products that cause photosensitivity include common acne ingredients like retinol, benzoyl peroxide, and glycolic and salicylic acids. Both alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin, removing the natural protective barrier and making the skin more sensitive to sunlight. They can be found in cleansers, spot treatments, chemical peels, and even corrective hydrators. Benzoyl peroxide, while mainly killing bacteria, can also remove theat top layer of skin, making a client more prone to a sunburn. Retinoids are some of the biggest offenders, as this class includes the stronger prescription strength Retin-A. Remember, Retin-A increases cell turnover and exfoliates from the inside out, and pushing new cells up at a faster rate. These new cells are incredibly sensitive to the sun. This is why it is imperative to recommend sunscreen with retinol and Retin-A use. When treating acne, sometimes it has to be hit from all directions:, the oil, the bacteria, and the buildup of dead skin. This can lead to an aggressive treatment protocol that involves not only topical products, but also the use of exfoliating treatments and oral medication. When Retin-A or retinol is combined with the oral medication Accutane, this combination has one of the highest documented occurrences of photosensitivity reactions. Accutane, or Isotretinoin, is a medication used to treat cystic acne by slowing down the oil production and can be very hard on the body. It is recommended to avoid the sun for at least three to six months after taking the last dose of Accutane. Other photosensitizing oral medications used to treat acne are antibiotics, which include doxycycline, tetracycline, minocycline, and erythromycin. Watch outLook for these ingredients listed on client intake forms and educate clients that those particular medications are going to make themir skin more sensitive to the sun. This also means they are going to be more sensitive to professional treatments. This means that if performing a chemical peel or laser treatment on them, they may turn pink or respond quicker than normally anticipated. Only one to two layers of peel might be able to be applied, instead of three or four. Skin care professionals might also need to turn their energy setting down by 20% to 30%. If a skin care professional is aware that the client is on these products and medications,, skin care professionals can perform treatments can be performed with more caution. Consider doing a patch test a few days before the treatment to give a baseline and prevent complications.


Treatments like microdermabrasion and chemical peels work by exfoliating the skin, thereby making it more sun sensitive, just like alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids. It is recommended to avoid the sun for 14 days before prior and 14 days after a treatment. Pigment controlling ingredients, that lighten the skin, like vitamin cC, arbutin, or hydroquinone, that lightening the skin, shut down the melanin process, reducing brown spots and creating a more even skin tone. While these ingredients are not at the top of the list for being photosensitizing, they do decrease melanin, which is the skin’s natural sun protection and can make clients more sensitive to the sun in general, so be mindful and educate for daily sunscreen use. Other common medical spa treatments are lasers and intense pulsed light. These energy- based treatments use light and heat to create a change in the skin. When the client has a light- based treatment and then goes into the sun, they are at a high risk for having a photosensitivity reaction since they are putting light on top of light – or ultraviolet on top of the heat made from the laser used in the officetreatment room. This can lead to a burn or a blister even days after a treatment. Sometimes hypopigmentation can result after blisters are healed. This type of hypopigmentation cannot be corrected or reversed.


Essential oils are big rightvery popular now, for both in-office and at-home treatments. Some common essential oils that cause photosensitivity are bergamot, bitter orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and mandarin leaf. For those clients that are making their own do-it-yourself scrubs, masks, and lotions, they may find these ingredients in there. 


The best way to prevent photosensitivity is to avoid it. Through communication and education, . Hhave a thorough consultation to learn all the medications, products, and treatments the client is receiving. Then, educate the client on how their products work and which ones are more sun-sensitive. These include exfoliators, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and even lactic acid. Benzoyl peroxide can also be irritating. Ingredients like peptides and growth factors are generally not going to be sensitizing. With retinol, a good rule of thumb is to only use it at nighttime and not during the day. Discontinuing the use of retinol three to five days before a treatment will reduce sensitivity in the treatment room. After they have a treatment, ensure they clients avoid the sun for 10 to 14 days afterward, depending on the service they received. Supply post-treatment products and instructions. This ensures that the client does not use any other chemicals or ingredients that could interfere with the treatment that was just performed on their skin. The post-procedure products could include a gentle cleanser, a 0.5% hydrocortisone, a hydrator, and a sunscreenn SPF. Often, with chemical peels, the company vendorskin care manufacturer will provide their own post-peel kits. With ablative lasers and microneedling, I consider using a baby shampoo for the cleanser and aquaphor as a staple to get the area hydrated with a thicker hydrator that the skin can still breathe through.


If photosensitivity does occur, it appears within 24 hours of sun exposure and resolves when the blisters from the rash peel and slough off. It is treated as one would treat a sunburn. 

Here are some tips on how to help treat photosensitivity reaction.

1. Stay inside and away from the sun. 

2. Take a cool shower or bath. This will help decrease pain from the heat. Afterwards, pat dry – , do not rub skin – , and apply an aloe- or water-based moisturizer. If possible, leave a little of the moisture on the skin after from the shower to use as a base for lotion. 

3. Apply an aloe- or water-based hydrator. Do not use lidocaine, benzocaine, Neosporin, polysporin, or an oil-based lotion. The skin needs to be able to breathe and heal.

 4. Drink plenty of water. It is imperative to stay hydrated. When the skin is injured, it loses a lot of water and causes dehydration. Drinking water and eating protein helps skin heal at a quicker rate. 

5. If the skin has blisters, they should not be popped do not pop them. If there is loose skin from a popped blister, it should not be picked or not pick or pull at loose skin.  This may cause hyper- or hypo-pigmentation. Let the skin heal itself and if there are some pigment issues, then address those later after it has healed.

6. While the skin is healing and still pink, take extra added precaution to protect from any additional heat, light, and trauma. Wear loose clothing that will not rub the affected area, but also ensure the area is not getting sun or chemicals on it. Wear clothing that is thick enough that light does not go through it to prevent additional ultraviolet damage without having to apply a chemical sun protectant factor sunscreen. 


Having an unexpected reaction is always scary for a client, so being able to educate them on how to avoid this is going to be the best path for both parties. As the sunny summer season draws near, put together summer-friendly protocols and specials and remember guidelines for sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection (protecting against UVA and UVB rays) and a sun protection factor n SPF of 30 or higher with water resistance. Reapply every two hours when in direct sunlight. The Federal Drug Administration requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years. If the expiration date has passed, do not use it and throw it away. If it does not come with an expiration date, write down the purchased date and the date it was opened. Also, check for obvious signs that it is expired, like smell, color, and consistency. 
Photosensitivity may be something many are unfamiliar with, but as professionals educate themselves and their clients on the causes, preventive measures, and treatments, they can ensure the best outcomes for their clients.



Erin Lucie, an Oklahoma native, is a family nurse practitioner and licensed cosmetologist with over 15 years of experience in the aesthetics industry. Known in Tulsa as an expert cosmetic injector, she completed her Botox and filler training in Beverly Hills, California in 2011 and has attended many advanced trainings since. Lucie has further specialized in optimizing and balancing the hormone dysfunction created by stress and the overwhelming life management issues relating to all professionals by providing clients with integrative options in health, lifestyle, medication, and appearance enhancement. She is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.

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