The Sun and Skin
Some sun is quite beneficial for us, not only for the skin, but our overall well-being. Sunlight has an energizing effect, is good for the soul, and is also a source of vitamin D (D3 to be specific). Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin after exposure to UVB rays and is responsible for defending the body against microbial invaders and regulating the concentration of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream to promote strong, healthy bones. It also aids in the absorption of other vitamins.
Often 10 minutes in the sun each day is all that is needed, but it is also important to remind clients about the photo-aging damage UV rays cause – wrinkles, brown spots and slack skin to name a few! Be sure they are protecting their faces and vulnerable sun-damaged areas with good physical blockers like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which also guard against other environmental toxins.
Selecting a Good Sunscreen
Topical sunscreens are broadly classified in two groups: chemical absorbers and physical blockers. Chemical absorbers work by absorbing UV rays while physical blockers reflect UV rays.
Today the vast majority of SPF (sun protection factor) formulas have a laundry list of chemicals. While these may promise higher SPFs, water resistance and all-day wear, recent research has indicated they may not protect against UVA rays and also subject the skin to dangerous ingredients that are absorbed by the body. The most common chemical ingredients in non-mineral sunscreens include octinoxate, oxybenzone (a form of benzophenone), octisalate and avobenzone. Each of these is found in 40 to 60 percent of all sunscreens on the market.
The lack of UVA protection has been linked to increased melanoma rates, as well as the proliferation of photo-aging by degrading collagen and elastin. It is also important to note formulas labeled “SPF” only refer to UVB ray protection, but now the FDA is requiring sunscreens to indicate on their labels whether they protect against UVA rays as well. By the end of 2012, only sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB will be labeled “Broad Spectrum” and only those of SPF 15 and higher can claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and photo-damage. Manufacturers may also not make claims that sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” or label them as a “sunblock.”
Physical blockers have been shown to be more effective in protecting against both UVA and UVB rays.Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the two most commonly used blockers. These naturally occurring ingredients are safer and protect against the full UV spectrum.
Zinc oxide (ZnO) is an inorganic compound and an essential mineral for our bodies. It aids in cell production, promotes healthy skin, and boosts the immune system. This powerful mineral works as a natural reflective shield, providing broad-spectrum protection, which in turn reduces UVA-induced free-radical production in the deeper layers of the skin. Titanium dioxide (TiO2) is derived from titanium and is a highly reflective chalky mineral. It is non-irritating, non-allergenic and non-comedogenic.
Why do so many consumers desire a bronzed body? Because it camouflages imperfections and accentuates muscle tone. So it is important to offer clients an alternative to sun bathing and tanning beds.
Body color sessions can be great add-on treatments where you use natural bronzing creams and sprays, followed with a body exfoliation. When the skin is glowing and has a sun-kissed appearance, it looks smoother and healthier. While this may be an illusion, it is a look many clients desire.
Though self-tanners have earned a bad rap for producing an unnatural, orange color or streaky appearance, many formulas have drastically improved. One ingredient in particular has virtually changed the effectiveness of self-tanners. Erythrulose, part of the ketose family, is a natural keto-sugar that reacts with the amino acids in the outer layers of the skin to produce a slower developing tan. As opposed to stains or dyes, this non-toxic chemical reaction actually produces a longer lasting sunless tan and more pleasing color. Look for erythrulose when selecting a sunless tanner.
Treating a Burn
Despite all of our efforts, we may still get a few clients who have spent too much time in the sun. When burns occur, what is the safest way to work with skin? And is it possible to accelerate healing?
Yes, in most cases it is possible to speed the healing process, and in fact, I recommend clients seek professional guidance from their aesthetician so they do not do further damage their skin. As aestheticians, however, there are a few things to keep in mind when working with superficial burns and wounds.
For starters, depending on the severity of the burn, you may need to refer the client to a physician. If it is at the superficial level however, there is a lot we can do to soothe, nourish and rebuild the skin.
With minor burns that have not caused any major trauma, certain occlusive topicals can be amazing healers. Ingredients such as shea butter, petrolatum and borago officinalis (borage oil) reduce discomfort, accelerate the healing process, and soothe and hydrate the skin. Occlusives create a protective barrier and provide anti-inflammatory, anti-itching and antibacterial support. For deeper burns or medical peels that have reached the dermis, you will want to avoid using any occlusive topicals. These will trap in heat and seal in moisture or bind more to the skin.
Other ingredients like hydrocortisone, bisabolol, arnica, thermus thermophilus ferment, and mugwort also have potent anti-inflammatory capabilities, decrease pain, and the thermos thermophilus ferment can help take the heat out of the skin.
As aesthetic professionals, our role first and foremost is to educate clients and provide them with the tools for obtaining and maintaining healthy skin, which includes adequate sun protection. While hats, clothing and shade work well, remind clients to always opt for an SPF30 and seek out natural, physical blockers. Bottom line, be sure you are talking to your clients about this topic for which there is limited information available to consumers… it could save them from some very serious and dangerous side effects.