I love summer, but not because of the heat and humidity rather because I get to go to the beach and swim. With skin like mine, I have to be careful and so a protective swimming shirt, hat and 30+ micronized zinc sunscreen are absolute essentials for me. Even then I don’t go to the beach between 10am and 2pm. Despite the preparation, I still manage to develop a new crop of freckles each year. Now freckles I don’t mind but sun damage and more permanent skin pigmentation I do so there are strategies I incorporate in my daily skin care regimen and ingredients I look for in my skin care and sunscreen that help to manage and prevent the likelihood of both.
Firstly and most importantly, the regular use of SPF products is critical. Research completed in September 2011 (Diffey BL, J Cosmet Dermatol) evaluated the effect of daily application of topical photo-protective products and its effect on facial photo-aging (skin aging due to sun damage). The results show that regular use of topical photo-protective agents (SPF sunscreens) significantly reduces the lifetime exposure to UV. While this may seem logical interestingly, the SPF rating was of lesser importance that beginning regular use early in life. IN addition many only use an SPF product in the summer months and this study identified that year-round use was preferable. To sum up this research, start early and use an SPF product daily.
Some plant ingredients have shown a good protective effect against UV damage and erythema, which is skin reddening, coupled with inflammation. Human studies suggest that green tea polyphenols in particular are photo-protective in nature, and can be used as topical agents for the prevention of solar UVB light-induced skin disorders including photo-aging and potentially non-melanoma skin cancers. Use as a preventative for non-melanoma skin cancers requires more clinical trials in humans to confirm ongoing efficacy.
In addition to its skin protective effects, green tea also has good antioxidant activity as well as and ability to slow skin matrix degradation which leads to wrinkles and loss of firmness. White tea shows similar protective and skin rejuvenation effects. The fern polypdium leucotomos has also shown a photo-aging protective effect however this is less widely used in skincare than green tea.
When it comes to skin lightening and reduction of pigmentation, there are good ingredients and some that are not so good. The use of hydroquinone, which was the standard prescription for skin lightening, has become controversial due to its potential long-term consequences including a potential cancer causing effect when consumed orally. This has lead researchers to look at new skin lightening ingredients particularly for those with mild to moderate skin pigmentation. One study completed in 2010 (Draelos ZD, Yatskayer M, Bhushan P, et al, Cutis) compared a 4% hydroquinone cream with a topical formulation containing the herbal ingredients kojic acid, emblica extract and glycolic acid from sugar cane. Eight participants used either the herbal formulation or the hydroquinone cream twice daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, results showed that the herbal preparation was just as effective as the hydroquinone cream. Other studies have showed similar results with either one or a number of herbal skin lightening ingredients.
It is important to note that the clinical trials are conducted over a 12-week period as skin cell turnover takes approximately 90-120 days, which means the new non-pigmented skin cells take this long to emerge. If you choose to try a skin lightening cream or serum to manage pigmentation, be aware that it will take time so don’t expect overnight results.
So apart from the “slip, slop, slap” routine (for non-Australians this is translated as “slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat”), these measures mean that despite living in Queensland I can be sure I am doing the best to prevent progressive sun damage and minimize sun cancer risk.
My product recommendations:
Daily Sun Protection
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