Friday, February 18, 2011

Thoughts: Sun Protection

Early Years:

I’ve always known myself as one of the “tanned ones”. I sunned myself prodigiously as a kid, swimming and playing and roasting myself to a deep bronze with nary an ounce of sun protection.

When I hit my teen years, I became more intensely aware of how highly-prized unblemished, alabaster skin was in Asia. All the sunblocks I ever applied in those days were a sticky, greasy mess that left a streaky-white cast and clogged reactive teenage pores to boot. Plus, no matter how much you applied, you still got tan.

It was something to be avoided unless absolutely necessary. And needless to say, I never did get any fairer.

I still remember the very moment when I realized there were different grades of sunblock. I was 14, and my best friend at the time was a Taiwanese-Vietnamese girl with the sort of translucent, porcelain skin that I would have sold an organ for. We were hanging out at her place before a 3.2km phys-ed run, and her mother threw us a small cyan-blue bottle of Shiseido SPF30 sunblock to apply.

I remember the lack of greasiness, and how amazing it was that after about an hour sweating and exercising in the searing afternoon sun, I stripped off my exercise shorts to shower and found no tan lines.

Bad Years:

Me and my circle of friends spent our share of time basting ourselves in the sun with tanning oil. I’ve always tanned very easily, so in place of tanning oil, I had to slather SPF50 all over my body just to control how dark I got. Since I couldn’t be fair, I might as well just get very tan.

Transition Years:

It wasn’t until some time later, when I really got into skincare, that I realized just how much long-term photodamage I was doing.

I began to buy daily moisturizers with some measure of sun protection (usually SPF 15-19 since higher SPFs in those days still gave you a white cast). Two of my favorites in those days were Olay White Radiance lotion SPF19, and the first incarnation of Estee Lauder’s Daywear Cream SPF15. These did not leave my skin feeling heavy or greasy, and I could apply makeup over them.


Due to general availability of information and technology advancements now, my routine has been fine-tuned to a degree.

I now know that:

  • Your sun protection must contain UVA filters as UVB blocks (Titanium Dioxide) are inadequate to prevent dna damage
  • Common UVA filters deteriorate very quickly, so photo-stable UVA filters like Mexoryl and Helioplex are necessary for real protection
  • Sunblocks prevent damage but, not 100%
  • UV rays can penetrate curtains and windows
  • Antioxidants are necessary to repair the damage caused by the rays that make it past your sunblock

My current anti-UV routine:

  1. Avoid long periods of direct sun-exposure
  2. Wear an antioxidant serum or lotion daily to prevent damage from stray rays: I like Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair on hot days as a light humectant in place of moisturizer
  3. Wear a sunblock of SPF30-50: I have a range, from La Roche Posay Tinted Creme to L’oreal UV Perfect Mat SPF30, and Neutrogena Fine Fairness Lotion SPF50
  4. Apply a second dose of antioxidants to your face at the end of the day: I usually apply a richer antioxidant or repair cream like Egyptian Magic, or NIA24. If I’ve been in the sun, then I will use a stronger repair serum like Prevage, or Advanced Night Repair Intensive before the cream.


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