Sun irradiations, in the form of photons (the basic units that makes up all light), hit the skin and partly penetrate it causing beneficial and damaging reactions.
One of the most known benefit is that the skin cells (keratinocytes) will grab the precious Vitamin D, essential for strong bones.
Other benefits are also the developing of warmth due to the infra-red (IV) rays that help blood circulation and the photostimulation or photobiostimulation of many cellular activities from the visible rays.
Amongst damaging reactions, we have:
- The continuous damaging of the genetic patrimony of the keratinocytes that could lead to skin cancer.
- The damage of skin fibers and collagen that lead to an early onset of photo aging.
The ongoing conflict between sun and skin
It starts at birth, of course and we carry it on for all our life. Throughout the evolution of the human species our skin has developed a self-defense mechanism from the Ultra Violet (UV) sun rays called Pigmentation System and melanin is the pigment that protects us from the sun’s UV Rays. Although the protection that melanin can provide is not enough, thus populations have learned to adapt their behavior to such awareness.
For instance, in area where the sun irradiation are very strong people tend to conduct daily tasks after sunset and before dusk, in other region, for daily routine activities they cover their body completely to shield the sun rays.
These precaution unfortunately are not taken by the majority of people at risk, which are the individual with fair skin that defy the sun with unprotected skin.
The sun clearly wins, and skin cancer number are rising.
How to safely and effectively protect our skin from the sun
The safest and simple solution is to put a screen between the sun and the skin such as natural fiber clothing like cotton linen or silk so that the sun rays will be absorbed by the fabric and not the skin. This system is very common in tropical or Equatorial regions, not so much in the rest of the world that has adopted other ways of sun protections but, are they all safe and effective?
Sun screen: not an optimal strategy
Sun screen are made with chemical components that are able to absorb the photons’ energy so that they it doesn’t reach and damage the skin cells. It is a fact that with the appropriate application of a common sun screen we can safely enjoy our vacation day without getting sunburned. But are they really good or safe for our skin?
Let us explore the dermatological reasons as to why a sun screen containing chemical filter should not be used.
The commonly used chemical substances:
- Are not stable and deteriorate under the sunlight
- They get absorbed by the skin and can be toxic
- They don’t absorb or shied all dangerous solar radiation
- They can cause allergies to sunlight
- They wear out under the sunlight
- They are environmental pollutant
Proper application is also an important factor and it’s a double edge sword because a single application not only has a partial protection but has also a time limit and the misconception of having a protection and so the sun exposure can be prolonged has brought to an increase of skin cancer including melanoma.
There are also other dermatological considerations to be made regarding the use of sun screen especially on the face, they are in fact comedogenic, creating microcysts, folliculitis and skin lesions all part of the so called Solar Acne.
Melasma (grey-brown patches) are also a common problem triggered by the activation of the sun filters and their reaction with the skin.
When and why sunscreen should not be applied
Sunscreens are suspected of system toxicity; therefore, it is best dot to use them during the developing age. Some article listed below are good resources on this topic.
In subjects with acne or prone to acne sunscreen are particularly dangerous due to their ingredients. Their formulation is quite thick with a high percentage of synthetic fats, acrylates and silicones in order to keep the chemical filters stable. In fact, the sun filters are molecule with a considerable big dimension and needs to be incorporated in a dense formulation that unfortunately will occlude the skin pore, worsening or triggering acne reactions.
Subjects with Vitiligo miss melanin (the pigment our skin produces to protect us from the sun), thus are more exposed to photoaging. The article below shows testing done on a limited number of sunscreens with equal results, poor UVA protections not satisfactory for SPF European standard.
Skin allergy to sunlight
Some people can experience some unpleasant reactions to sunlight such as redness, hives and textured rashes. Because the sunscreens do not shield all sun rays and applying protections lengthen the sun exposure with the idea of being protected, it is wise to avoid sunscreens altogether and resort to more proper protection such as clothing or reflecting powder on exposed skin able to reflect all sun rays.
Surgical and physical treatments
It is common knowledge to not expose a scar to sunlight, after a wound or a surgery. The same concept applies to physical treatment such as LASER, Radiofrequency, dermabrasion, etc. In fact, even if scars are not visible, the skin is more vulnerable thus absorbing more damaging sunlight.
Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and target therapy with biologic drugs
As expressed before sunscreens will only protect (and not fully) from UV radiation but, in the spectrum are also present visible light, Infra-red rays, radio and electromagnetic waves that are not tolerated by compromised subject that underwent these medical procedures.
In general, when in the presence of skin conditions or immune disorders the use of sun screen is discourage for possible unwanted reactions. This article below is an accurate overview of a series of studies that exposed the “imperfect” protection of sunscreens.
Mineral sun reflecting: the safe and effective choice
Many minerals found in nature have an excellent property of reflecting the sun light while being well tolerate by the skin and carry few benefits too.
It’s the case of the clays that other than have soothing and astringent properties have the ability of reflecting the sun light thanks to their composition pictured as a very fine powder made of millions of little mirrors.
Many other minerals have sun reflecting properties such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, but they need to be stabilized so that they won’t produce oxygen radicals, also called reactive oxygen species which are free radicals that in buildup amount can cause cell death.
Un important factor is that the mix of sun reflecting clays needs to be small enough to ensure a uniform coverage but at the same time large enough so that do not penetrate and get absorbed by the skin.
MOST Sun Clay
All the above-mentioned features can be found in one product engineered by the MOST researchers. Sun Clay is a Sun reflecting Mineral compact powder, safe to use on children and people with most common skin conditions. With correct and repeated application will safely protect from the total sun spectrum without chemical filters.