Free Radical Protection
Free radicals are associated with slow cell turnover, which causes the appearance of aging. They are unstable molecules that have an uneven amount of electrons in their outer ring, so they look for an electron elsewhere in order to stabilize. When the electrons pick up atoms indiscriminately, they become secondary free radicals, setting up a chain reaction which causes damage on a cellular level. While it's a normal process in everyone's body, free radicals speed up the appearance of aging.
Environmental pollutants and sun exposure cause additional free radical damage to skin cells. The best line of defense is to eat a healthy diet abundant with fruits and vegetables, limit your exposure to tobacco and sun, and moderate your alcohol intake.
Antioxidants inhibit the activity of free radicals and therefore slow the aging process. Extracted from roots, stems, leaves, fruits and vegetables, antioxidants can be taken internally or applied externally via cosmetic and skin care products. The most common antioxidant compounds are polyphenols, flavonoids, flavonols, pycnogenols and carotenoids.
SPF is an acronym for Sun Protection Factor. The Sun Protection Factor in products can range from 2-60, referring to its level of ability to block the sun's rays. Many variables should be considered when determining the level that is right for you. They include duration of exposure, time of day, season, activities you're doing, geographic location/altitude, prescription drugs that could leave you more susceptible to exposure, and your own skin's predisposition.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both considered to be physical sunscreens or sunblocks, as they protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. UVA and UVB represent different waves on the electromagnetic spectrum of ultraviolet (UV) light. While UVB can cause sunburn and damage to the eyes, UVA can cause long term damage to the skin.
Look for products that offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are especially intense during the summer and UVA rays are present year round. Exposure to UV rays can also increase your risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
There are two basic types of sunscreens/sunblocks. Depending on their ingredients, they work to either reflect or absorb the sun's rays. Inorganic particles like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide create a physical barrier to block out the rays, whereas organic particles absorb UV rays and release the energy as heat.
Both sunblock and sunscreen are similar in use, but are slightly different in their protective abilities. Sunblock is more opaque and therefore protects more from UVA/UVB and radiation. Sunscreen tends to be more transparent and therefore needs to be reapplied more often. For this reason, it is recommended to choose a higher SPF since its ingredients break down more rapidly than sunblock.
It's important to protect your face from the sun's harmful rays on a daily basis. Sun exposure is reflected and intensified by the pavement, snow, water and sand. Higher SPF is recommended for higher elevations and locations closer to the equator. It is also recommended to wear an SPF of 15 or higher regardless of your activity or weather condition.
Increase the SPF when your sun exposure peaks, such as in the summer or during vacations. Apply sunscreen/sunblock according to its directions. Most directions indicate applying approximately one ounce of sunscreen at least 15-30 minutes before sun exposure. Make sure to reapply at least every two hours throughout your exposure, especially after perspiring, toweling or swimming.
Be particularly cautious between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Limit your exposure outside, wear sunscreen, and spend time indoors or in the shade under an umbrella/structure.
Even if you're not spending significant time outside, it's important to wear products with SPF to protect your skin. Choose a day moisturizer with an SPF in order to keep your skin moisturized while providing sun protection. This will help protect you from sun damage that ultimately leads to premature aging. As a general rule, it is recommended that your day moisturizer have at least 15-20 SPF. If you spend more time outdoors, consider a moisturizer with 30+ SPF.