Ask A Dermatologist: Why Are Sunscreen Filters So Important?

In the pursuit of healthy, glowing skin, one routine staple deserves centre stage: sunscreen. But how does it actually protect your skin from damaging UV rays? The answer is sunscreen filters – AKA the unsung heroes of skin protection.
These tiny, often overlooked ingredients are crucial when it comes to preventing damage from the sun. Dr Jason Thomson, Head of Medical at Skin + Me, dives deep into what they are, their significance and our game-changing sunscreen solution.

So, what is a sunscreen filter?

We’re sure you’re aware, but UVA and UVB rays are pretty powerful when it comes to the signs of ageing and skin cancer. If they had their way, they’d be penetrating your skin’s surface and wreaking havoc – in fact, research shows that 80% of skin ageing is caused by UV damage, while 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure.

Enter sunscreen filters. These potent active ingredients are the cornerstone of every high quality sunscreen formulation, protecting your skin by either absorbing, scattering, or reflecting the sun’s harmful rays.

Sunscreen filters are designed to protect against two main types of UV radiation:

UVA: These rays are associated with skin ageing and can penetrate deep into the skin. This causes genetic damage to cells on the innermost part of your top layer of skin, where most skin cancers occur. UVA rays are present all year round and can even penetrate through clouds and glass.

UVB: These rays are responsible for causing sunburn and play a key role in the development of skin cancer. UVB rays penetrate and damage the outermost layers of your skin, and are more intense during the summer months. They can vary in intensity depending on factors like time of day and where you are in the world.

There are also two main types of sunscreen filter:

Chemical filters: These filters absorb UV radiation and convert it into heat, which is then released from the skin. These filters are often organic compounds like avobenzone, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. Chemical sunscreens can be lighter, and therefore a good choice for those with acne-prone skin, as well as darker skin tones as they often don’t leave a white-cast residue.

Mineral filters: These filters create a physical barrier on the skin’s surface that reflects and scatters UV radiation. The two most common mineral filters are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are inorganic compounds. Mineral sunscreens tend to be less irritating to the skin, making them a good choice for those with sensitive skin – but they can leave a white-cast or tinted residue, so might not suit certain skin tones.

Not sure which sunscreen is best for you? Dr Jason explains the benefits of both chemical and mineral sunscreens.

New to Skin + Me? Get your first month of personalised skincare for £4.99 with promo code DOSE – complete our quick consultation here.

Why is broad spectrum sunscreen essential?

Not all sunscreens are created equal. A truly effective sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection – meaning it shields your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Opting for a sunscreen with broad spectrum protection, and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, means you’ll be shielded against the full spectrum of UV radiation – and the proud owner of healthy, glowing skin.

“Seeing the hugely damaging effects of UV rays on our skin cells at the molecular level emphasises the need for effective broad-spectrum UV protection to prevent DNA damage that results in skin cancer,” says Dr Jason. 

Another must? Regular application, come rain or shine, whether indoors or outdoors. No exceptions. And, as Dr Jason adds, “avoid the strong midday sunshine and wear protective clothing and hats.” You heard it from the pro.

How our Daily Defence Sunscreen is changing the game

We believe the best sunscreen is the one you’ll wear every day. That’s why our expert dermatologists created Daily Defence Oil-free SPF 50 Sunscreen: an industry-leading sunscreen that’s packed with cutting edge sunscreen filters and barrier-boosting antioxidants. They hand-selected the sunscreen filters to go hand-in-hand with active ingredients – including the ones in your personalised Daily Doser. Let’s break it down with Dr Jason:

Sunscreen filters: Daily Defence is a chemical sunscreen, formulated with a unique combination of four sunscreen filters, each chosen for their protective qualities. These absorb and convert UV rays into heat, and dry down into the skin quickly. You must apply Daily Defence at least 20 minutes before sun exposure for optimal protection.

“The formulation of our sunscreen is particularly innovative due to the inclusion of tinosorb S, one of the most effective and photostable sunscreen agents available,” Dr Jason explains. “This next-generation filter is designed specifically for high SPF and superior UVA protection, and it’s known for providing the highest SPF contribution among EU-approved filters.” 

Vitamin E: Also known as tocopherol, this antioxidant has been shown to reduce the number of cells affected by UVB radiation, and limit potential damage in the first place. It can also help tackle photodamage, soothe the skin and strengthen the all-important skin barrier. If you’re looking to reduce signs of skin-ageing, the development of dark spots and damage to your skin’s DNA – vitamin E is your new BFF.

Niacinamide: Putting niacinamide in Daily Defence was a no-brainer, since it’s a staple in our personalised treatments. A form of Vitamin B3, niacinamide supports a healthy, more radiant complexion and tackles a host of skin concerns, from oil regulation to cell rejuvenation – and more.

Dr Jason adds, “Daily Defence, in addition to being oil-free, includes niacinamide, known for its skin barrier-strengthening and skin-soothing properties, making our sunscreen a multifaceted skincare product.” Plus it’s featherlight, leaves no white-cast and makes the perfect pre-makeup primer. 

Final thoughts

When it comes to putting the care in skincare, sunscreen is the first line of defence against UV radiation – and specific sunscreen filters play a pivotal role in preserving the health and vitality of your future skin. In other words, protect now and benefit later.

Ready to kickstart a sunscreen habit? Commit to your future skin with the Skin + Me 75Shield Challenge. All you have to do is apply sunscreen every morning for 75 days straight – no days off, no excuses (we know how crafty UV rays are!) 

By completing the challenge, you’ll make sunscreen an integral part of your routine for 75 days and beyond. Remember to share your progress on TikTok and Instagram with the hashtag #75Shield. We can’t wait to see you get glowing.

New to Skin + Me? Get your first month of personalised skincare for £4.99 with promo code DOSE – complete our quick consultation here.

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