SUMMER SKIN for VARLEY
Throughout the year the skin is exposed to different stressors, so adapting your skincare routine for the season can help your skin adapt to the changing environment. As we approach summer time (despite the bad weather in the UK currently!), air moisture levels tend to increase, temperatures rise and levels of UVB light increase with longer days. We also tend to spend more time outdoors in the summer so changing our skincare routine to adjust for this is an important consideration in your daily routine.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE SKIN IN THE SUMMER TIME?
Increased temperatures, moisture and UVB levels during the summer can cause changes to the skin’s function. Often in summer, the skin can become more oily, which for some can help improve barrier function, but for others might result in breakouts. The major consideration in the summer is increased exposure to UV damage, which causes oxidative stress on the skin. There are two forms of UV light that reach our skin, UVA and UVB. In the summer, UVB levels creep up, whilst UVA levels are pretty constant throughout the year. UVA accounts for about 95% of the light reaching our skin and tends to penetrate very deeply, whilst UVB tends to penetrate more superficially and causes more irritation and redness in the form of sunburn. The skin’s barrier function may also become compromised following sun exposure, and pigmentation changes often develop in the aftermath.
WHAT SKINCARE SHOULD I BE USING IN THE SUMMER?
Using a a good SPF that covers for both UVA and UVB is a must throughout the summer, particularly if you’re spending a lot of time out in the sun or exercising outdoors! Sunscreens are notoriously difficult to formulate at higher levels so getting a good screen covering both UVA and UVB with a high SPF rating and good UVA cover can be difficult. This is particularly so if the formula is expected to do other things, e.g. moisturising, antioxidant support and other forms of protection. As with any product, the formulation is key so better formulas will provide more than just sun protection. When looking for a sunscreen we should consider a couple of different things, firstly, the SPF number - this relates to the amount of UVB cover it provides:
SPF 15 protects against 92% UVB rays
SPF 30 protects against 97% UVB rays
SPF 50 protects against 98% UVB rays
The cover for the deeper penetrating UVA rays will be about 1/3 of the level for UVB, so ensuring you have a sunscreen that says ‘broad spectrum’ meaning that it covers for a broader spectrum of light is really important. UVA cover is denoted on sunscreens by the presence of a circled UVA symbol and the level of UVA cover related to a either a ‘PA’ rating or star rating, with a higher number of stars providing the most cover.
OTHER THAN SPF IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD BE ADDING TO MY ROUTINE?
Aside from the never-more-important use of broad spectrum SPF (which is essential this time of year), we should be thinking about skincare ingredients that help to reduce inflammation, balance sebum production and help repair the skin’s natural barrier. Ingredients such as azelaic acid and ceramics are ideal at this time of year, as well as humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, to improve skin moisture levels. Pigmentation can often become an issue in the summer time so using ingredients that reduce production of pigment such as vitamin C and niacinamide are good to incorporate into your regime. Sun avoidance goes without saying! One of the main effects of UV light on the skin is that it stimulates inflammation and oxidative stress at all levels of the skin. This in turn damages collagen and elastin structures in the skin and causes worsening of sun related pigmentation. To help combat this, daily (if not twice daily) application of products containing antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, resveratrol and vitamin A (retinoids) can help significantly from an anti-ageing point of view and if you’re not already using an antioxidant serum or cream, its definitely worth investing in. I tend to avoid starting people on very strong retinoids in the summertime, although if people are not in the sun and are diligent about SPF use then I sometimes make an exception. Similarly, I would maybe avoid too many strong alpha hydroxy acids (‘AHAs’) such as glycolic acid, but with good sun protection/ avoidance this is not too much of an issue.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
The internal health of your body is as important to your skin as what you put on it, particularly if you are exercising. Maintaining a good protein and micronutrient intake and ensuring you are drinking plenty (2L or more per day) is important in the summer time to optimise blood flow to the skin, especially if it’s warm outside and you are exercising. In addition, the oxidative stress caused by UV light on the skin can be reduced by ensuring your diet is rich in antioxidant foods, particularly brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Supplements containing ingredients such as vitamin C, glutathione and resveratrol (i.e. the same things that are in antioxidant skincare) can help reduce this oxidative stress from inside, particularly at the deeper levels of the skin where topical skincare can’t reach.
WHAT ABOUT POLLUTION?
The vast number of chemicals and particulate matter present in air pollution makes the numerous chemical reactions occurring on the skin surface and soft tissues of the skin (as a result also of inhaled pollution) difficult to categorise or even fully appreciate its complexity. This is particularly important to consider when we are exercising outdoors, especially for those living in cities. Generally speaking, there will be a high level of oxidative stress at both the level of the renewing surface of the skin and deeper layers of the skin affected where the pigment cells are located, and the deeper structural levels of the skin. From the top down the physical clogging of the surface of theskin creates a layer of dirt and grime, resulting in irritation and clogging of pores. This, over time, in combination with deeper oxidative stress can result in reduction in collagen and elastin levels, with general thinning of the skin. Pigment cells (melanocytes) can also be affected, resulting in changes in pigmentation as well as abnormalities of cell division. Longer term it is believed that this, together with higher levels of heavy metals and benzene-type molecules can increase the risk of certain skin cancers over time. In Korea, there are a few companies developing anti-pollution skincare which protects against heavy metal exposure also, and also against irritating particulate matter of various sizes. The far east is certainly leading the way in this trend. At present, the scientific evidence is really just for antioxidants, such as vitamin C, E, retinol and AHAs, but it is likely that we will see many more products in the coming years directed at other aspects of air pollution on the skin. In addition to topical skincare, I believe strongly in a diet high in antioxidants -including vitamin C, superoxide dimutase and others, so plenty of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and if you prefer, supplements, such as my own SkinShake.
WHAT ABOUT SKIN CLEANSING?
Cleansing is of course super important, particularly for those living in inner cities, where pollutants are at much higher levels than rural locations. I think using a two stage cleansing at least twice per day is useful, first with a micellar cleanser and then with an antioxidant or AHA based cleanser. Making sure your face is cleansed throughout the day if you are exposed to traffic or in the tube is also important -but make sure you reapply any SPF and serum afterwards.