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Sun creams - Sun protection


The sun's rays, a source of life but also a source of danger

sun protection : radiation


Solar radiation

The sun emits a range of light rays that reach the earth's surface: ultraviolet (UV), visible and infrared (IR).

UV rays as a whole do not exceed 5% of total energy, but their impact on organic molecules is very significant, leading to considerable physiological responses in all areas of life.

UVA, UVB and UVC have different wavelength ranges. The energy of each type of radiation depends on its light source (the sun, for example) and the medium in which it is propagated (the earth's atmosphere if the source is the sun).

What are the differences between UVA, UVB and UVC ?

  • UVA solar radiation :sun protection: UV
    UVA rays penetrate glass. Their wavelengths are between 320 and 400 nm. A distinction is made between short-wave UVA (or WA 2) between 320 and 340 nm and long-wave WA (or UVA 1) between 340 and 400 nm. Of the UV rays that reach the earth, 98% are UVA.
    Less energetic than UVB, they have a greater capacity to penetrate the skin and 20-30% reach the middle dermis.
     UVA rays stimulate the synthesis of melanin: this is known as "UVA tanning" or delayed pigmentation.
    UVA rays are not directly toxic, but their radiation generates the production of free radicals, extremely reactive molecules with a short life span. These free radicals initiate chain reactions that alter DNA, proteins and lipids, leading to the formation of cancerous cells. The incidence of UVA in certain epidermal tumours (epileptoid carcinoma) has been clearly established. UVA is also considered to be a factor that increases the risk of melanoma. Molecular alterations induced by UVA are also at the root of premature ageing of the skin, particularly the structures of the dermis. The soluble collagen/insoluble collagen ratio decreases to the point where the skin's mechanical properties (elasticity, thickness, etc.) vary. When these skin changes are accompanied by thinning of the epidermis, the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation spots, all these changes are grouped together under the term "solar elastosis".

  • UVB solar radiation :
    UVB rays are responsible for solar erythema (sunburn), which reaches its peak intensity 24 hours after exposure. This reaction stimulates the skin's melanogenesis process, which is responsible for delayed pigmentation, a process also largely attributed to UVA rays.
    Their high energy can cause necrosis of epidermal cells. These damaged cells are known as sunburn cells and release chemical mediators that contribute to the inflammatory effects of sunburn. The high energy content of UVB rays also enables them to generate molecular disorders (alteration of certain DNA and protein bonds) which, in the long term and if renewed, saturate the DNA repair system. This leads to 'errors' in the genome of the affected cells, which can cause skin cancer. This is why we speak of direct UVB toxicity.

  • UVC solar radiation :
    UVC corresponds to the fraction of UV rays that is only transmitted through the air. UVC radiation has the shortest wavelengths (190 to 290 nm) and is therefore extremely energetic.
    This energy gives them considerable power to alter biological molecules. They are used for their germicidal activity in hospitals. Since one of their targets is DNA, they have a very high carcinogenic potential.
    If all the UVC generated by the sun reached the earth's surface, the toxicity they would cause would be such that life would be impossible.

Solar radiation is not constant

sun protection:the curve of the sunThe quality of radiation on the earth's surface is not constant. UV intensity increases as :

  • you get closer to the equator and the altitude increases: at 1500 m, there is 20% more UVB than at sea level.
  • you are exposed between 12 and 16 legal sunlight hours (10 and 14 solar hours): 50% of the day's UV energy is delivered during this period.
  • Ground reflection increases: it is 10% for seawater, 15-25% for sand and 50-85% for snow.

Appropriate sun protection from childhood

The carcinogenic power of UV rays is clearly established for cancers of the epidermal part of the skin: these are squamous cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. As for cancers affecting the dermis, it has been shown that some malignant melanomas occur ten to twenty years after a childhood sunburn.

The sun sensitivity (phototype) of children and teenagers needs to be assessed. A fair-skinned person, for example, will never have a protective tan. Under the action of UV rays, their skin preferentially produces a red pigment that not only fails to protect, but also releases free radicals that are toxic to the skin. This damage is often the result of over-exposure in the first few years of life.

This is why appropriate photoprotection, introduced from childhood, considerably reduces the risk of skin cancer.

Source : https://www.pediatre-online.fr/

Sun protection and skin cancer

A reminder of the basic recommendations: cover up, seek shade, don't brave the midday sun and always, always use sun protection.

Otherwise, we're told, we'll have to face the consequences of premature ageing of our skin: early wrinkles and the risk of developing skin cancer.

Contrary to what is said, application every 2-3 hours, research has shown that the best protection is provided by application 15-30 minutes before exposure, followed by a further application 15-30 minutes after exposure to the sun. The application should then be repeated every 2 hours. Reapplication is also necessary after activities such as swimming.

It does not kill as often as other cancers, such as lung and breast cancer, but it nevertheless killed 1,570 people in France in 2010, according to the French National Cancer Institute.

Cases of skin cancer have tripled in the last 20 years, despite the fact that very few of us use sun creams. You'd think that the public health mission would be to convince as many people as possible to protect themselves with sun cream.

But the curious thing is that the rate of skin cancer and the use of sun cream have both increased simultaneously.

Sun creams can cause more problems than benefits

Today, most sun creams are 'broad spectrum', meaning that they protect against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

UVA and UVB rays pass through clouds and are responsible for premature ageing of the skin. For some years now, this premature ageing has been associated with sunburn.

UVB is known as the "killer ray" because it causes solar erythema.

You might think that we don't use products properly, and that we spend more time outdoors.

You might also think that, since skin cancer takes years to develop, it's too early to draw any conclusions.

The increase in the use of sun protection and the increase in skin cancer could be seen as a paradox. But some scientists have long feared that the chemicals commonly used in sun creams could cause more trouble than good.

Can sunscreens cause DNA damage ?

sun protection: DNA mutation

The sun protection products we use today are either chemical or physical sunscreens.

Dr Stephen Antczak, co-author of Cosmetics Unmasked, explains the difference: "Physical sunscreens contain materials that reflect ultraviolet rays. Chemical sunscreens contain molecules that absorb ultraviolet rays and reduce their energy".

These chemicals, which can modify ultraviolet rays, are both complex and powerful.

The three molecules most commonly used in sunscreens are: para-aminobenzoic acid, cinnamates and benzophenones.

A sun cream that absorbs energy cannot destroy it. Dr John Knowland, a biochemist at Oxford University, is concerned about absorbing sunscreens: "UV rays react with light and therefore interfere with the skin, causing DNA damage - one of the possible causes of cancer".

Do sun creams penetrate our skin ?

There are reports that the chemicals used in sun protection, rather like nicotine in patches, can penetrate the skin.

Kim Erickson, author of "Protecting yourself from the hidden dangers of cosmetics", cites a study from the Queensland Laboratory in Australia, where the chemical sunscreen oxybenzone penetrated the skin's protective barrier.

Scientists at Sahlgrenska University in Sweden showed that benzophenone-3 (B-3), another UV-absorbing chemical, appeared in the urine of volunteers who had applied the recommended amount of sunscreen, in some cases up to 48 hours later.

In Switzerland, researchers carried out five tests with chemicals commonly used in sun creams. They found that these products all acted like oestrogen. One of the chemicals tested was found in breast milk.

The Women's Environmental Network suggests that "these substances are not only absorbed through our skin but accumulate in our fatty tissue".

The researchers above call for caution and more research.

Does sun cream work as a defence ?

Although manufacturers don't say so, there is a popular misconception that sun creams protect against skin cancer.

Sun creams have been tested on laboratory rats to protect against squamous cell cancer.

Squamous cell cancer is one of three types of skin cancer. It occurs more frequently than melanoma (which is potentially fatal), but much less frequently than basal cell cancer, which is the most widespread. There was insufficient evidence to conclude that sunscreen was useful in protecting against squamous cell cancer.

According to a WHO research group comprising scientists, doctors and sunscreen manufacturers, "no conclusion can be drawn regarding the use of sunscreen against basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous melanoma".

Exposure to UV rays, even with sun cream, is likely to be a risk factor.

Dermatologists advise that sunburn increases susceptibility to skin cancer.

Sun protection products aren't everything, genes matter too

"The biggest problem with skin cancer is your genes," says dermatology professor Gasparro "Some people may be able to stay in the sun longer than others - but you can't give this as a public health message."

The idea is to pass on simple information, taking into account all the messages and following dermatologists' recommendations on the use of sun creams.

However, in recent years, dermatologists and cancer research groups have downgraded sun protection as a defence to third place - for those occasions when you absolutely cannot cover up or avoid going out in the sun.

Melanin and sun protection

Melanins are among the main biological pigments responsible for skin colour in humans.

Melanins are what make us tan, protecting the DNA of skin cells from the sun's ultraviolet (especially UVB) rays.

With prolonged exposure to the sun, we tan because the body produces more melanin, so we are better protected against UV rays.

Melanins act by absorbing UV rays and releasing the energy received in the form of heat.

Eumelanin (dark pigment) is much more effective in this role than pheomelanin (light pigment), which offers very little protection and breaks down easily under the effect of UV rays, releasing carcinogenic free radicals. This is why redheads are more fragile than brunettes. Blondes are also very sensitive to the sun.

Even for dark skins, the protection offered by melanin is far from total.

Excessive DNA damage can lead to skin cell carcinogenesis.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

sun cream

Franz Greiter defined the concept of sun protection factor (SPF) in 1962. It has become a worldwide standard for measuring the effectiveness of a sun cream when applied at a minimum rate of 2 milligrams per square centimetre. You'll also find it on bottles under the name SPF for "Sun protector factor".

SPF is a laboratory measurement. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection against UV-B (ultraviolet radiation that causes sunburn).

So, with an SPF 50 sun cream, your skin won't burn until it has been exposed to 50 times the amount of solar energy that would normally cause it to burn.

The amount of solar energy you are exposed to depends not only on how long you are in the sun, but also on the time of day. The sun's rays are weaker in the morning and evening than at midday.

In practice, the protection provided by a sun cream depends on several factors :
- the user's skin type
- the quantity and frequency of application,
- their activity (swimming, for example, causes sun cream to be lost from the skin),
- the amount of sunscreen absorbed by the skin.

The PFS is an incomplete measure because invisible damage and ageing of the skin are also caused by ultraviolet A (UVA, wavelength 320 to 400 nm), which does not cause redness or pain.

According to a 2004 study, UVA also causes DNA damage to cells deep within the skin, increasing the risk of malignant melanoma.

Even some 'broad spectrum UVA/UVB' sun creams do not provide sufficient protection against UVA rays.

Sun protection against UVA

sun protection: titanium oxide

The best protection against UVA is provided by products containing zinc oxide, avobenzone, ecamsule or titanium dioxide. The latter probably gives good protection, but does not completely cover the entire UV-A spectrum. According to recent research, zinc oxide provides better protection than titanium dioxide in the wavelengths between 340 and 380 nm.

According to Professor Knowland, from Oxford University, "if such particles can more easily penetrate human cells, the issue has not yet been sufficiently addressed".

With regard to titanium oxide, the European Commission's Scientific Advisory Committee on Cosmetics advises that the compound is "compliant with regulations and safe for use in cosmetic products".

The different phototypes


PHOTOTYPE 1 : You have very fair skin, white (albino) or red hair and freckles that appear very quickly when exposed to the sun.

- Never try to tan, protect yourself from the sun in all circumstances (clothes, hats, glasses...)

- Protective cream: sunscreen


PHOTOTYPE 2 : You have very fair skin that can become tanned, blond or light brown hair and freckles that appear in the sun.

- Don't try to tan. You should use maximum protection and expose yourself to the sun as little as possible

- Protective cream : a screen with an index greater than 30

PHOTOTYPE 3 : You have fair skin that tans easily, blond or chestnut hair and few or no freckles.

- You can expose yourself to the sun, but gradually and to a limited extent.

- Protective cream : sunscreen with an index greater than 15


PHOTOTYPE 4 : You have matt skin that tans very easily, chestnut or brown hair and no freckles.

- You can expose yourself gradually

- Protective cream: a screen with an index greater than 10 for the first few days.


PHOTOTYPE 5 ou 6 : You have naturally pigmented skin or black skin.

- You can expose yourself gradually

- Moisturising cream

Is SPF still appropriate for sun creams ?

The minimum application according to the definition of SPF is 2 milligrams per square centimetre of skin to be protected. A quick calculation shows that for an average-sized adult, a minimum of 30g of sun cream should be used per application.

Unfortunately, "this information is useless, because people rarely use that much", according to Professor Brian Diffey, Director of Clinical Services at Newcastle General Hospital.

He suggests that manufacturers reduce the amount of sunscreen used in tests to reflect what people actually use.

But if the standard is to evolve, it should be done at the same time in all countries. Without this harmonisation of the standard, consumers would be confused.

Sun cream and vitamin D deficiency

UV rays are responsible for the synthesis of vitamin D. The use of sun cream reduces the skin's capacity to synthesise vitamin D. This can lead to vitamin D deficiency.

To avoid this, here are the recommendations of Professor Holick, one of the world's leading vitamin D specialists:

"I recommend that people expose themselves for a length of time that varies according to the time of year, the time of day, the latitude and the degree of skin pigmentation. If you know that after 30 minutes' exposure you get a slight sunburn, I recommend 10 to 15 minutes' exposure of the arms and legs, or the abdomen and back if you're in a swimming costume, 2 or 3 times a week. You need to wear sun protection on your face, which is the most sensitive area. Go outside, expose yourself to the sun and then, if you plan to be out in the sun for longer, put on sunscreen."

True / False about the sun and skin cancer

Sunburn is the first stage in tanning : FALSE

In all cases, a sunburn is already a skin lesion. As well as causing pain, "light" sunburns cause the skin to thicken. If the sunburn is more serious (burning, blistering), the skin "peels" and leaves room for new, more fragile tissue, which is likely to burn in turn... It's a vicious circle !


You tan better with a low SPF product : TRUE

If your skin is suitable for tanning. But you run the risk of getting sunburnt more easily. Sunburn doesn't happen as quickly to dark-skinned people, but it does happen... and the skin is damaged.


Everyone can tan, you just have to give it enough : FALSE

Some people, such as redheads, produce little or no of the brown pigments needed for tanning.


The sun helps in the treatment of certain illnesses : TRUE and FALSE

TRUE for :
- Rickets (but 10 minutes' exposure a day is enough)
- Psoriasis (in combination with other treatments)
- Eczema

FALSE for :
- Acne
- Joint pain (it's better to treat the cause), even if the heat helps

You need to keep an eye on all moles : TRUE

The term "mole" refers to several types of pigmented lesion on the skin: warts, papillomas, nevi, etc. Only lesions containing cells that produce melanin pigment, known as "melanocytic nevi", can cause skin cancer. But if in doubt, a 'mole' that changes appearance, bleeds, spreads or changes colour should be checked by your doctor.

Our organic suncare range

Our range of suncare products is ideal for people looking for effective protection, pleasant galenic formulations (easy to apply, pleasant fragrances, etc.) and total safety of the ingredients in the formulas.

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Soothing Hot Roll'On – 10 ml

The Soothe'Hot Roll'On will be very effective against the damage caused after strong exposure to the sun or heat. Its effectiveness...
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source : https://www.lanutrition.fr / www.ligue-cancer.net