The idea that sunscreen is absolutely key in preventing premature ageing is often bandied around. There’s truth in it, of course – damage from the sun really contributes to the ageing process as it depletes stores of moisture and damages cells. In the UK, using sunscreen is often forgotten before summer kicks in, though it shouldn’t be: the sun’s rays shine year round, even when our weather is drizzly and grey. Damage from them can be accrued at any point, not only when you're exposed all day at Glastonbury or glamping.
CELL DAMAGE AND FREE RADICALS
But SPF can only go so far. Half the damaging effect on skin that results from the sun’s rays is thanks to free radicals that are generated by multiple skin stressors, including the sun. They’re also the result, on occasion, of ingredients contained in chemical sunscreens. It is therefore crucial to be mindful of the relationship between antioxidants and sunscreen when applying suncream – and well worth remembering that their beneficial effects on skin are manifold.
Here’s the science bit. Cells are irrevocably damaged by free radicals, which are the result of many things, from sun damage to stress to drinking too much craft beer or Pimm’s. Antioxidants neutralise and mop up free radicals, effectively stopping them from creating dullness and contributing towards ageing.
The ideal combination of pre-sun exposure skincare would therefore be an antioxidant-rich serum to attenuate damage from free radicals followed by an SPF to reduce sun damage. Remember to top up every four to five hours. Even with the cocktail of antioxidants and sunscreen, you’ll need to add more protection as the SPF's protection span comes to an end.