Suncreen is an essential all year round. Image via Adobe Stock.
I’m sure it’s not hard to believe that 80% of skin damage and premature skin ageing is caused by the sun. The sun emits harmful UVA and UVB rays, so wearing sunscreen outside is an absolute must and is something that has been drilled into us ever since we were kids, but did you know that you can still get skin damage staying inside? Being indoors protects us from harmful UVB rays but UVA – which penetrates the deepest layers of our skin causing permanent skin damage can penetrate clouds and glass so even on a cloudy day and even while you’re inside, UVA can still be damaging your skin.
This is why you should wear sunscreen every single day. It’s not only UVA and UVB we need to be aware of, but Blue Light too. Blue Light can be found in most devices such as your smartphone, tablet, computer or TV, the full effect on what blue light does to your skin is still being researched but what we do know is that it affects people with hyper-pigmentation issues. Pigmentation is the skin protecting itself from a variety of reasons such as UV rays, hormonal issues, age, stress and medication. I wanted to dig a little deeper into this topic and find out more about pigmentation, skin damage and what causes it and how we can look after our skin both indoors and outdoors to prevent any further damage.
So I had a (virtual) chat with Tracy Quinn from House of Camille, who shared her expert, in-depth knowledge on this topic and shared her product recommendations from her favourite skincare brand Medik8.
Could you please tell us about the different effects of UVA, UVB and Blue Light?
Not all UV is equal and each can damage layers of the skin layers in different ways.
UVA penetrates our skin to the deepest layers and is the primary cause of premature skin ageing and damage. UVA is also the dominant tanning ray, causing cumulative damage over time which results in damage to the skin’s DNA. The skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. Many people are unaware that UVA is present with equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year and can penetrate glass and clouds.
UVB penetrates more superficially and is responsible for sunburn and direct DNA damage. UVB varies by season, location and the time of day, with rays the strongest between 1pm and 3pm in the summer months. Unlike UVA, UVB does not penetrate glass but it does play a significant role in the development of skin cancer and photoaging.
The concept of Blue Light and its effects on the skin are still being researched but what we do know is that it is found in most devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs, even though some devices now have blue light filters on them. What is lesser known is that Blue Light also comes from the sun and Blue Light is actually everywhere, so being outdoors is where we will get our most exposure to it as well as man-made devices.
What are the most common reasons for pigmentation occurring?
Pigmentation occurs when melanin – the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their natural colour – is overproduced in certain areas. This causes localised dark spots or patches on the skin. These patches can be light brown to black in colour and will often vary in terms of size and shape. Freckles, age spots and post-acne marks are all examples of hyperpigmentation. While it can affect anyone at any given time in their lives, it is most commonly seen in medium to dark skin tones. This is because darker skin has more melanin and therefore is more susceptible to irregularity. There are many different forms of pigmentation, but for the most part, they can be divided into three categories.
When oestrogen is elevated above a normal level, it can lead to a condition known as melasma that causes large areas of skin to darken. This is why many women notice flat, dark patches of skin developing during their pregnancy or after starting the contraceptive pill. In fact, it affects so many pregnant women that it has been termed ‘the mask of pregnancy’. The condition can often resolve itself once oestrogen levels have been rectified.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is what occurs after a pimple or bite has finished healing. It is the skin’s natural response to any injury that causes the skin to become inflamed. As the inflammation subsides and the lesion begins to heal, the skin can often produce too much melanin causing the damaged skin to darken. Post-inflammatory pigmentation will improve over time (even if it is left untreated) but this can take anywhere from three months to three years depending on the severity. Generally speaking, the more inflammation there is, the more significant the pigmentation will be.
3. Sun Induced
This typically refers to age spots (or liver spots as they are otherwise known). This kind of hyperpigmentation is caused by sun damage. Despite the name, age has nothing to do with the condition. Anyone can be affected at any point in their lives and interestingly, age spots do not necessarily appear at the same time that the skin is afflicted. Often you will find that sun damage accumulated in your 20s can start to surface in your 30s or 40s, which is why it is imperative to use sunscreen every day from an early age. Other factors, such as environmental pollution and blue light from electronic screens can cause an increase in hyperpigmentation.
How can I reduce my pigmentation?
This is about finding the cause of your pigmentation, then stopping what is the trigger, whether it is from the sun, stress or hormonal and then prevention. Depending on what your trigger is a good anti-oxidant for stress and hormonal triggers can assist in future prevention.
For sun-induced pigmentation staying out of the sun and wearing an SPF30 year-round will help to reduce and limit exposure if sunscreen is maintained. Good skincare products suitable for your skin type is also a must and consulting a trained beauty therapist who can assess what is causing your pigmentation is another good step. They will also be able to recommend the right products for you, such as Medik8 White Balance and skincare products that contain anti-oxidants.
To reduce pigmentation damage that your skin has already received, a course of treatments by a trained beauty therapist and correct skincare for your skin type will help your skin to repair as well as reducing what is visible on your face and below.
The products I would recommend to help reduce pigmentation are from Medik8, which is a UK based skincare brand that has been built around biotechnology skincare that nourishes the skin as an organ and is a highly regarded and award-winning skincare brand that is used by dermatologists and skincare experts worldwide. These are the Medik8 Brightening Powder cleanse, Medik8 White Balance brightening serum and the Medik8 White Balance overnight repair, you can purchase these now for online delivery from House of Camille.
Vitamin C and Retinol have been hailed as the gods of skincare, can you explain how they work?
There are many different forms of Vitamin C. However, they all work towards the same end goal – luminous, youthful and protected skin.
Vitamin C works with your skin cells to stimulate collagen production while also helping to block the enzyme that causes pigmentation. Considered one of the best antioxidants in skincare, Vitamin C is able to fight free radicals which can cause premature ageing. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules with an unpaired electron. Deprived of an electron, they attempt to complete their pair by stealing an electron from other molecules.
There are many forms of Vitamin A known as Retinoids. Vitamin A has many benefits which include increasing collagen synthesis and decreasing the breakdown of collagen. It helps to increase cell turnover and acts as an antioxidant, protecting skin against free radicals. Retinoids help to balance the skin tone and help increase the production of hyaluronic acid found naturally in the skin, therefore helping to hydrate and minimise fine lines and wrinkles. Retinoids also help to soothe inflammation in the skin from acne and blemishes.