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Common suncare misconceptions
by Gladys Chung

What are some common suncare misconceptions?

We posed this burning question to Dr Dominique Moyal, a scientist responsible for photoprotection expertise in the worldwide regulatory affairs department at L'Oreal Research & Innovation. She was here last week to speak at the Sun Protection & Anti-ageing Skin Care Conference Asia at the Hilton Singapore.

First, the basics on the three kinds of UV rays:

UVB rays penetrate between 290 and 320 nanometres into the skin. These rays are responsible for sunburn.

Short UVA rays reach between 320 and 340 nanometres.

Long UVA rays go deeper into the skin at between 340 and 400 nanometres. These rays cause the most damage on skin: pigmentation, wrinkles and sagging.

Even if you do not burn easily in the sun, you do not go unscathed from the sun's damaging rays. UVA waves that are absorbed by the skin attack collagen fibres and elastin and erodes skin firmness. Asian skin - which contains more melanin or dark brown or black pigments - is also particularly sensitive to UVA rays that can cause pigmentation problems - think unsightly dark spots.

Most regular sunscreens with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) that do not come with the PA (protection grade of UVA) or UVA symbols only protect against UVB and short UVA rays.

So for every hour that is spent outdoors in the sun here, a sunscreen with SPF 15 PA++ is the minimum you should apply on your skin. If you spend an entire afternoon in the sun, a suncream with SPF 50 PA++++ (the maximum protection that most brands of sunscreen offer) would suffice. Some sunscreens come with an additional (+) symbol, such as SPF 50+ PA++++, this means the SPF is higher than the number stated.

Recently, La Roche-Posay launched its most potent suncare product, the Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid SPF 50+ UVA ($46.90, from selected personal care stores and pharmacies). Instead of the usual PA++++, which also translates to a Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) factor of around 16, the La Roche-Posay formula contains PPD 42, the highest available in a non-greasy sun protection cream.

When it comes to the amount of sunscreen you should apply, the rule is simple. Just make sure that you slather on the sunscreen evenly over the areas you want to protect; it is not a question of thickness. If the layer of sun cream is uniformly applied, and you do not rub it off accidentally or perspire, then there is no need to re-apply it throughout the day.

And contrary to popular belief, using a foundation, moisturiser or BB cream with adequate sun protection is enough to protect your skin from the damaging rays. There is no need to have an additional layer of sunscreen underneath it. Again, just ensure that the product is applied evenly on the skin.

When applying sunscreen, pay extra attention to the face, back (when you are topless, in a bikini or backless top) and the backs of hands as they are more susceptible to sun damage.

This article was first published on July 18, 2014.
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