The history of sunscreens goes back to 1938 when a Swiss chemistry student named Frans Greiter got sunburnt while climbing Mount Piz Buin on the Swiss/Austrian border and set out to invent an effective sunscreen.
In 1946, Mr Greiter’s products came to the market under the brand name Piz Buin which is still sold today. The initial sunscreens contained mainly chemical filters against UVB i.e.to prevent sunburn but not UVA filters. In the 1970s, Biz Buin introduced sunscreens with UVB as well as UVA filters.
Zinc Oxide ointment has been around for a long time and it is a thick, greasy physical sunblock that is still very useful for the lips and nose especially those with above-average sun exposure like yachtsmen and cricketers. It is a total sunblock that reflects ultraviolet radiation but it is thick, sticky and quite messy to use and it can block pores in oily, acne-prone skin.
Physical sunscreen formulations that contain Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide are becoming more popular as these two minerals are now ground into finer particles so that they do not leave a white residue or streaks on the skin and are more aesthetically pleasing. Some of them offer excellent topical galenic formulations to ensure patient compliance such as the Heliocare range of sunscreens from Spain. A big advantage of these physical sunscreens is that they are inert i.e. it is virtually impossible to develop an allergic reaction to them.
Most sunscreens are a combination of the chemical as well as physical filters. However, there are a number of sunscreens that are chemical sunscreen-free i.e. only have physical filters such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide and this is useful in people with more allergy-prone skin. Recently, the physical only sunscreens have been able to achieve an SPF 50.
Living in the Southern hemisphere, I prefer erring on the side of a higher factor, such as SPF 50, so, therefore, the most basic sunscreen I like to recommend should be an SPF50 that covers UVB as well as UVA – in other words, a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Visible Light has also been shown to be damaging to the skin and can cause pigmentation. Iron oxide is able to block visible light from reaching the skin and therefore if you are prone to pigmentation, it is advisable to use a sunscreen with a tint. Most modern sunscreen ranges include a tinted formulation which is either a light brown colour or natural skin coloured tint.
“Visible Light has also been shown to be damaging to the skin and can cause pigmentation”
Infrared-Radiation as well as Atmospheric Pollution i.e. ground-level ozone is harmful to the skin. Many of the newer, more modern sunscreens contain antioxidants such as Pycnogenol, Baicalin, Ferulic Acid, Vitamins C&E and Fernblock which all help against the effects of Infrared-Radiation as well as Atmospheric Pollution, adding enhanced protection against visible signs of ageing.
More recent advances in sunscreen formulations are those that contain Photolyase, a DNA correcting enzyme that helps to repair DNA damage induced by chronic sun exposure. A sunscreen on Dermastore® that contains Photolyase is Lamelle Helase 50. It has ability to not only protect the skin from the harmful effects of the full solar radiation spectrum, but they are able to help damaged DNA.
It has been shown in clinical studies that regular use of a high factor, broad spectrum sunscreen can also help to reduce the number of pre-cancerous lesions from occurring I.e. they can help repair the DNA damage.
Modern sunscreens have a variety of formulations and textures depending upon your skin type and concerns. If you have an oily, acne-prone skin you can choose a Dry Touch, non-comedogenic formulation. If you have a more dry, dehydrated skin, a richer, cream based formulation would be recommended. Many of the sunscreens are also tinted – this is often referred to as a universal tint, meaning that technology has made it possible for the tint to adapt to your natural skin colour.
There are also special sunscreens formulated for athletes to prevent the sunscreen from running into their eyes – La Roche-Posay Shaka Fluid SPF50+ which includes safe eye technology (does not sting the eyes)
Therefore, we have a wide choice of sophisticated, elegant sunscreens available for all skin types and concerns and there is no excuse for not using one of these more modern sunscreens on a regular basis.