When it comes to protecting your skin, using the right sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection is of the utmost importance. However, if that’s all it has, it won’t be enough. Your sunscreen also needs to protect skin from infrared-A (aka IRA) rays as well, and here’s why.
Besides the sun, these IRA rays can also come from less-obvious places, like electronic devices (i.e. your computer, hair dryer, etc.). IRA rays travel even deeper into skin than UVA and UVB rays, causing free radicals that damage skin and further accelerate aging. What you’re left with are fine lines and wrinkles no matter how much sunscreen you’re putting on.
So what is your sunscreen missing? Potent antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E that can counteract those free radicals and keep skin looking young and smooth.
Check out this article excerpt, which originally published in Elle magazine:
Sun Protection News: Traditional Sunscreens May Not Be Enough Research shows infrared radiation could be causing more damage than UV rays
It's winter in Sydney, but the foamy breaks at Bondi Beach—a small yet legendary crescent of sand minutes from the city's urban bustle—are studded with surfers. Sleek and shiny in uniform black wet suits, they paddle out, pivot, and ride back to shore, on repeat: a smooth, mesmerizing loop. The Australian sunlight is brilliant, strong enough to necessitate sunglasses indoors. Yet somehow, the most famous Australian beauties—Nicole, Cate, Naomi—stay resolutely untouched by the sun.
"I don't have a single friend who goes to the beach to tan. Not one," declares Jo Horgan, the owner of Mecca Cosmetica, a string of culty beauty boutiques in Australia and New Zealand. Horgan has a zero-tolerance sunburn policy for her employees. If you're pink and peeling, don't even bother showing up—it sends the wrong message to her sun-smart clientele.
Horgan's attitude embodies a seismic cultural shift in the way in which Australians think about the sun. Prompted by startling statistics (for instance: Two out of three Aussies will be diagnosed with skin cancer before age 70), the country's government has attacked the issue of sun safety aggressively, with an approach that ranges from cutesy—the '80s slogan "Slip! Slop! Slap!" (slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat) was set to a catchy tune any schoolchild could trill—to the stomach-churning: In a TV spot from 2008, a pretty 26-year-old tearfully expresses her desire to live. Moments later, we learn she has already died of melanoma, and a tagline rolls: "No tan is worth dying for." The same year, Cancer Council Australia announced that teen tanning had declined by 45 percent over three years.
Think such extreme measures are uncalled for in the United States? More than a million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in this country every year—higher than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined. And up to 90 percent of the visible signs of aging—that's 90 percent of all spots, wrinkles, sagging—are caused by the sun. Yet 60 percent of Americans report that they rarely or never apply sunscreen, and only 27 percent apply the one-ounce, full-body dose necessary for the level of SPF offered on the bottle.
Now comes news that the sunscreens we are using may not be doing enough. Previously, skin-care scientists focused exclusively on ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB), devising chemical blockers such as avobenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule to absorb them and physical blockers (zinc oxide, titanium dioxide) to deflect and scatter them. ("Broad spectrum" indicates that a sunscreen contains a mixture of both.) But a German study published last year suggested that the spectrum of sun damage is wider than previously suspected: Infrared radiation may also release free radicals and accelerates aging. While UV rays account for only 6.8 percent of solar light, infrared, which we mainly experience as the heat of the sun, makes up 54.3 percent (the rest, called "visible light," is what we see as the colors of the rainbow). How much skin damage infrared does remains to be seen—some estimates indicate that the combination of infrared and visible causes some 10 to 20 percent of sun damage—but, according to Michael Southall, PhD, a senior researcher at Johnson & Johnson, "traditional sunscreens, which only block UV, don't protect us from the sun's total oxidative toll."
Our best defense may be the same family of ingredients that likely already fortify your day cream but that are relatively new to mass-market sunscreens: antioxidants. When skin absorbs solar energy (whether UV or infrared), renegade photons cause a burst of free radicals—short-lived atoms or molecules that have lost an electron, making them unstable and bound to damage any proteins or genes that get in their way. Antioxidants—including vitamins A, C, and E, green tea, and pomegranate—have the unique ability to donate an electron to a free radical, stabilizing it without destabilizing themselves […].
SkinMedica’s Total Defense + Repair SPF 34 provides broad spectrum protection against harmful UVA, UVB and Infrared waves. This sunscreen features SOL-IR™, advanced antioxidants that combat free radicals and boost your sunscreen's ability to shield your skin against sun damage. With a lightweight texture that leaves no white residue behind, you can wear it with or without makeup for daily sun safety.
In addition to protecting skin, each application helps revitalize your complexion to erase fine lines and wrinkles and even skin tone and texture. Total Defense + Repair SPF 34 is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as an effective UV sunscreen. Find this and other SkinMedica products at Warrenton Dermatology & Skin Therapy Center.