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Interview with Industry Experts: Britta Wilson (Brand Manager) and Jenny Wright (Managing Director) of Galderma, the largest independent Dermatology company worldwide.


Why do we need sun protection today? I’m sure we are all familiar with sunburn and the short-term symptoms associated with that of pain, redness and discomfort. The problem is that there are lasting effects or damage from sunburn which is often not seen and that is why sun protection is one of the most important steps to add to your skincare routine. The use of daily and consistent sunscreen helps to prevent against premature aging but also more importantly, can help prevent the formation of certain skin cancers. Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, and this is no different in South Africa.

Will sun protection creams be protective enough with global warming and climate change in years to come? Climate change refers to the global shift in weather patterns occurring over long periods of time. These changes include temperature, rainfall, cloud cover and wind speeds. Climate change has accelerated rapidly in the past half century but it is important to remember that the sun is not responsible for global warming. This global warming phenomenon is caused by greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, trapping infrared radiation from the sun in the atmosphere, warming temperatures over time. 

With warmer temperatures, there is an increased tendency to spend more time outdoors and possibly wear less clothing, which would possibly indicate an increase in exposure to sunlight and the UV radiation. Sun protection will therefore potentially become a more integral part of daily skincare routine to ensure we protect our skin, and first line of defense! As more studies are conducted around this topic and more information is uncovered, companies will continue investing into developing new, and better ways of sun protection.

Has the skin technology around sun protection evolved in line with climate change and global warming? Skin technology continues to evolve with the growing needs of skincare and is not specifically linked to climate change and global warming. 

According to insights from skin specialists and skincare influencers, trends for the future will include the move towards minimalistic regimens. This means simplifying skincare regimes, including wearing less make-up for more of a Natural appearance, or using products that involve less steps in a regime eg. instead of cleanse, toner, moisturizer, etc. one will use products that are pH balanced so that the toner step may be omitted. 

We also see the rise of microbiome-friendly products. These are skincare products that will be infused with the natural bacteria of the skin, which will help the skin maintain its optimal balance, and the rise of microbiome-friendly products. 

One of the biggest changes will be in in the packaging used, moving from the use of single-use plastic packaging to packaging that is less harmful on the environment. However, studies will need to be undertaken to ensure that the new form of packaging used is safe and has no detrimental effect on the ingredients or action of the ingredients in the product. 

Has this need increased over the years? If so, in what timeframe has this happened roughly? The need for the use of sunscreen has not increased over the years necessarily, but as science and technology improves, a wealth of information becomes available making consumers increasingly aware of the effects of UV radiation on skin health and appearance all year around. This is driving an increased demand for sunscreen ingredients worldwide. Sun protection is no longer limited to traditional sun care products. Sunscreens are becoming essential ingredients in a wide range of products, from traditional sun protection and daily skin care to hair care, colour cosmetics, as well as bath and shower products. As a result, there are an increasing number of new products and claims reaching the market. In a little over 50 years, the sun protection industry has evolved tremendously in both the level and type of protection and the aesthetic properties of the products. This has allowed companies to feed consumers with more attractive products that protect from a wide range of new environmental and technological stressors, from sun radiation to air and light pollution.

How about Vitamin D absorption -won’t we block this or interfere with the natural physiological processes in the body by wearing sun cream too often? We all need vitamin D. It helps keep your bones strong by regulating calcium levels and also gives an important boost to the immune system. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it manufactures vitamin D. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays interact with a protein in the skin, converting it into vitamin D3, the active form of vitamin D. 

The problem is people are worried they may develop a vitamin D deficiency if they are using sun creams and other forms of sun protection. It is believed that the best way to obtain enough of the vitamin is through unprotected sun exposure. The truth is, it doesn’t take much sun exposure for the body to produce vitamin D. Even though high-SPF sun creams are designed to filter out most of the sun’s UVB rays which may cause sunburn and damage, some of the sun’s UV rays still reach your skin. Clinical studies have not found that everyday sunscreen use leads to vitamin D insufficiency. In fact, the prevailing studies show that people who use sunscreen daily can maintain their vitamin D levels. There is overwhelming evidence for the multiple benefits of sun protection so rather protect yourself!

Are the chemicals in today’s type of sun creams absorbable into the bloodstream and able to cause cancer or hormonal problems over a long time of usage? In May 2019, it was shown when certain sunscreens were used at their maximal recommended use, their active ingredients were absorbed through the skin and into the body. The findings in these studies however does not mean that the FDA has concluded that any of the ingredients tested are unsafe for use in sunscreens.

Two active ingredients (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are generally recognized as safe and effective for use in sunscreens, and additional data was not requested for them. Given the recognized public health benefits of sun cream usage, the FDA strongly advises to continue using sun creams in conjunction with other sun protective measures (such as protective clothing).

What happens in the skin, as the largest organ of the body, if we don’t use a good sun cream? When your skin is exposed to the various rays from the sun (which include Ultraviolet (UV) A, B, as well as Infrared rays), the skin absorbs these rays. The UV rays penetrate outer skin layers and hit the deeper layers of the skin, where they can damage skin cells/DNA or kill skin cells. Usually the skin tries to protect itself against these rays by: increasing epidermal (outer layer of the skin) thickness, producing Melanin, DNA repair mechanisms and apoptosis (controlled cell death). 

The pigment Melanin, also responsible for giving your skin its colour, absorbs the energy of UV light and helps prevent the light from damaging skin cells and penetrating deeper into the tissues. Even though your skin has developed all these mechanisms to try protect itself, there are always some rays that penetrate through these natural defenses, and so extra precautions of including the use of high to very high protection sun creams is advised. 

SUN SAFETY TIPS:
 • By applying an SPF 50, you are providing 50 times the skins normal skin protection against UVB rays (ie: 98% protection). The lower the SPF, the less protection.
 • It is important to remember:regardless the SPF being used, you always have to reapply your sun cream every 2 hours if in direct sunlight, or after swimming/sweating.
 • Try to avoid the sun when UV rays are their strongest between 10am and 2pm.
 • All ethnicities need to wear sun protection creams. The sun creams help prevent the UV rays from penetrating and damaging cells/DNA, thus protecting your very important largest organ – your skin, so it can perform its important functions!

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