All your SPF product questions answered…

Over the last few months I have worked with so many brands that keep highlighting the importance of Good sun care, the damages of sun exposure and all things pigmentation and sun burn related. Ok, yes I know our mothers have always told us for as long as most of us can remember to put sunblock on before you go and play but the sad reality is the sun has changed a hell of a lot since we where all younger and we should be taking those comments extremely seriously and face reality on the dangers of sun exposure. La melle recently launched a revolutionary broad-spectrum sun screen called HELASE and I couldn’t be more in love with this skin care product. Yes life-changing stuff! BUT I think there is so much more to be spoken about when it comes to sun damage and the effects of the sun. Me simply sitting here typing about how much I love this one product is not going to give you the insight we all really need when it comes to this topic.

SO I have called in the skin care experts at Lamelle for a bit of help for this blog post to give you all the answers to all those pressing questions we all want to know…

1. SPF- Most of us know that this stands for Sun Protection Factor but few of us consumers really know what that actually means. Can you please give us a little bit more insight into this?

The Short answer: The SPF on a sun protection product gives you an idea of how long YOU can stay in the sun before you burn. This is the UVB protection rate only. The UVA rating (more ageing frequency) must be at least 1/3 of the UVB rating for you to have the SPF shown on your product.

The Long answer: For you to assess the SPF and its implications to you, you need to know what your minimum erythema dose (MED) is. YOUR MED is the time that YOU can spend in the sun, without sun protection, before YOU turn red. It will be specific to you. The redness indicates that there is some DNA damage that was created by the UVB (mostly) rays of the sun. The skin reacts by creating inflammation as you have been injured. This DNA damage combined with the inflammatory messages will then activate the melanocyte to make more melanin, and you will end up with a tan. The fact is that you need to create DNA damage for the tan process to be initiated. The problem is that we tend not to go into the sun once, but many times to get the perfect tan. In this way we are creating DNA damage on DNA damage on DNA damage………. The sun also decreases our skins immune response so DNA damage might not be recognized when the cell should actually be destroyed. SO if you know what your MED is then you take your MED and times the SPF number with it to get how long you are protected for. My MED is 10 minutes and I use an SPF 15, I then have 10×15 min before there will be DNA damage so I am protected for around 150 min. The challenge is that the SPF is not assessed at 12 o’clock on a Durban beach though. The time of the day, the geographic area, the season, cloud cover and many more factors will affect the protection rate of your sunscreen. The challenge is then that sunscreens can create a false sense of security. Many people think it relates to the percentage of sun protection. “So SPF 50+ that is water resistant should give you 100 % protection…..and then you burn……”


2. What’s the right way to apply sunscreen? When should we be applying it and how much sunscreen should we be using on our faces and exposed skin?

Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed areas every morning. We are exposed to light and sunlight throughout the day and especially in South Africa the best tool to preventing ageing, mottled pigmentation and sun damage is to wear a good broad spectrum sunscreen daily with a SPF 15 at least. Though at Lamelle we suggest SPF 30 or more for daily use. You will see later on why. Where do I apply it? Over serums and moisturizers, and before make-up. (Any room in the house or in your garage….. driving in your car is too late ☺) When? If you are using a sunscreen it needs to penetrate the skin and settle before you go into the sun. Apply at least 15 minutes before sun exposure. (Sun blocks, that contain zinc and titanium di-oxide work immediately and don’t need penetration time) How much? This is where the challenge starts. A study done recently looked at the amount of sunscreen that we apply and assessed the actual SPF we are getting from this application. This study found that, because of the fact that we hardly ever apply the 0, 5-1mg per cm2 of the sunscreen ingredients to our skins, we are actually only getting between a half and a quarter of the rating on the bottle. This means that if your SPF is 15 you are actually only getting real rating of SPF5-7, this would just not be enough to carry you through your day and you would need to reapply. Reasonably impractical if you are wearing make-up. For this reason at Lamelle we have decided that our SPF ratings on our sunscreens need to be SPF 30 or above. Even if you do not apply enough sunscreen, a rating of SPF 15, should protect you on a normal work day where you are not outside in the sun constantly. If however you are spending most of your day outside in the sun, you need to reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours, if your skin is immersed in water or you are sweating. How much must I apply though? To get the SPF rating on the product container, a lady weighing around 60kg’s, in a bikini would need to apply a full tot glass of sunscreen to the exposed skin. For your face neck and décolleté you are probably looking at having to apply 2mls or half a teaspoon of a product to get the SPF that is on the product container. (And another half a teaspoon on your hands and arms, especially when you are driving.)

3. This is always my biggest question when it comes to SPF based products. How long does SPF last? Does SPF15 mean I am only protected for 15 minutes?

Depends on your minimum erythema dose (MED) as discussed in point 1. The best story I can tell is about a family, the mother is blond and burns easily, she has a blond daughter that turns red and then brown, a son with auburn hair that turns brown and a redhead daughter who also burns easily. If they all used the same SPF 50 product, the mother and redhead will burn, the blond will go red and then brown and the auburn haired sun will have a beautiful tan after 30 minutes in the sun. Each one of the people have a different MED and melanocyte activity level. This makes additional protection, using umbrellas and additional sun protecting clothing SO very important. Also be aware during what time of the day you are going to be in the sun. A visit to Durban beach at 9 in the morning will be much different to a visit at 12h00 or the same time in Cape Town or London for that matter. 4. I have recently been made aware of the harmful effects of UVB (artificial light). What is UVB and how do we protect ourselves from the effects of it? Is it really something we need to be concerned about? I think that you are probably referring to blue light or high energy visible lite that is produced by light emitting tools like TV, cellphone and pc screens? This light is a different frequency to UVB light. UVB cannot be seen while the HEV or blue light is part of the visible light frequencies. The challenge with the light is that it penetrates much deeper then UVB and other frequencies of visible light and has been found to create damage deep into the skin. This damage is caused by light energy creating/activating free radicals in the skins deeper layer. These free radicals then have the potential to cause DNA damage but also damage to the cells and their extracellular and intracellular structures. This in turn causes signs of ageing to be exaggerated, more lines and wrinkles and also higher risks of hyperpigmentation. To protect from this damage it is essential that your sunscreen contains a potent anti-oxidant. Helase contains a super high anti-oxidant, Pygnogenol that will provide anti-oxidant protection for HEV or blue light.

5. On the Helase packaging it states that the product is a board spectrum sun care product, what does this mean? Why would this be recommended over a normal, off the shelf standard SPF 15 I am able to pick up at my local pharmacy?

In 2014 a trail was done looking at SPF 50 sunscreens that contained a potent anti-oxidant and the study found that even with this high SPF and anti-oxidant protection the skin was not fully protected. (Only around 53% protected) The challenge with sunscreens and sun blocks are that they are focused on protecting the skin from a portion of the effects of UVA and UVB light. The sun has three other frequencies that all create damage but that our conventional sun protection products do not protect us from. They are UVC (the fine particles in pollution create the same from of damage) Visible light (HEV or blue light falls into this range) and Infra-red (that create heat). Even though UVA and UVB are the most destructive frequencies the other frequencies can also create damage. Helase 50 was produced to not only protect from the effects that UVA and UVB have but also all the other frequencies of sun light that reach us and that we are affected by. In Helase 50 we have also improved the frequency of UVA and UVB protection and we have added enzymes that can correct DNA damage caused by the sun (direct DNA damage) and also the DNA damage caused by free radicals (indirect DNA damage).


6. Please explain how premature aging happens and how the sun can actually damage not just the overall initial appearance of the skin but also the long-term effects of the sun on our skin.

So you have skin cells that age due to their genetic make-up. They become slow at meiosis and making new cells and they also become slow at making the “stuff” that they make. Epidermis: less cells are produced, they also make less lipid bi-layer, less exfoliating enzymes and less amino acids that keep the surface of the skin acidic. Dermis: less fibroblasts are produced and they make less growth factors (that stimulate proliferation and activity), collagen, healthy elastin (they make more elastosis – poor quality elastin) and less GAG’s, arteries, veins, nerves etc This causes thinning and sagging of the skin and lines and wrinkles are formed with movement. Another natural part of the intrinsic ageing process is chronic inflammation called Inflammageing. This form of inflammation has no clinical symptoms but the skin will try to rebuild itself and break itself down at the same time. This Inflammageing also causes the loss of subcutaneous fat pads that will result in sagging of skin. Add sun to the mix… Free radicals: All the frequencies of sunlight, UVC, UVB, UVA, Visible Light and Infrared create free radicals in all the layers of the skin. Visible light and infrared will penetrate deep into the dermis and subdermal layers. The free radicals create damage to the skin cell structures, the collagen, elastin, the gag’s (extracellular matrix), arteries veins and nerve ending. The symptoms associated with this damage are course dry skin, lines and wrinkles are exaggerated, more subcutaneous fat loss, jowling skin and irregular pigmentation. Enzymes: Free radical damage to the fibroblasts will cause them to produced MMP enzymes as the cells are preparing to fix the skin after injury but there is no injury so the MMP enzymes are never turned off and they consume the little bit of healthy collagen and elastin that is there. They are unable to breakdown the elastosis as your body protects is with an enzyme called Elafin. Here we see rough bubbly skin that has loss of hydration and plumpness. Elasticity and strength of the skin is also decreased and skin becomes thin and fragile. Immunity of the skin: UVC and pollution will decrease the skin immunity and with continuous damage might result in diseases of the skin called photodermatitis and could end up in skin cancers. Cell death: UVA frequencies, more than the other frequencies will cause an increase in cell death – resulting in even less cells being active and doing their work. DNA damaged melanocytes: A melanocyte lives for around 30 to 40 years. It is built to protect the skin and contains a gene that will not allow it to be destroyed. The continuous re-exposure to the sun will cause an accumulation of DNA damage. This DNA damage can result in more melanocytes being produced in an area and at a stage these damaged melanocytes will start over producing pigment. This is seen on the skin as age or liver spots. This accumulation, over time, of sun exposure and damage will result in a speckled hen look. The skin will have areas of hyper- and area of hypo pigmentation. All in all it is not good enough to protect from UVA and UVB alone. We do need more, not just to prevent the damage that might cause skin cancer and other skin illnesses but also to protect our skins from pre-mature ageing. All conditions of sun exposure are accumulative. Though statistics do say that in 80% of cases where skin cancer was diagnosed the damage that initiated the mutation was one acute exposure and probably happened before the person entered their 20’s. another astounding statistic say that if you are of European descent and live in SA for all your live and you turn 80 year old you have a 100% chance of getting some form of skin cancer diagnosis. Enter Helase 50 (starting to see the importance yet?)

7. So I am standing in my local drug store or at my beauty therapist and I am presented with 100 different SPF product options. How do I choose the correct sunscreen for my skin?

I feel it is very much up to personal preference and that is also why there are so many products on the market. I would suggest you look at four things: a. Is your skin sensitive to any sun protection ingredient? Stay away from those b. Lifestyle: are we buying an on the beach, outside all day kinda product or are we looking for something to use every day? You would need a higher SPF and maybe a more water resistant product if you are going to be out doors. c. Skin type: do you prefer something with a little more oil as your suffer from a drier skin or are you looking for a matte or gel based product? d. What else must the product do?: Moisturise, more protection, give coverage (double as a base)

8. After I have invested in this amazing high end SPF product, how long will this product last in my bathroom cabinet? Do I need to maintain my routine with this one SPF product or should I change my SPF regularly to reap the most effective benefits of the product?

Sunscreens are generally quite stable but I would suggest that you finish your product within 6 months from opening – just from an active ingredients point of view. You would probably have a daily use sunscreen and another one for active days out in the sun. Generally most of our clients find something they like and continue using it for many years only changing when something better comes along. Serum and creams are changed more often to get more out of your skin, genrally sun care products are not the same.

9. A major concern for me, like any other beauty and makeup obsessed women, is the white flash back in photos. This is caused my titanium dioxide that is in majority of SPF based products. Will this product give me the ghost effect?

At Lamelle we are not, at this stage, using titanium or zinc based products. These ingredients work on their reflective properties and that is why you have the flash back when a flash is used in photography. We like our sun screens as they penetrate into your skin, don’t leave an oily sheen and will not cause darker skin types to look ashey. 10. What number or strength of SPF should I use on my face on a day-to-day basis when I am not planning to bask in the sun for hours? The general rule is SPF 15 and higher. Knowing that we only get half or a quarter of the bottle rating at Lamelle we always suggest a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) with an SPF30 and higher.


10. A very big miss conception I have recently come across is the fact that sunscreen products can replace our normal moisturizers. Is this true? Can sunscreen replace moisturiser? Do I need to be using moisturiser and sunscreen?

Normal moisturisers that hydrate the skin will generally do their work in the corneum only. They work by trapping water, or binding water to corneocytes or adding ingredients like ceramides, natural moisturising factors (NMF’s) or oils to the corneum to make it look and feel hydrated. Combining these ingredients with a SPF makes sense as they all need to be in the corneum and top layers of viable epidermis. If you are however wanting to put ingredients into your product that will change the viable skin cells in the viable part of the epidermis and the dermis you probably should not combine them with a sunscreen. The challenge is that the sunscreen ingredients need to stay in the corneum at top of the viable epidermis to protect. If they penetrate further into the skin it would be like wearing your raincoat under your jacket or jersey…… it will not protect. It also has a high risk of causing sensitivity. This is the reason why, at Lamelle, our day creams generally do not contain an SPF. The ingredients, growth factors, vitamins, anti-inflammatory ingredients and more, in our day creams need to penetrate into the viable skin layers to change and fix. We do not want them trapped in non-viable dry skin layers. Instead we suggest that you apply your sunscreen separately after your day cream. In a young, healthy, vibrant skin, that is well hydrated you could use only a Lamelle sunscreen to protect. We find that especially men start on our products this way if they have never really used good skin care before. (They usually see the results and want more then we add other serums and treatment products.☺) win win for the brand and the customer.

11. Sensitivity was also an issue for me when it came to wearing a sunscreen product every day. I found that it always made my skin super oily; my eyes burn and prevented my makeup from looking flawless and evenly blended. This is the ONLY sunscreen product I have ever used that does not give me any of these issues. Why is that?

Dr Bradley Wagemaker (One of the Lamelle owners and the doctor that does all our research and product formulation) has made an excellent formulation with Helase 50. The product has the ability to penetrate the ingredients to where they are needed most. (Sunscreens in non-viable skin all the rest in the viable layers.) This means that when you apply Helase 50, give it a few seconds to settle, it gives you a “primer” type of effect. It purely has to do with the formulation and we feel is pure genius.

13. The Lamelle skin care product Helase 50 that I have been using states on the packaging that this product is a photo- repair cream. What does this mean? Why is this important when I am looking at purchasing a high-end sun care product such as this one?

This is  related to the fact that Helase 50 has four activities: Absorb: the UVA and UVB protectors in the Helase 50 give it a SPF 50 with an improved critical wavelength (379 nm usual sunscreen only protect to360nm). The protectors absorb the UV light and covert it to other forms of energy in this way protecting healthy living cells, DNA and cell structures. Protect: Helase 50 contains ingredients that will protect the skins immunity from damage caused by UVC and pollutants. It contains a super anti -oxidant that will quench free radicals created by the energy in all the frequencies of sunlight. One of the ingredients deactivates the molecule that is activated by infrared that causes accelerated ageing. Reduce: The anti-oxidant will reduce the risk of oxidative stress (to many free radicals and not enough anti-oxidants to quench them). The active enzymes are de-activated that their production is normalised. The skins immunity is also protected and recovered if it should be affected. Repair: Helase 50 contains ingredients that will repair the processes that cause inflammation in the skin. Specialised enzymes in the product will also repair DNA damage that is caused through direct injury by sunlight and through damaged indirectly caused through the activation of free radicals in the nucleus of each cell. This means that Helase 50 is the ultimate product to protect you from ageing and skin damage and it can also correct recent damage that has been done by the sun.

14. Is the importance of sun care relevant for all skin tones and types? Or should lighter skin tones be more conscious about protection?

All skin tones need to protect their skins from sun damage as we all have the same risk to get skin cancer. The type of cancers will just differ. The type of sun damage that is caused will very: Lighter skin will age more with lines, wrinkles and sagging as the dermis in lighter skin is not well protected. Darker skin will age more with pigment irregularities as the pigmentation in their skins will protect the underlying structures but melanocyte activation and damage is still a reality. 15. Since I have been using this sunscreen I have seen a massive difference in the overall appearance of my skin. Can you explain the main reasons for this? It related to everything that Helase 50 is giving you – ingredients and formulation. If I need to suggest one product that does a lot of things it would be Helase 50. It is the ultimate anti-ageing product as it protects and corrects. I also definitely do feel that if you are not protecting your skin from the sun it doesn’t warrant treating all the other ailments of ageing. In Africa the sun is our biggest ageing concern!

16. Finally the Golden question- PRICE. Why do you recommend me spending a large amount of money on a high end sun care product like Helase and not a standard sun screen for R89.99? Unfortunately as with everything, improved technology does come with a price. Though……….. Any sunscreen is better than nothing. With Helase 50 we are protecting your skin from the effects of the full spectrum of sunlight. UVA and UVB make up 5% of this spectrum but these are the most damaging frequencies of sunlight. If you only have R100 in your purse please spend it on the standard sun screen at R89.99. In the case of Helase 50 more is more though and we garenty you wont regret the purchase.

There you have it guys!! Thank you so much Karen Bester and Lamelle Research Laboratories for all the incredible insight. Let me know what you guys think of this in-depth blog post in the comments section down below.

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