Nourishing, invigorating, and life-giving, sunlight is the very essence of life on Earth. However, alongside the positive effects of sunlight upon the body sits the potential for lasting harm. The skin, as a fragile organ in constant need of protection, is one which can be easily damaged by the sun’s powerful rays. Scientific innovations, leading to a deeper understanding of how the skin is affected by the sun, have given rise to the development of potent and highly efficient SPF products. Such creations, perfected through research and savoir-faire, provide an ever-evolving array of ways to shield the complexion, offering essential daily defense from sunlight.
The unending natural energy of the sun, heralded for millennia as an awe-inspiring life force, and today harnessed via solar power and utilised for the benefit of all, is rightly recognised as being fundamental to existence as we know it. Throughout the 20th century, as scientists furthered their knowledge of the structure of sunlight, the paradoxical detriment that the sun’s composite rays have upon the skin became increasingly clear.
The sunlight which pierces through our atmosphere consists of two types of ultraviolet ray, known as UVA and UVB. These rays, identifiable by their differing wavelengths, affect the skin and cause harm in separate and distinct ways. UVA light, with its long waves, has the power to deeply penetrate the skin, and flows effortlessly through both cloud and glass cover, rendering both ineffective when it comes to protection, and making it a year-round threat to skin health no matter the climatic conditions in which it is encountered. Studies have shown that exposure to UVA light is one of the leading causes of premature aging, as it wreaks damage upon skin stem cells, leading to the thinning and wrinkling of the skin.
Intense and instantly perceptible upon the skin with the naked eye, UVB is the medium-length ultraviolet wave which is the primary cause of sunburn. Despite the fact that UVB has a shorter wavelength and will not usually penetrate the epidermis, the damage that it can cause is far from superficial. Indeed, UVB rays have the potential to profoundly harm exposed skin, altering its delicate DNA structure and causing discoloration.
Sun Protection Factor, typically abbreviated to SPF, is the most valuable daily support one can grant the skin in the ongoing battle against skin aging, cellular damage, and the associated harm wrought by exposure to sunlight. Shielding against both UVA and UVB rays, and providing a clear and concise indication of the length of time one might spend in the sun without a physical protective cover, SPF is the result of decades of dedicated research, and has become a skincare essential.
First envisaged back in the 1930s, and then launched with a modest factor of just 2, SPF has undergone a consistent process of improvement, refinement, and evolution which continues to this day. The official SPF label, which communicates its potency and the level of protection from sunlight it grants by the hour, was introduced in the 1970s to ensure consistent standards of safety and effectiveness. Those initial pioneering formulas were designed specifically to shield the skin from UVB rays, which were at the time considered to be the most damaging. As the clear dangers and penetrating effect of UVA were later uncovered, bold innovations arose which took such discoveries into account, weaving them into groundbreaking new formulas.
The evolution and onward march of scientific research into skincare and sun protection continues. Today, more so than ever before, the need to guard the skin throughout the year from both UVA and UVB is understood clearly, and the crucial importance of SPF is something which has been roundly embraced worldwide. Contemporary examples of excellence in SPF feature a formula which offers both UVA and UVB protection, a duality known as ‘broad spectrum’. Such skincare products have become essential to the daily beauty ritual, and are recommended to be applied once other products such as serums or moisturisers have been amply absorbed, 20 minutes before sun exposure. This crucial final stage of any protective skincare ritual allows not only for the guarding of the skin against the sun’s negative influences, but also for the safe enjoyment and luxuriance of its positive ones.