Does sunscreen count infrared rays? Is it the end of the rainbow?

Does sunscreen count infrared rays? Is it the end of the rainbow?
30 de June de 2020 Tahone Jacobs

It was the year 2014 and the first articles on the subject appeared in some magazines and fashion blogs in European. It was information without content, because there is no point in talking when do you don’t know what you’re talking about, like many things you can find on Google. At Per Purr, we like to understand what we are talking about and, most of all, try things ourselves before recommending them, because it is very easy to get lost in the game of telephone that is the internet.

 

I started researching scientific articles that could explain the physiology behind the interaction between infrared rays and our beloved skin. The first articles I read were practically copy & pasted. I found experts contradicting themselves within the same article. Other research said things like: infrared spectroscopy and magnetic measurements, {Gd38 (ClO4) 6}, encapsulating six ClO4? ions?

 

Is this information, which is almost impossible to decipher actually useful to us? What I do know how to do is use something, test it on my skin and evaluate it.

 

I asked my husband, who is a doctor (and partner of Per Purr), what he thought about infrared rays. He, somewhat incredulous, went to research this hot topic. He asked two pathological anatomists (people who are cooped up in the laboratory behind the microscope looking at cells) at his hospital about this great “discovery” and he told me that they both laughed at him, telling him that it wasn’t like that.

 

Here’s what he explained to me:

 

“Infrared rays are thermal energy, that light and pleasant heat that we feel when the sun touches our skin. They are not only emitted by the sun, but also by dryers, laptops, heaters, hot sidewalks and many other things. Humans also emit these rays, which are captured by night vision cameras.”

 

 

 

 

The sun’s ray is subdivided into 3 parts: UV rays – 7%, IRA rays – 54% and visible rays – 39%, which may be the next target of skin science. But what interests us here is whether these rays have the capacity to damage our skin.

 

Visible rays are what allow us to see the rainbow and are stronger than infrared rays. Why did a ray that is weaker than the rainbow become the new villain? Maybe because it is not as beautiful? Who would have the courage to accuse the beautiful rainbow of causing skin cancer?

 

So how can infrared rays cause damage? The answer is very simple: free radicals.

 

Almost all sunscreens available on the market today block half of the free radicals formed in the skin, as these free radicals cause premature aging and skin disease.

 

What is a free radical, anyway? It’s a highly reactive short-lived molecule derived from oxygen. Oxygen is present everywhere and, as its name suggests, it oxidizes like rust on metal, what we call “oxidative stress.”

 

Okay, but if IRA rays produce these free radicals in the skin, wouldn’t dryers, fires and the heat of human contact also cause cancer?

 

 

 

 

No! After all, there are other factors in this equation, such as intensity and length of exposure, which leads us to understand that just by sitting very close to a heater we can feel the burn. There are two important issues to clarify about this infrared issue:

 

  1. Free radicals are not only produced by infrared rays, but also and mainly by ultraviolet rays. And you know what else? When the body’s defense cells destroy “invaders”, they generate the same free radicals as infrared rays.

 

It seems that the villain has been unmasked and is not as ugly as we thought.

 

Excessively produced free radicals cause damage and must be combated. By whom? By antioxidants. A good sunscreen should have good antioxidants that act on ultraviolet rays. This is the key point: free radicals are not a new discovery and, in the fight for protection against UV and IRA rays, the antidote is exactly the same.

 

  1. Research on effects of the sun on the skin shows that IRA rays penetrate deeper than UV rays. However, it is very difficult for a sunscreen to go beyond the horny layer of the skin (the first layer of the epidermis, which is subdivided into many layers of dead cells), because the function of this layer is precisely that of protection; a skin protector that does not allow any chemical agent to penetrate.

 

Even using the latest nanoparticle technology in sunscreens, pathological biopsies (the study of microscopic tissue structures) show that the horny layer of the skin allows less than 1% of all topical agents we apply to the skin to penetrate.

 

IRA protectors are sold as a protective barrier. But is an antioxidant a barrier? In theory, maybe. UV protectors are chemical and physical filters, true walls, inorganic particles (like titanium dioxide) that absorb and/or reflect the rays, which is not the same as an antioxidant.

 

Last but not least, we have a chemical factor that reveals the whole picture: vitamin C is still the top antioxidant and must be present with at least 10% of the formula in a very acidic environment (pH 2.5 – 3.5) for its effect to be stable and efficient.

 

This new topical application (UVA + UVB + IRA protectors) that is invading the market has created high expectations but with low amounts of antioxidants. Today, it is still NOT possible to find a sunscreen containing 10% to 20% vitamin C because UV filters already make up 20% of the formula, and these require a basic pH (6-7), which would destroy the vitamin C.

 

 

 

What can be done to further protect the skin?

 

It’s very simple: instead of trying to find just one ideal product, it is better to use two real products. For example, use a serum with a minimum of 10% vitamin C and then an SPF 50 sunscreen.

 

With all this complex information, there is no need to frown upon infrared protectors, because even though they are not as effective as they claim to be, they are still a little more complete than normal ones that only contain ultraviolet protectors. The difference is especially noticeable when there is overexposure to the sun (such as during a beach holiday or a poolside weekend).

 

 

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