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Skin life blog

Sun care

All you need to know
about UV rays


Michel Le MaitreScientific Advisor for Vichy Dermatology

Benjamin BauquinCocktail me Director

Going out in the sun can seem like an increasingly risky affair these days: we seem to be constantly bombarded with “shock tactic” media campaigns and worrying statistics for skin cancer rates that are permanently on the rise. Dermatologist Michel Le Maître and Benjamin Bauquin, creator of Cocktail Me, 100% organic and natural cocktail mixers, answer our questions.

What is “sun capital”?

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have unlimited reserves of “sun capital” – it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Over our lifetime, our skin continues to accumulate bad radiation until it reaches a point where it can’t absorb these rays anymore and their effects become visible, firstly in the form of brown spots, premature wrinkles or fine lines. When these external signs appear, it tells us that there is real damage deep down.

Do we all react to UV rays in the same way?

Unfortunately not. We are born with different phototypes, which have different levels of tolerance to sun exposure. Those with dark, mixed-race or olive skin have a higher proportion of dark melanin, which gives them greater protection from UV rays but does not mean that they do not need to use sun protection.

Does sunburn always mean that the skin has been damaged?

Yes. Sunburn is the result of an overdose of sun on the skin. The immediate effect is that the skin heats up and starts peeling, but the impact deep down is much more serious. The cells are no longer able to repair themselves properly, leading to irreversible damage.

Is it possible to tan safely?

Only if you follow the basic rules, avoiding the times of day when the sun’s rays are most dangerous and following the advice of experts, such as those at the French National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (INPES). It is also important to protect your skin with a high SPF, at least 40. Contrary to popular belief, this will not prevent melanin, which causes tanning, from rising to the skin’s surface. Another benefit of choosing a high SPF is that it will allow you to tan very gradually (without getting burnt), meaning that your tan will remain in the skin for longer and won’t disappear as soon as you come back from your holiday. Choose the sun cream most suited to your skin by taking our test.

Will a sunbed session help me tan more quickly?

Not at all! Quite the opposite: a tanning booth emits a very high dose of UVA on the skin in a very short space of time. This oxidises melanin and gives the impression of tanning after 15 minutes under the lamps, but it does not last and does not protect the skin. Since July 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified the UV rays emitted by sunlamps as carcinogenic. A word to the wise…

Can some foods help me get a tan?

Absolutely. Some nutritional supplements help prepare your skin before and during sun exposure. Benjamin Bauquin advises “simply consuming antioxidant carotenoids, known to stimulate melanin production and therefore tanning, every day for two weeks before going out in the sun.” These carotenoids are present in all brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables including carrots, mangoes, apricots, red peppers, strawberries, cherries, squashes, tomatoes and watercress. “The more colourful the fruit, the riper it is and the richer in carotenoids. A final pearl of wisdom: for optimal beta-carotene absorption, add a touch of fat by eating a couple of walnuts or a few drops of olive oil,” he concludes.

A quick and easy cocktail to prepare your skin for tanning, from Cocktail Me

For a 25cl glass, press 3 young carrots, ½ a ripe mango and 5 strawberries. Garnish with a sprig of mint. You should ideally drink this smoothie every morning. If you can’t get mangoes easily, simply replace them by another brightly-coloured fruit or vegetable of your choice, such as tomatoes.

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