What if you have not been rubbed well enough with sunscreen and your skin has been burned by the sun? Does using aftersun then make sense? Eight questions for dermatologist Dr. Jorrit Terra.
What is aftersun anyway?
Terra: "Aftersun is often a cream with cooling components. It is usually said on the bottle that it takes care of the skin or even repairs it after sunburn."
What damage does the skin incur in the sun?
"Let's say the sun is healthy for us. But too much exposure to UV radiation causes DNA damage. To some extent, the skin repairs that damage itself. But above a certain point the damage is irreversible. It is this damage that increases the risk of skin cancer. "
"Aftersun cannot repair DNA damage, but could provide relief in the event of skin dehydration" Jorrit Terra, dermatologist
"In addition to the DNA level, skin is damaged at the cellular level through excessive exposure to the sun. You see that when the skin turns red. There is so-called oxidative stress in the body that releases inflammatory proteins. The body gets overheated as a result. even feel feverish or flu. "
Does aftersun help with this?
"That depends on the ingredients that are in it. DNA damage cannot be repaired, but it could in principle provide relief in the event of skin dehydration."
"The problem with many aftersuns is that they often do not do what they promise. They say they soothe or repair the skin, but often do not contain the right ingredients for this. Many aftersuns are water-based and also contain preservatives."
During a day on the beach, the skin dries out due to the sun. (Photo: NU.nl/Layla Wijsmuller-Vafi)
But isn't water based good? Are those creams hydrating?
"No. We think of the term 'moisturizing' as 'moisturizing', but a water-based cream does not bring moisture into the skin. On the contrary: it evaporates relatively quickly on the skin. The water in the cream dries the skin even faster "Hydrating does not mean moisturizing, but" restoring moisture. "That is what the skin needs to relax."
How do you restore the moisture balance in the skin?
"You can only restore the moisture balance in the skin by improving the natural barrier layer. The skin forms a barrier between our body and the outside world. It consists largely of proteins, fats and tallow. The skin dries out by the sun , you can supplement it with a fatty ointment or cream. "
"Use a fat cream, preferably one without perfume" Jorrit Terra, dermatologist
"Because an oily ointment often also closes the skin, preventing heat from leaving the body, I often advise people to use a fat cream. It contains less fat than an ointment, but more than a cream. drugstore or pharmacy. Preferably choose one without perfume. "
Why is that important?
"Perfume can further irritate red, erected, irritated skin. That is also a disadvantage of many aftersuns. They contain substances such as alcohol and menthol in addition to perfume. They have a cooling effect. But if you put those substances on an already irritated skin The skin that burns quickly is often even more sensitive to these types of substances. "
"Most aftersuns respond to our need for calming and cooling, but do not deliver on that promise" Jorrit Terra, dermatologist
So Aftersun is of no use?
"I don't stop anyone from using it, but I don't think it will do much for it. It's largely marketing. I have never seen a bright red bottle on the shelf, for example. Aftersun is always blue or mint green . It responds to our need for calming and cooling. But most aftersuns do not deliver on that promise. "
There is also often aloe vera in aftersun. Does that not affect sunburned skin?
"That was investigated in a Thai study. It showed that it made no difference to a placebo. Not even to prevent sun damage."
"The best remedy to protect the skin against damage is to apply it well and often enough with sunscreen and to seek shade at the right times. The sun has increased in strength in recent years. With sunpower 7 or 8 you already burn in ten to fifteen minutes. Enjoy the sun, but do it wisely. "
Dr. Jorrit Terra is a dermatologist at the Isala Dermatological Center in Zwolle.