- This One Thing Slows Aging by 90%
- The Aging Effects of UV Rays
- The #1 Cause of Premature Skin Aging: Sun Exposure
- Why Sun Exposure Causes Premature Skin Aging
- Photoaging: What You Need to Know About the Other Kind of Aging
This One Thing Slows Aging by 90%
Whether we like it or not, everyone will show some signs of aging as they get older. Aging that we can’t control is referred to as intrinsic or chronological aging. While we can’t control this type of aging, we can control our exposure to environmental factors that exacerbate signs of aging, like chronic exposure to high and low temperatures, smoking, and alcohol consumption. One of the main environmental factors that ages our skin is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of skin aging is due to the effects of the sun!¹ The sun causes proteins in our skin to deteriorate, leading to the loss of our youthful appearance over time. On the bright side, this type of aging can be prevented with proper sun protection. Elastin and collagen are two proteins that help keep our skin looking youthful. Elastin, as the name suggests, helps keep the skin elastic. In other words, it’s what gives our skin bounce and resiliency.² Collagen, on the other hand, helps our skin to maintain its rigidity. We have more collagen than any other protein in our body,³ so you can imagine why it’s so important. We can also thank stem cells for keeping our skin looking young.⁴ These special cells give rise to other cells that replace dead cells. If stem cells don’t function properly, skin will deteriorate over time.
UV radiation causes skin to age in several ways. It causes stem cells to die off, leading to thinning and wrinkling of the skin. UV radiation also activates enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs for short. These MMPs break down collagen. UV radiation also activates an enzyme called cathepsin K. Cathepsin K breaks down elastin.⁴ The secret to avoiding aging caused by sun exposure is sun protection. Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Also remember to wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, and seek shade whenever possible. QSun is a free app available for iOS and Android that gives you personalized sun safety tips including how much sunscreen to apply and how long you can stay outside before getting a sunburn.
The Aging Effects of UV Rays
Damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause your skin to age prematurely — think wrinkles. The good news is that premature aging due to UV rays is largely preventable. By taking steps to avoid excessive sun exposure and protecting your skin when you’re in the sun, you can help keep your skin healthier and postpone wrinkles for years to come.
The Sun’s Spectrum of Ultraviolet Rays
Radiation energy emitted from the sun reaches the earth in the form of UV rays. Ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere provides some protection, but the breakdown of the ozone layer that has occurred over the past few decades is making us even more vulnerable to UV rays damage. Even on overcast days you’re still being exposed to UV rays — “cloud cover” offers no protective value.
Two types of UV rays reach the earth, UVA and UVB (the sun also emits UVC rays, but these are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere). UVA rays are the rays that cause tanning as well as wrinkles and other signs of premature aging, and UVB rays cause sunburns and skin cancer. But both ultimately damage your skin. UV rays are more powerful during the summer months. They are also stronger in high altitude areas and the closer you get to the equator — geographic factors that increase your risk of premature aging.
Damage Done by UV Rays
When UV rays reach your skin, they interact with a natural chemical in the skin called melanin. Melanin is your first line of protection and absorbs UV rays in order to shield your skin against sun damage; this chemical reaction is what gives skin a tan. When the amount of UV rays you’re exposed to exceeds the protection provided by melanin, however, you get a sunburn.
Repeated overexposure to UV rays can lead to various forms of skin damage including:
- Fine lines
- Age spots, freckles, and other discolorations
- Scaly red patches, called actinic keratoses, thought to be the beginnings of skin cancer
- Tough, leathery skin that feels and looks dry and rough
As if these signs of aging weren’t enough, the sun causes numerous types of skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma; eye damage such as cataracts, which impair vision; and a weakened immune system, leaving you less able to fight off infections.
Break the UV Ray Cycle
You can help protect your skin from wrinkles and other sun damage with the following steps:
- Use sunscreen. Every day, generously apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, choosing products that provide what’s called “broad spectrum” protection against both UVA and UVB rays. When you’re in the sun for prolonged periods of time, reapply sunscreen every two hours.
- Wear protective clothing. Whenever possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to further shield your skin from the sun. Consider clothes made from fabrics with built-in SPF.
- Avoid peak sun hours. Stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their most intense.
- Follow the UV Index. The UV Index is a daily indicator of how much UV radiation is expected to reach the earth — think of it as a pollen count reading for your skin. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service, it’s usually broadcast along with your local weather report. A rating of 1 to 2 is considered low, and anything over 11 is very high. The higher the number, the more you risk overexposure to UV rays.
- Never use tanning beds. Tanning beds emit the same UV rays that come from the sun, so skip them. Contrary to popular belief, they are not a “safer” way to tan.
- Bronze yourself with sunless tanning products. If you like the look of sunkissed skin, consider do-it-yourself tanning products or splurge on a salon spray-on tan. But remember to still use sunscreen and take all other precautions against UV rays when you’re going to be outside.
While the sun may feel warm and inviting, exposure to UV rays comes at a cost. Take steps to protect yourself from the havoc that sun damage can wreak on your skin.
The #1 Cause of Premature Skin Aging: Sun Exposure
Cover up—with the right clothing and sunscreen—to prevent premature skin aging.
The #1 cause of premature skin aging is sun exposure. This is why one of the most important things women and men can do to slow down premature skin aging is to diligently protect their skin from the sun. I spend time with each and every patient who comes into my office—offering advice and administering treatments to reverse the effects of aging, but without daily sun protection, the signs of aging will continue to appear—and reappear.
Why Sun Exposure Causes Premature Skin Aging
1) The sun triggers 80 percent of skin aging.
One study links the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to every sign of premature aging: fine lines and wrinkles; lack of firmness; loss of elasticity; dry, rough skin; enlarged pores; pigmentation changes (e.g. age spots, freckles, and other skin discoloration); and vascular alterations (e.g. spider veins and dilated blood vessels on the skin).
This is why I never recommend tanning—whether outdoors at the beach or in a tanning bed.
“A tan is actually an outward sign of damage to the skin and the first step to premature skin aging.”
2) Sunscreen needs to protect from both UVA and UVB rays to be effective.
Daily sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays (called broad-spectrum sun protection) with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 is essential to slowing down premature skin aging.
• UVA rays (think “A” for Aging Rays) penetrate deep into the skin’s layers, triggering a breakdown of collagen—the key skin-firming and structural protein in the skin. This breakdown triggers the formation of wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and overall lack of firmness (as well as skin cancer). These rays are present all year round and can penetrate through clouds and glass (another reason to apply daily sun protection every day of the year, even if you’ll be in the car or sitting by your office window).
• UVB rays (think “B” for Burning Rays) also penetrate the skin’s layers, but not as deep as UVA rays. They penetrate the uppermost layers where melanocytes (cells responsible for skin pigmentation) are found, triggering hyperpigmentation. These rays can trigger burning of the skin (as well as skin cancer).
3) Sunscreen has to be re-applied throughout the day to be effective.
It’s not good enough to just apply sun protection in the morning under your makeup and go about your day; sunscreen is only effective when it stays on the skin all day. This is why you have to be diligent about reapplying every two hours and after sweating, being in the water and/or drying off.
This is why I love—and recommend to each of my patients—Sunforgettable Brush-On Sunscreen by Colorescience. This brush-on transparent mineral powder offers an SPF 50 and can be easily applied and reapplied throughout the day. Plus, it’s water resistant and comes in four different shades in a retractable brush. (You can also use it on the body; pour the powder into a larger container and use a large brush to apply all over.)
4) The right clothing offers all-day protection.
All clothing protects from the sun in varying degrees. But clothing with extra sun protection is what I recommend; it’s rated in terms of UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor)—from 15 (good protection) to 50+ (excellent protection). The best thing about sun-protective clothing: you don’t need to reapply as you do with sunscreen.
The latest sun-protective clothing brands are stylish and offer everything from hats and coverups to swimsuits and rash guards. Two of my favorite brands:
Tutublue sells stylish rash guards, leggings, one-piece suits and much more (two great options, below).
Tutublue Zip Up Rashguard in Turq, $90.Tutublue Pull Over Rashguard in AquaLung, $75.
CabanaLife has a stylish selection of sun-protective dresses, tops, shorts, swimsuits, hats, and more (some faves, below).
Coastal Crush Suit, $69Cabana Front-Tie Swim Shorts, $60.Embroidered Terry Tunic, $102
There are plenty of other brands that offer effective UPF clothing options as well: sunprotectionzone, uvskinz, ecostinger, and coolibar (which also has an extensive collection of protective sunglasses). Given the range of options today, there’s no need to go without a sun-protective top or bottom—or even swimsuit.
Diligent protection from the sun is a must for anyone who wants to slow down the effects of premature skin aging and have younger-looking skin. And it’s an essential companion for anyone having anti-aging treatments and/or injectables.
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Off the back of research that found Australian women are ageing 20 years faster than anyone else in the world, thanks to – you guessed it – the harmful effects of our country’s high UV levels, we investigated the real effects of sun damage on your skin. This is what you need to know.
Sun damage is the leading cause of premature ageing
No matter how diligently you slather on anti-ageing serums and creams, if you neglect the SPF, all your efforts are in vain. According to the Australasian College of Dermatologists, most premature skin ageing is caused by sun exposure.
“Ask any expert what their number one anti-ageing tip is and they will tell you it’s daily application of SPF,” says marie claire acting beauty director Sally Hunwick. “Look for a formulation with an SPF of 15 or above and wear it every day; rain, hair or shine.” Our pick? The L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Laser X3 SPF 15 moisturiser, the newest addition to the Revitalift Laser X3 range, which combines powerful anti-ageing actives with all-important broad spectrum SPF, making it an ideal daily moisturiser.
Sun damage can make you look older in more ways than one
The sun’s UV rays damage the elastin and collagen fibres in our skin, resulting in everything from freckles and age spots to spider veins, thinning of the skin to fine lines, wrinkles, blotchiness and yellowing.
“Over time, exposure to the sun will cause skin issues such as pigmentation, premature lines and wrinkles, redness and dullness,” adds Hunwick. “There have been many studies to show that issues such as pigmentation can make a person look older than they really are – clarity is seen as a sign of youth.”
How to prevent sun damage
We all know we should be wearing sunscreen – but so many women get stuck on how much they should apply, and how often. Cancer Council guidelines recommend one teaspoon for the face (including neck and ears), with another teaspoon for each arm, leg and front and back of the torso (seven teaspoons total). And we’re not just talking about when you hit the beach: SPF is a must every single day, even if you’re just commuting to and from the office.
How to minimise the effects
“When it comes to reversing the signs of ageing, many women are seeking out high tech treatments such as laser, which use laser light to break up pigmentation to reveal clearer skin,” explains Hunwick. “They are also getting treatments such as micro-needling, which creates micro damage to the skin to help stimulate collagen production to help rebuild skin – this is great for pigmentation, premature lines and wrinkles.”
If cosmetic procedures aren’t your style, try L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Laser X3 range. It has been proven to be so powerful it challenges a laser session*, thanks to a trio of highly active anti-ageing ingredients. Think fragmented hyaluronic acid to hydrate and smooth skin texture, adenosine to repair damage and Pro-Xylane to stimulate the production of the skin’s natural components to re-plump from within.
In the case of the new Revitalift Laser X3 SPF 15 moisturiser, these anti-ageing actives are combined with SPF to protect your skin against sun damage.
*Single session of co2 fractioned laser vs use of laser x3 day cream for 4 weeks.
How can I prevent photoaging?
- Protect skin as best as you can while outside, especially between 11 am and 3 pm when the sun’s UV rays are strongest.
- Seek shade whenever possible, including from trees, shade coverings, buildings, etc.
- Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, and broad-brimmed (at least five-inch-wide) hats.
- Sunscreen should be worn daily and not just at times of significant sun exposure.
- Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen (minimum SPF 30) that protects against UVB and UVA. Reapply after swimming or heavy exertion. Look for the CDA’s logo for effective products that meet these criteria.
- Apply sunscreen liberally to get its intended effect. Protect especially well the face, ears, neck and hands. These areas are exposed the most, and show sun damage first. Women should include the exposed upper chest. Lips are also very prone to photoaging.
- Use cosmetics such as moisturizer, foundation, lipstick, hand cream and body lotion that contain SPF 30. These should be used in addition to a broad spectrum sunscreen.
- Apply an SPF 30 lip balm.
- Consult Environment Canada’s UV Index daily reports, and take appropriate precautions based on predicted UV levels.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
How can I minimize visible signs of aging?
Various treatments available for sun-damaged skin include: injections of botulinum toxin, dermal fillers, laser treatment, dermabrasion and chemical peels. Some skin preparations can help restore skin to a more youthful appearance (Vitamin A preparations).
A certified dermatologist can help you decide which treatment regimen will work best for you.
- Sun Tan
- Premature Aging/Photoaging
- Skin Cancer
- Actinic or Solar Keratoses
- Eye Damage
- Immune System Suppression
What it is:
Sunburn, also called erythema, is one of the most obvious signs of UV exposure and skin damage. Often marked by redness and peeling (usually after a few days), sunburn is a form of short-term skin damage.
Why it happens:
When UV rays reach your skin, they damage cells in the epidermis. In response, your immune system increases blood flow to the affected areas. The increased blood flow is what gives sunburn its characteristic redness and makes the skin feel warm to the touch. At the same time, the damaged skin cells release chemicals that send messages through the body until they are translated as a painful burning sensation by the brain.
White blood cells, which help protect you from infection and disease, attack and remove the damaged skin cells. It is this process of removing damaged cells that can cause sunburned skin to itch and peel.
The earliest signs of sunburn are skin that looks flushed, is tender or painful, or gives off more heat than normal. Unfortunately, if your skin tone is medium to dark you may not notice any obvious physical signs until several hours later. It can take 6 – 48 hours for the full effects of sunburn to appear.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends treating mild sunburn with cool baths, over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams, and aspirin to ease pain and swelling.
Severe sunburn should be treated as a medical emergency and examined by a doctor right away. Severe sunburn is often characterized by a large area of red, blistered skin with a headache, fever, or chills.
The Bottom Line:
Sunburn can be a very painful effect of UV exposure. Studies have shown a link between severe sunburn and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Pay careful attention to protecting yourself from UV rays.
What it is:
There is no such thing as a safe tan. The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which causes the tan color change in your skin is a sign of damage.
Why it happens:
Once skin is exposed to UV radiation, it increases the production of melanin in an attempt to protect the skin from further damage. Melanin is the same pigment that colors your hair, eyes, and skin. The increase in melanin may cause your skin tone to darken over the next 48 hours.
Skin tones that are capable of developing a tan, typically skin types II through V, will probably darken in tone within two days.
The Bottom Line:
Evidence suggests that tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. And, contrary to popular belief, getting a tan will not protect your skin from sunburn or other skin damage. The extra melanin in tanned skin provides a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of about 2 to 4; far below the minimum recommended SPF of 15.
What it is:
Sometimes referred to as “photoaging,” premature aging is the result of unprotected UV exposure. It takes the form of leathery, wrinkled skin, and dark spots.
Why it happens:
Although the causes of premature aging are not always clear, unprotected exposure to harmful UV rays break down the collagen and elastin fibers in healthy young skin, and cause wrinkles and loosened folds. Frequent sunburns or hours spent tanning can result in a permanent darkening of the skin, dark spots, and a leathery texture.
- Dark spots
- Leathery skin
A dermatologist or plastic surgeon can develop a treatment plan based on your needs. Treatments can include chemical peels, dermabrasion, and skin fillers.
The Bottom Line:
Premature aging is a long-term side effect of UV exposure, meaning it may not show on your skin until many years after you have had a sunburn or suntan. Avoiding UV exposure is essential to maintaining healthy skin.
More Information on Skin Aging
What it is:
There are two main types of skin cancer:
Melanoma is the less common, but more dangerous form of skin cancer, and accounts for most of the deaths due to skin cancer each year. Melanoma is cancer that begins in the epidermal cells that produce melanin (melanocytes). According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) melanoma is almost always curable when detected in its early stages.
Non-melanomas (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas) occur in the basal or squamous cells located at the base of the epidermis, both inside and outside the body. Non-melanomas often develop in sun-exposed areas of the body, including the face, ears, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), offers a checklist to help determine your risk of developing skin cancer: What is Your Risk? Checklist.
Why it happens:
Predisposition to skin cancer can be hereditary, meaning it is passed through the generations of a family through genes. There is also strong evidence suggesting that exposure to UV rays, both UVA and UVB, can cause skin cancer.
UV radiation may promote skin cancer in two different ways:
- By damaging the DNA in skin cells, causing the skin to grow abnormally and develop benign or malignant growths.
- By weakening the immune system and compromising the body’s natural defenses against aggressive cancer cells.
Performing regular self skin cancer exams is a good way to protect yourself against skin cancer. The following are possible signs of skin cancer, and should be checked by a doctor.
- Any changes on the skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, birthmark, or other dark pigmentation
- Unexplained scaliness, oozing, or bleeding on the skin’s surface
- A spot on the skin that suddenly feels itchy, tender, or painful
Skin cancer treatment varies depending on the type and severity of the cancer. Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your needs.
The Bottom Line:
According to the American Cancer Society, most of the more than one million skin cancers diagnosed each year in the U.S. are considered sun-related. Skin cancer occurs in people of all skin tones, though it is less common in those with darker skin tones. Assessing your risk with the help of your doctor, protecting your skin, and performing regular skin cancer checks are the best methods of prevention.
More Information on Skin Cancer
Actinic or Solar Keratoses
What it is:
A fourth type of growth, actinic or solar keratoses, is a concern because it can progress into cancer. Actinic keratoses are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer, and are caused by long-term exposure to sunlight. They are the most common pre-malignant skin condition, occurring in more than 5 million Americans each year.
Actinic or solar keratoses share some of the symptoms of skin cancer. Look for raised, rough-textured, or scaly bumps that occur in areas that have been sunburned or tanned.
Most cases of actinic keratoses are easily treated in a dermatologist’s office by removing them with liquid nitrogen or chemical peels.
The Bottom Line:
Actinic or solar keratoses are the most common pre-malignant skin condition. Check with your doctor if you find any suspicious-looking bumps.
Eye Damage – Photokeratitis
What it is:
Photokeratitis can be thought of as a sunburn of the cornea. It is caused by intense UVC/UVB exposure of the eye. Photokeratitis is also called “snow blindness” because many people develop this condition at high altitudes in a snowy environment where the reflections of UVB are high. This condition can also be produced by exposure to intense artificial sources of UVC/UVB, like broken mercury vapor lamps, or certain types of tanning lamps.
- Swollen eyelids
- A feeling of sand in the eye
- Hazy or decreased vision
Consult your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Your doctor can prescribe a topical solution which will aid your cornea in healing. Since the cornea usually heals in 24 to 48 hours, the symptoms are not long-lasting.
Eye Damage – Cataracts
What it is:
Cataracts are one form of eye damage that research has shown may increase with UV exposure. Clouding of the natural lens of the eye causing decreased vision and possible blindness are all effects of cataracts.
Other types of eye damage include cancer around the eyes, macular degeneration, and irregular tissue growth that can block vision (pterygium).
Consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms.
- Clouded or spotty vision
- Pain or soreness in and around the eyes
Cataracts can be surgically removed.
The Bottom Line:
Wearing sun protection gear such as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with 100% UV protection can help decrease the risks of eye damage.
More Information of the Effects of UV on the Eye
Immune System Suppression
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), all people, regardless of skin color, are vulnerable to the effects of immune suppression. Overexposure to UV radiation may suppress proper functioning of the body’s immune system and the skin’s natural defenses, increasing sensitivity to sunlight, diminishing the effects of immunizations or causing reactions to certain medications.
In people who have been treated for an infection of the Herpes simplex virus, sun exposure can weaken the immune system so that it can no longer keep the virus under control. This results in reactivation of the infection and recurring cold sores.
More information about Immune System Suppression
You know when you go on a daylong road trip and realize, hours later, that one arm is tanned (or burned) from resting on the windowpane, and the other is still as pale as when you left?
Now imagine the disparity between one arm and the other after a 28-year road trip.
I know, I know: No one goes on 28-year-long road-trips. But technically, this 69-year-old man did.
He was a truck driver for 28 years, which means he got a lot of sun on the left side of his face, while the right side remained safely in the shade.
A study in The New England Journal of Medicine examined his condition, which is called Unilateral Dermatoheliosis. According to the study’s authors, that means ‘gradual, asymptomatic thickening and wrinkling of the skin.’
How does it happen?
Chronic exposure to the sun’s UVA rays. According to the authors, ‘Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays transmit through window glass, penetrating the epidermis and upper layers of dermis.’
Essentially, spending a lot of time in the sun will age your skin prematurely (or half your skin, in this case).
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more shocking visual representation of the difference between sun-damaged skin and just regular-old-life-damaged skin than this one.
So if you’re a sun (or tanning bed) addict and the risk of skin cancer isn’t enough to deter you from chronic sun exposure, maybe this proof that you’ll age prematurely will.
What do you think? Will you cut down on sun exposure after seeing this image?
‘ Don’t be fooled: Indoor tanning isn’t pretty
‘ 5 health habits that make you look older
‘ Are you damaging your décolleté?
Photoaging: What You Need to Know About the Other Kind of Aging
Wrinkles, fine lines and pigmentation are inevitable skin woes that often appear as we age. While we like to place blame on getting another year older, the main culprit is photoaging — damage to the skin caused by exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) light. Responsible for 90 percent of visible changes to the skin, photoaging is a direct result of cumulative sun damage you’ve been exposed to throughout your life.
“Premature aging of the skin is caused by light exposure,” says Melanie Palm, MD, Medical Director of Art of Skin MD in Solana Beach, California. “This can also include visible (HEV) and infrared light, which are other parts of the light spectrum.”
Light is around us at all times, making sun damage a year-round concern for healthy skin. Chronological skin aging can’t be helped (it’s tough to fight time), but photoaging accelerates the process. The good news is that it’s completely preventable. We turned to Dr. Palm to explain the causes and symptoms correlated to photoaging and the treatments that can keep you out of the antiaging aisle just a little bit longer.
Breaking Down the Light Barrier
Skin is composed of three layers: the epidermis, or outermost layer; the dermis, or middle layer; and the subcutis, or bottom most layer. The dermis contains collagen, elastin and other fibers that support the skin’s structure. It is these elements that give skin its smooth and youthful appearance — and that are damaged by UV radiation.
The UV radiation that affects the skin is composed of two different types of waves, UVA and UVB. When UV rays hit the skin, they damage its DNA, and cells in the dermis scramble to produce melanin in the epidermis to prevent further damage. This is the process that gives you a tan, which is really just your skin attempting to block the radiation from penetrating your skin.
UVB rays are shorter than UVA rays, and are the main culprit behind sunburn. The UVA rays, with their longer wavelength, are responsible for much of the damage we associate with photoaging. UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, where they damage the collagen fibers. This damage causes increased production of abnormal elastin. The unusual amounts of elastin result in the production of enzymes called metalloproteinases. These enzymes, which rebuild damaged collagen, often malfunction and degrade the collagen, resulting in incorrectly rebuilt skin. As this process is repeated with daily UVA exposure, the incorrectly rebuilt skin forms wrinkles, and the depleted collagen results in leathery skin.
Beyond the Sun
While sunlight is the number one cause of skin aging, about 10 percent comes from HEV and infrared light. HEV, or high-energy (blue) visible light, which emits from the sun and devices such as your phone or computer and can be seen by the human eye. This light doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Infrared light is invisible to the eye and rather is felt as heat, like in a microwave.
Fortunately, neither of these has been linked to skin cancer, but they have been shown to break down collagen and skin elasticity. In recent years, some research is focusing on the additional effects of these other light forms may have on the skin. According to a 2014 study in the journal Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, non-UV solar radiation significantly contributes to photoaging and needs to be taken into consideration when formulating a skin-protective regimen.
The effects of photoaging can manifest in many ways. “Melasma, freckles, actinic keratoses and texture changes are all signs of photoaging damage,” says Dr. Palm. The type of damage one deals with, however, is unpredictable and dependent on the individual.
For example, sun exposure (and hormonal changes) can cause melasma, which is a condition causing grayish-brown patches to appear on skin. Actinic keratoses (AKs), or precancerous spots, directly correlate to chronic sun exposure, which can increase your chance of developing skin cancer. Textural changes in the form of deep lines, waxiness or a leather-looking appearance can lead to uneven, dull looking skin. Remember the cute freckles you got as kids? Those were actually warning signs from your body saying you’d had a lot of sun exposure. Broken blood vessels that exist as redness or blotchiness on the nose, cheeks or neck may resemble a slight burn and are another sign of sun damage.
Wearing sunscreen every day can do more than prevent skin cancer — it can prevent signs of photoaging as well. In fact, many people tout sunscreen for being their go-to antiaging weapon, and for good reason. Regular use has been shown to keep photodamage at bay for a longer period of time. Dr. Palm recommends a physical sunscreen (containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide), which has a broader coverage for UVA rays. It should be at least SPF 30.
“Some sunscreens now contain DNA repair enzymes that help undo previous damage by using nearby undamaged DNA to fix the area,” says Dr. Palm. A 2017 study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology showed these products can enhance antiaging regimens and, more specifically, reduce risk of developing AKs.
If you’re already experiencing some of the above-mentioned signs of photoaging, you’ll also want to incorporate skin care products designed to reverse sun damage. Certain ingredients such as vitamin C and E and green tea are antioxidants that stabilize the skin and help brighten dark spots. An antiaging hero, retinol, used nightly, will boost cell turnover to create a healthy and youthful appearance.
“There’s really no reason for photoaging,” avows Dr. Palm, “We can keep skin looking good for decades if we just take care of it.”