Sunscreen is Also Aging Screen
Skin Cancer Care Specialists | December 13, 2017
Having suffered a serious sunburn or two in our lives, most of us know firsthand about the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that come with prolonged exposure to the sun. What we may not know is that many of the skin conditions we associate simply with age, like wrinkles and liver spots, are actually additional side effects of too much unprotected time in the sun. It’s called photoaging—visible signs of aging caused by the sun.
While these visible effects appear in the epidermis, the top layer of the skin, the damage actually occurs in the dermis, the middle layer, where collagen and elastin and other fibers support the structure of the skin. For instance, when the sun’s radiation penetrates the skin, the dermis creates the melanin that darkens the epidermis as it attempts to block the skin from further radiation. That’s how we get a tan.
However, when radiation reaches the deeper levels of the dermis, collagen is damaged and abnormal elastin is produced, which results in the collagen being incorrectly repaired and degraded. In short, the fibers that are responsible for the smooth, healthy, youthful appearance of the skin are depleted, resulting in a leathery texture, and the skin is incorrectly repaired, resulting in wrinkles. Repeated sun exposure can also result in abnormal pigmentation—what we typically call liver spots, or age spots, that can appear on the hands, arms, face, and other areas of the body commonly exposed to the sun.
The solution to preventing this damage is through protecting the skin from prolonged exposure to the sun by wearing protective clothing and by using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 (or higher) on a daily basis. While most people use sunscreen only when going to the beach or otherwise spending hours at a time out in the sun, habitual application can help protect the skin from everyday exposure that we might not usually think about. Sunscreen use will not only help prevent photoaging, but it can also reverse some of the effects that are already visible.
Of course, no one can hold back time, and there will always be physical effects of aging that we cannot prevent, but some of the effects of photoaging can be prevented and even corrected with proper care and attention.