To combat the negative effects that the ultraviolet ray will be doing to our skin, sunscreen is now our new best friend. Even when it is cloudy, sunscreen should be applied as there will still be UV rays which are able to penetrate into our skin, only that it is not visible. Recently, two studies about the effects of the sun has on aging skin have been on the news.
Study #1: Sun-exposed skin looks older
One of the studies is about a 69-year-old trucker who has been on the road for 28 years without any application of sunscreen. Compared to the side of his face which was not exposed to the sun, the other side of his face looks much older with asymptomatic thickening and wrinkling of the skin. He was diagnosed with unilateral dermatoheliosis – photoaging from chronic UV exposure. Although the window of his vehicle was not down, the UVA rays are not stopped by the glass and able to penetrate the epidermis and upper layers or dermis, damaging it. Other than thickening of the epidermis and stratum corneum, chronic UVA exposure can also lead to destruction of elastic fibres. Although exposure to UVB rays is linked to a higher rate of photocarcinogenesis, UVA has also been shown to induce substantial DNA mutations and direct toxicity, causing skin cancer. The patient was told to use sun protection and topical retinoids besides being monitored periodically for skin cancer.
Study #2: Sun-exposed skin sags
The other study conducted which demonstrated the lack of using daily sunscreen which contributes to skin aging involved the monitoring of 900 participants aged 25 to 55 from an area north of Sydney for four and a half years. The participants are then divided into two groups; the first to continue their usual sun avoidance activity while the other to use broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF15 every day in the morning and after exercise or bathing. Skin biopsy and silicon cast method were used to measure elastin levels in the skin and a scale from 0 to 6 were given where 6 indicates severely aged skin. At the beginning, the average level of aging was 4 for both groups, indicating moderate aging. At the end of the study, the first group had an average score of 5 while the second group maintained their average score of 4. One of the limitations to this study is that no dark-skinned people were included.
Sunscreen for younger skin
Obviously, we are always told to wear sunscreen to avoid cancer and both of these studies show measurable evidence that the use of sunscreen can decrease the effects of photoaging on the skin which leads to your skin appearing more wrinkled, thicker and drier. All these make us to look older than we actually are. Some may avoid sunscreen due to the toxicity. However, one can consult the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for a list of sunscreens they approve.