Study: Sunscreen Provides Protection Against Skin Aging

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • One big change that happens around menopause involves the skin. It seems like almost overnight that wrinkles deepen and skin becomes coarser. But do these changes have to happen to such an extent? A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests the answer is no.

    This research, which is part of a longitudinal trial focused on skin cancer prevention funded by the Australian government, involved 903 adults who were younger than 55 who lived near Australia’s Sunshine Coast. The researchers purposefully picked study participants of this age so as to assure that any aging effects of their skin that were seen during this four-and-a-half year study were because of sun exposure and not the natural aging process.

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    The study participants were divided into two groups. Both groups were provided sunscreen that had a sun protection factor of 15-plus. One of the groups was asked to use the sunscreen as they normally would. The other group was instructed to apply the sunscreen on a daily basis on exposed areas, as well as to reapply it after being in the water, sweating heavily or spending several hours outside.

    By the end of the study, researchers found that 77 percent of the participants who had been told to use sunscreen on a daily basis were applying it at least 3-4 days each week. In comparison, only 33 percent of the group that didn’t receive any specific instruction applied sunscreen for a comparable time frame.
    Researchers also made silicone impressions of the back of participants hands when the study started and then again after four-and-a-half years.  The impressions were assessed based on the patterns of lines and skin coarseness which indicated the tissue damage underneath the skin’s surface. Grades were assigned on a scale of one to six. They found that the skin of the participants who had been instructed to apply sunscreen daily exhibited 24-percent fewer signs of aging. Furthermore, the researchers noted that the reduction in skin damage caused by ultraviolet rays also lowers the risk of skin cancer.

    So since we’re starting summer and are heading outdoors, let’s talk more about sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you use a sunscreen that has the following: broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays); a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or greater; and is water resistant.

    The AAD warns, however, that sunscreen alone cannot fully protect your skin. The academy recommends the following to keep your skin healthy:

    • Generously apply broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more to all exposed skin. You should do this even on cloudy days since up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate the skin on these days.
    • Wear protective clothing, such as a hat, sunglasses, a long-sleeved shirt and pants when possible.
    • Seek shade whenever possible and especially between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
    • Be careful near water, snow and sand because they will reflect the sun’s rays and, thus, increase your risk of getting a sunburn.
    • Make sure you get enough vitamin D through a healthy diet with additional amounts, if needed, through vitamin supplements.
    • Avoid tanning beds, which emit ultraviolet light that can cause wrinkling and skin cancer. If you want to have tanned skin, use a self-tanning product and be sure to continue to use sunscreen.

    When purchasing a new sunscreen, look for labels that were initiated by the Federal Drug Administration in December 2012. These labels will tell you whether it is broad spectrum (protecting against UVB rays, UVB rays and preventing skin cancer and sunburn); the SPF level; a skin cancer/skin aging alert in the drug facts section (which means the product will not reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging), and water resistance up to 40 minutes or 80 minutes (instead of claiming waterproof or sweat proof, which are misleading).

  • Primary Sources for This Share post:

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    American Academy of Dermatology. (2013). Sunscreen FAQs.

    Hobson, K. (2013). New proof: Sunscreen each day stops wrinkles. The Wall Street Journal.

    Hughes, M. C. B., et al. (2013). Sunscreen and prevention of skin aging. A randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine.

    Siferlin, A. (2013). Wearing sunscreen every day can make you look younger, longer.

Published On: June 04, 2013