Wearing Many Hats: Why Sun Exposure Causes Premature Aging and How to Avoid It (While Still Enjoying It)

It’s basically common knowledge that sun exposure causes premature aging. From dark spots to fine lines, hyperpigmentation to wrinkles, overexposure to the sun is the single leading cause of age-related skin damage. But there are simple ways to protect your skin while still enjoying the sunshine.

Wearing sunscreen is one of the most effective ways to avoid premature signs of aging. And while sunscreen has long been known to be an effective preventative measure,  the good news is, it might have restorative benefits as well.

A study conducted by Johnson & Johnson’s Skin Research Center found that not only does wearing a daily SPF fend off wrinkle-causing UV damage, but it can also actually help erase signs of aging.

A team of researchers asked a group of 32 subjects to apply a moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen to their faces every day for a year, then checked in every few weeks to assess issues like skin texture, clarity, and pigmentation problems. After 52 weeks, they found that most of the participants noticed a significant improvement in their skin.

Subjects showed improvements in many signs of aging caused by the sun, including texture, overall tone, pigmentation, and fine lines. With just a daily application of moisturizer with SPF 30, 52% of participants saw a reduction in dark spots, 40% noticed an improvement in skin texture, and 41% felt their skin had improved clarity after a year of use.

Why is this such a big deal, you ask? The participants did not use any other anti-aging products. They simply applied a moisturizer with an SPF of at least 30 and that’s it! Dermatologists participating in the study explained that the reason this simple and straightforward solution is so effective has to do with the skin’s ability to constantly regenerate. Skin cell turnover, the process of producing new skin cells to replace existing skin cells, is vital to keeping your skin smooth and healthy. But just like many biological processes, skin turnover slows down with age.  Because the average person’s skin turns over every 28 days, using a hydrating sunscreen can halt the cumulative effects of sun exposure on the top layers of the skin. By preventing the repeated accumulation of damage from overexposure to the sun, the skin has a chance to heal naturally. A moisturizer with an SPF30 or more essentially screens your skin from the sun, hence the name.

Health Benefits of Sunlight

Aside from being extremely enjoyable and quite beautiful, the sun provides a multitude of physical and mental health benefits.

Improves your sleep. Your body creates a hormone called melatonin, a natural sleep aid.  Research indicates that getting even just one hour of natural light in the morning will help you sleep better at night.  

Reduces stress. A natural anxiety reducer, melatonin also lowers stress reactivity in the brain.  

Maintains strong bones. The sun is the best natural source of Vitamin D, which is responsible for maintaining optimal calcium levels in the blood and preventing brittle bones. 

Strengthens your immune system. Vitamin D is also critical for an effective immune system, essential for staving off illness, infections, certain cancers, and of course, the dreaded Covid-19 virus.  

Fights depression. Sunshine boosts your body’s level of serotonin, a chemical responsible for improving mood. Increased exposure to natural light may also help ease the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, a change in mood that typically occurs in the fall and winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight.

UVA and UVB, What’s the Difference?

Sunscreen lets you reap all of the rewards that sunshine offers while shielding your skin from the damaging UVA and UVB rays that cause premature wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots.

UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin’s layers, triggering a breakdown of collagen. Collagen is the key skin-firming and structural protein in the skin. This breakdown triggers the formation of wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and an overall lack of firmness. These rays are present all year round and can penetrate through clouds, so it doesn’t have to be a bright sunny day for UVA rays to cause damage to the skin.

UVB rays are responsible for causing sunburn and the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma. While UVB rays also penetrate the skin’s layers, they only penetrate the uppermost layers where melanocytes (cells responsible for skin pigmentation) are found, unlike UVA rays which reach the deepest layers of the skin. UVB rays are responsible for dark spots, and uneven tone, and can trigger hyperpigmentation.

There are 500 times more UVA rays in sunlight than UVB rays, so if you think you’re safe from the damaging effects of the sun simply because you’re not getting a burn, it’s time to see the light. Daily sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays (known as broad-spectrum sun protection) with an SPF of at least 30 is essential to prevent or slow down premature skin aging.

But if you only wear sunscreen on days spent lounging by the pool or basking at the beach, you’re not protecting your skin from the damaging rays that cause premature wrinkles. If you want to prevent premature wrinkles from developing, remember, sunscreen is not just for a day at the beach. The trick is to apply sunscreen every day.

We’ve all known that it’s a good idea to apply sunscreen when we’re spending a day out in the hot summer sun. As babies, parents apply gentle sunscreen to protect delicate skin, then chase after toddlers with spray sunscreen.

But as children begin to spend summers on their own, many take this newfound freedom as an opportunity to reject the rules and stop applying sunscreen altogether.

It’s those burns that happen during the teenage years and early adulthood that can cause some pretty significant damage. Year after year, we spend more days in the sun, intentionally working on getting a great tan. But as great as that healthy glow may look in the moment, this exposure to the sun’s harmful rays is slowly but surely damaging the skin. As hard as it is to fathom, a tan is actually nature’s way of indicating skin damage. And like a scalding from a flame, repeated tans (a nicer way to say burns)  will eventually lead to scars in the form of wrinkles and unattractive dark spots.

By the time we reach our late 20s and early 30s, the effects of this overindulgence begin to become apparent, as fine lines and premature wrinkles begin to develop. As we reach our 40s and 50s,  the damage that began in our teens accumulates, resulting in deeper lines, increasingly uneven skin tone, dulling skin, and the formation of dark spots.

What are age spots?

Age spots, solar lentigines, dark spots, or liver spots, (whatever you want to call them) these unsightly marks that can appear as early as your late 20s are caused by overexposure to the sun.

When skin is exposed to the sun, the resulting darkening of the skin, known commonly as a suntan, is the result of the production of melanin, the browning pigment in the skin. Though every person produces melanin, the way it is produced and the amount it produces is different for every person.  Those of us that are fortunate enough to tan evenly don’t normally have any issues related to melanin irregularly.

But those that tan unevenly can develop dark spots as a result of spotty areas where too much melanin is deposited.  Wearing sunscreen is a preventative measure to keep age spots from forming in the first place, but this is one sun-related skin concern that won’t go away on its own.

And age spots are just one of the effects of overexposure to the sun. If you are like most people, you probably have more than one skin concern: fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation, or a combination of issues are common sun-related skin concerns that can leave skin looking listless and old before its time.

Here are 5 effective and simple preventive measures to keep the sun from coming down on you.

  1. Stop intentionally tanning.
  2. Always wear sunscreen
  3. Choose a sunscreen product with an SPF 30 or greater.  
  4. Wear a hat and/or protective clothing.
  5. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. 

Even if you follow all of this advice, stay out of the sun, and wear protection, unfortunately,  some skin concerns can’t be prevented completely. Some wrinkling is hereditary, and some, if not most, is part of the natural aging process.Other factors like pollution, genetics, and the passage of time will cause skin changes no matter how hard you try. But the good news is, Specialist Skin Solutions offers several effective treatment options to help reverse the signs of aging caused  by overexposure to the sun.

Treatment options include:

  • Dermal Therapy 
  • Deep Sea Peel 
  • Chemical Peels 
  • Medical-grade skincare products

While we can’t go back and apply sunscreen to our 13-year-old skin, we can stop the damage from getting worse and reverse the damage that already exists with effective treatment plans like those offered at Specialist Skin Solutions.

A cosmetic clinic, specialising in non-surgical aesthetic procedures, laser treatments,  and skin therapies, the team at Specialist Skin Solutions provides expert advice with individualised treatments that address specific skin concerns.

With a commitment to providing friendly, easy-to-understand professional advice and setting realistic expectations,  the team at Specialist Skin Solutions combines research, knowledge, and experience with evidence-based treatments and products.

Specialist Skin Solutions knows no two faces are alike, which is why we tailor our treatment plans to each client’s needs, budget, and preferences.

Contact us today to find out how you can erase the signs of aging today!  

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