Sunlight Aging & Skincare

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Ultraviolet radiation from the sun (UVA and UVB rays) is easily one of the most common environmental factors that age skin. UV radiation causes stem cells to die off, which leads to thinning and wrinkling of the skin. UVA and UVB are both forms of ultraviolet light, but they both work in different ways. UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, but they have shorter wavelengths than UVA rays. This means that while these wavelengths can’t penetrate your skin as deeply as UVA rays, they can still do considerable damage to the outer layer of skin (the epidermis).UVA rays are the more dangerous ones. They have longer lightwaves, which means they can penetrate deeper into your skin, creating premature aging and skin cancer. This is due to these lightwaves damaging keratinocytes and other skin cells, reducing the skin’s natural elasticity and promoting the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. UV radiation also activates enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). These MMPs break down collagen. UV radiation also activates an enzyme called cathepsin K. that breaks down elastin. UV rays tend to be strongest in the middle of the day, usually between 10 am and 2 pm. 

The good news is that unlike aging, you can control your exposure to environmental factors that exacerbate signs of aging. Exposure to the sun is one of the things you can control. Here are some skincare tips to avoid sunlight aging:

PROTECTION: Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when you go out in the sun and get in the shade whenever possible.

Remember that UV rays can travel through glass, so if you’re sitting indoors or in your car, you may feel safe when in fact your health may be compromised. Keep this in mind, especially when going on long journeys by bus, car, or train. Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes, and the inflicted harm is often not immediately obvious. After the exposure, the skin may turn red in as little as 30 minutes, and with frequent exposure, the skin will begin to sag, stretch and lose its ability to spring into place after stretching. Winter is not a time to be lax either. Summer might be the peak season for sun damage, but sunlight on a winter’s day can still damage your skin.

SEEK OUT SHADE

We covered this above, but to reiterate, seek the shade! Sheltering indoors is the best idea since trees, parasols, and canopies may not offer complete protection. The World Health Organization provides a good tip — if your shadow is shorter than you, get out of the sun.

THINK ABOUT YOUR MEDICATION

Some medications can make you more vulnerable to sun damage. Known as “photosensitive” medicines, they include blood pressure medication, antibiotics, antihistamines, and oral contraceptives. If you’re taking any of these medications, be careful about how much time you spend in the sun. 

 TANNING BEDS

Tanning beds utilize UVA light to increase melanin production. Over time, your skin could be aging prematurely and getting damaged. Tanning creams may be more affordable, but they may still be irritating for your skin.

MOISTURIZE

Sunlight exposure can deplete your skin of antioxidants and essential oils and moisture. A good quality moisturizer can help to restore some moisture to your epidermis and ease any irritation. A moisturizer with natural anti-inflammatory properties can help to nourish sensitive, inflamed skin.