The Sun’s Role in Aging Skin
As skin ages, it becomes more susceptible to damage from all kinds of sources.
Declining production of collagen – the key protein that gives connective tissue its elasticity – leads to wrinkles. It also makes other issues with uneven complexion, dryness, and general skin health much more likely. Add solar radiation to the mix and you have even bigger problems to worry about!
Throughout life, the skin resists harmful UV radiation every time we go outside during the day. This radiation quickly harms the skin after even brief exposure. Although the most serious damage occurs at the surface level, solar radiation can easily penetrate to deeper levels of dermal tissue.
People who have suffered from severe sunburns are likely to see the most pronounced sun damage, but you do not need to have ever gotten sunburned to suffer sun-related skin damage. With age, skin must work harder to repair even superficial damage. Other issues that can occur include:
- Premature Skin Aging of 10 Years or More: Sun exposure is believed to cause up to 90% of visible changes attributed to aging. UV radiation may be responsible for 80% of the signs of visible facial aging. In studies of identical twins, variance in sun exposure can account for perceived age differences of up to 11 years.
- Wrinkles and Skin Changes: Depending on the severity and frequency of sun exposure, UV radiation may cause skin to grow leathery, thickened, or thinner. The constant repair processes that take place in skin cells can be overwhelmed by sun exposure. This may ultimately cause DNA damage – potentially leading to skin cancer.
- Damage Throughout Multiple Skin Layers: Though UV-based skin damage starts at the skin’s surface, it is by no means limited to that region. All in all, five different layers of the skin and its supporting structures are damaged by the sun. That even includes the blood vessels and the sebaceous glands responsible for healthy oil production.
Tips for Skincare When Outside
- Wear Sunblock: Sunscreen is measured according to Sun Protection Factor (SPF.) Most commercial sunscreens are SPF 30 or SPF 50, with higher numbers indicating greater protection. Notice, however, that SPF above 50 delivers diminishing returns that are not usually worthwhile. Remember:
- SPF 15 blocks approximately 93% of all UVB rays.
- SPF 30 blocks approximately 97% of all UVB rays.
- SPF 50 blocks approximately 98% of all UVB rays.
- Use a Hat and Sunglasses: Sunblock certainly helps, but only clothing can completely block UV rays. Sunglasses and a hat are particularly helpful in protecting the sensitive skin around the eyes from sun damage. Remember, you can experience substantial sun exposure even when the sky is overcast.
- Avoid Peak Sunlight: Regardless of your location or the time of year, solar radiation is usually most intense between noon and 1 o’clock. Avoiding sun exposure during this time can safeguard skin health. If you need to go out during this time, such as for a lunch break, apply sunscreen before you step outside.
For expert help in skin health and other issues, contact Dr. Katayoun Motlagh, M.D.