Why You Should Wear Sunscreen All Year Long
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging: A Randomized Trial” finds that regular sunscreen use protects against photoaging: the wrinkling, spotting and loss of elasticity caused by exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation. While they may not be shocking, the findings -- from Australian researchers -- are the first to quantify sunscreen's anti-aging properties.
More than 900 participants were followed for four years. Some were told to use sunscreen daily and instructed in proper use, including re-applying sunscreen after being outside for a few hours, after going in the water or after being outside for a few hours, after going in the water or after sweating heavily.
Skin changes were measured through a technique called microtopography, in which researchers made sensitive silicone impressions of the back of each participant's hand.
"Skin surface patterns reflect the severity of the sun's damage to the deeper skin, especially to the elastic fibers and collagen," says Dr. Adele Green, the study's lead author.
Damage was measured on a scale from 1 to 6, with 1 signifying no damage and 6 meaning skin with severe aging. Participants were given a score at the start of a four-year period and another score at the end; those who used sunscreen daily were 24% less likely to show increased signs of aging, researchers found. "We now have the scientific evidence to back the long-held assumption about the cosmetic value of sunscreen," says Green. "Regular sunscreen use by young and mid-aged adults under 55 brings cosmetic benefits and also decreases the risk of skin cancer." Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, also called "long wave" rays make up 95 percent of the rays that reach the surface of the Earth. They can penetrate the skin much deeper than UVB rays, and are responsible for signs of aging, like dark spots and wrinkles. They also can initiate skin cancers. These are the rays that make you more tan. UVA rays can penetrate glass and clouds. UVB rays, or shortwave rays, do not penetrate the skin as deeply. They are what causes redness and sunburns. They are most intense from early spring to early fall, and during the day’s sunniest hours. UVB rays are not as likely to penetrate glass as UVA rays, but even though they dwindle in the winter, many can reach the Earth’s surface and are easily reflected off snow and ice. This makes them a bigger threat on the ski slopes, and at higher altitudes on sunny days.
So those skin-aging UVA rays are just as present in the colder, cloudier months—even in the shade, and even indoors and even through your clothes.
Even in the winter, wear sunscreen daily to prevent cumulative sun exposure and the resulting fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, premature aging, and damage that can lead to skin cancer.
It is important that your sunscreen is broad spectrum which stands for full coverage including UVA and UVB protection.
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