Protect Your Skin From The Aging Effects of the Sun

Are you as careful to protect your skin from sun damage as you should be? Do you wear sunscreen every time you go outside for prolonged periods? Or do you think you’re safe for some other reason?

Most people are aware of the dangers of skin cancer resulting from overexposure to the sun. While people who rarely burn are less likely to contract skin cancer than people who burn easily, everyone is at risk. Even with no family history. And our collective knowledge about skin cancer risks is constantly changing. For example, dermatologists used to condone minimal use of high-pressure tanning beds (which use UVA rays almost exclusively, with very little of the UVB rays) for people who tan easily and rarely burn. The tan from these beds was thought to protect your skin from natural sunlight. Now dermatologists are finding that UVA rays cause deeper tissue forms of skin cancer, which are more difficult to detect and treat.

Even if you never contract skin cancer, overexposure to sunlight also accounts for a surprising number of the signs of aging we think of as normal. Tanning produces deep skin wrinkles, makes the skin texture leathery, and can cause discoloration such as “age spots”. Avoiding sun and tanning bed exposure will help keep your skin tone even, your wrinkles fine and your skin texture soft.

Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide excellent protection from natural sunlight exposure. Even if you’re not going to be out in the sun for long, it’s a good idea to put some on exposed skin while dressing in the morning, particularly in the summer time. If you’re concerned about potentially dangerous chemicals that have been used in sunscreen, such as PABA, you should be aware there are sunscreen products available now that don’t include harmful chemicals. In fact, many are comprised mainly of natural ingredients, including moisturizers, which are the basis of any good anti-aging routine. If you already have skin damage resulting from sun exposure, there are a number of products available to even skin tone and soften deep wrinkles.

6 Steps to Younger-Looking Skin

By Dennis Thompson Jr. | Medically reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH

The right anti-aging products and treatments can turn back the clock by erasing signs of aging, fine lines and wrinkles, and other sun damage.

If you haven’t been protecting your skin, it can start to give away clues about your age. Fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear, along with brown spots and rough skin patches caused by sun exposure. Your skin might be producing less collagen, and dead skin cells don’t flake off imperceptibly anymore. If this sounds like your skin, it’s time to turn to anti-aging products and treatments to slow down, reduce, or even reverse the signs of aging and regain younger-looking skin.

Any skin that’s been regularly exposed to the elements can be expected to show its age and needs special care to maintain its youthful look, says Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, CEO and medical director of Elite MD, Inc. Advanced Dermatology, Laser, and Plastic Surgery Institute in Danville, Calif.

Your Anti-Aging Action Plan

At-home and doctor’s office procedures can have a visible impact on your complexion, giving you back younger-looking skin.

1. Protect your skin. The first rule of thumb: Prevent the damage. “The best thing to do to protect your skin is prevention,” Dr. Badreshia-Bansal says. The sun is enemy number one, so you need to wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30 or higher whenever you’re outside. You also should wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Protect your face and neck with wide-brimmed hats, your eyes with sunglasses with UV coating. Dryness is enemy number two, making lines seem more noticeable, so choose a moisturizer made for your skin type and use it regularly to keep skin supple.

2. Apply a vitamin A cream. Prescription-strength, vitamin A–based topical gels or creams known as retinoids can reduce wrinkles and produce younger-looking skin. “It helps to build collagen, which can prevent the development of fine lines and wrinkles, and to lighten dark spots,” Badreshia-Bansal says. “We also use it to treat acne, and it can help prevent precancerous growths.” Prescription retinoids include Retin-A and Renova (tretinoin), Differin (adapalene), and Avage (tazarotene).

3. Bleach your brown spots. You can try lightening brown spots (also called age spots) with a bleaching cream that contains hydroquinone. “Hydroquinone helps inhibit an important enzyme in pigment synthesis,” Badreshia-Bansal explains.

4. Pick up a peptide anti-wrinkle cream. These anti-aging creams stimulate the skin’s production of collagen and elastin and are found in some drugstore or beauty counter products. “You’re helping to build back the support structure that’s been lost through aging and sun damage” Badreshia-Bansal says.

5. Peel to reveal fresher skin. Dermatologists use various methods to remove the top layer of skin and expose new skin. These procedures can help tighten the skin and diminish fine lines and brown spots. “By exfoliating that top layer, you’re allowing the moisturizers and other products we use to penetrate deeper and work better,” Badreshia-Bansal says. Procedures include:

  • Chemical peel solutions to loosen and slough away the top layer of skin
  • Laser skin resurfacing to vaporize the surface skin
  • Microdermabrasion that sprays tiny particles to strip away topmost skin cells
  • Plasma skin regeneration using a stream of ionized nitrogen gas to heat the skin and cause the top layer of cells to flake away

6. Consider Botox. Injections of botulinum toxin have become tremendously popular as an anti-aging therapy. The injections relax the muscles under the skin and can eliminate deep lines and wrinkles around the face. Botox treatments also can help prevent new wrinkles from appearing.
You have many options available to create younger-looking skin. Factors including cost and the recovery time associated with procedures like peels will help you decide on your best course of action.