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Why and How to Defend Your Skin From Photoaging

June 07, 2023


As you age, every part of your body matures as well, including your skin. However, there is another reason for skin aging that is not dependent on your chronological age but on the degree of sun exposure. This is called photoaging, a condition wherein the skin shows visible signs of aging caused by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV).

Apart from the degree of exposure to the sun or other artificial UV sources, photoaging is also determined by the amount of melanin on the skin. Apart from providing color to the skin, melanin also works to block UV radiation from penetrating the skin. For this reason, people with fair skin who have low levels of melanin who are consistently exposed to the sun are more susceptible to photoaging than those with darker skin. Though people with darker skin have a distinct advantage here, that doesn't mean they shouldn't skip any steps when it comes to protecting their skin from the sun!

Why You Need to Protect Your Skin From the Sun

The positive effects of sunlight on the body are unquestionable. It helps us produce vitamin D and it can induce feelings of happiness. Unfortunately, apart from the positive benefits that you can get from sunshine, the sun also emits harmful ultraviolet rays that penetrate your skin and create havoc. 

As mentioned above, one of the most damaging effects of overexposure to sunlight is photoaging. If you are still unconcerned about this condition since you are still in your 20s, know that studies have shown how young people who are exposed to a great number of UV rays also suffer from photoaging. Below are the reasons why you need to protect your skin from overexposure to the harmful rays of the sun and essentially the value of learning how to defend your skin from photoaging:

To Avoid Premature Skin Aging

One of the universal standards of beauty is having a beautiful and youthful-looking complexion. Of course, an elderly woman with wrinkles does not necessarily mean she is unattractive because her complexion is natural for her age. But when your skin is aged prematurely because of sun exposure, it becomes a problem.

Here are the clinical signs of photoaging that you can avoid when you learn and practice how to defend your skin from photoaging:

  • Wrinkles
  • Mottled pigmentation (uneven skin color)
  • Rough, leathery skin
  • Dry skin
  • Sallowness (unhealthy skin appearance)
  • Loss of skin tone in sun-exposed areas
  • Red, rough, scaly spots
  • Spider veins on the nose, cheeks, and neck

To Maintain Healthy and Glowing Skin

The skin is comprised of three distinct layers: the outermost layer called the epidermis, the middle layer called the dermis, and the innermost layer called the subcutis (or subcutaneous tissue or superficial fascia). The dermis of the skin contains substances responsible for maintaining healthy and glowing skin. Two of these substances that greatly influence your complexion are collagen and elastin.

Collagen is a kind of fibrous protein that is responsible for skin strength. Elastin, on the other hand, is a kind of protein that allows the skin to stretch and return to its original position (elasticity). When your skin has enough collagen and elastin, it is smoother, healthier and more young-looking.

Unfortunately, when your skin is exposed to the sun, the UV rays penetrate deep into the dermis and damage the collagen fibers and elastin. It also causes the production of abnormal elastin which deters the rebuilding of damaged collagen. Ultimately, the UV rays rid your skin of essential proteins needed to maintain the structure of your skin.

To Avoid Skin Cancer

Photoaged skin is essentially damaged skin. Considering the condition of the skin when it suffers from photoaging, clinical evidence suggests that it makes people more susceptible to melanoma.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. While it has been clearly categorized as an age-related disease (highest incidence among individuals over 55 years old), cases of UV-induced melanoma have now been found. Since photoaged skin is heavily damaged by UV rays, it increases the risk of melanoma even on younger people.

Given this fact, you are essentially lowering the risk of melanoma if you protect your skin from photoaging.

How to Defend Your Skin From Photoaging

While it is a fact that the UV rays from the sun can cause damaging effects to the skin, you don't have to live under a rock to avoid them. There are many things you can do to enjoy the summer sun and its many wonderful effects on the body while avoiding its negative results. Here are some practical tips on how to defend your skin from photoaging:

Wear Sunscreen Daily

Whenever you have to go outside, whether it’s a hot or cloudy day, make sure to properly apply sunscreen. Sunscreen is a substance that works to protect the skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Essentially, by wearing sunscreen daily you can prevent the appearance of visible signs of premature skin aging as well as skin cancer.

Sunscreen products contain ingredients that interact and shield the skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Three of the most common and effective sunscreen ingredients include titanium dioxide, octinoxate, and benzophenone-3.

Titanium dioxide is a broad-spectrum UV filter that protects the skin by effectively blocking UVB and UVA rays. This ingredient is one of the most widely used UV filtering components in sunscreen and cosmetics.

Octinoxate, on the other hand, is an organic UV-B filter that works by absorbing UV-B rays from the sun. it is also an ingredient that is heavily relied upon to significantly minimize the damage caused by UV rays on the DNA.

Benzophenone-3 is another common sunscreen ingredient that works by absorbing and dissipating UV rays. Apart from sun protection products and cosmetics, this ingredient is also used as an ultraviolet stabilizer in plastic surface coatings for food packaging to prevent food photodegradation.

Sunscreen products are given a number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays called sun protection factor or SPF. The higher the number, the higher the protection. To get the best defense against UV rays, use a sunscreen with SPF29.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (ADA) stresses the importance of proper sunscreen application to experience its effects. The ADA suggests applying a thick layer of sunscreen on all parts of the exposed skin. You should consider using a spray sunscreen for more efficient and no-mess application. 

Don't forget to apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go out to give it time to be absorbed by the skin. You must also remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you sweat a lot. So make sure you have a sunscreen product in your gym bag when you have to go for outdoor runs.

Most importantly, reapply every hour if you are swimming even if the product says “waterproof.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long ruled that “no sunscreens are ‘waterproof.’” Apparently, the effectiveness of “waterproof” sunscreens only last for 40-80 minutes, hence, make sure to reapply.

Wear a Hat

Just because you've applied sunscreen doesn't mean you are set to go. You need to complement your defense against photoaging methods with other measures such as wearing a hat.

For maximum sun protection, it is advisable that you wear a wide-brim hat (with at least 2 to 3-inch brim) to cover body parts that are usually exposed to the intense rays of the sun. Such parts include the forehead, eyes, nose, and scalp. If the hat has a dark, non-reflective underside, the better as it also helps to minimize the number of UV rays reaching your facial skin.

Using a regular baseball cap provides limited protection since your ears and neck are still exposed. But, if you only have a baseball hat handy, wear that over a bandana or scarf that can shield your ears and neck from sun damage. 

Wear Full Coverage Clothes

Since overexposure to sunlight causes photoaging, it is advantageous to wear clothing that covers most of your skin. Long pants and skirts, as well as long-sleeved shirts, provide the most protection. Other factors that contribute to sun protection includes wearing dark-colored, tightly woven, and dry fabric.

To determine whether your clothing is protecting you from harmful UV rays, see if light passes through the fabric. If it does, then it means that the UV rays can penetrate as well.

If you think that you need to look drab to avoid photoaging, many companies now manufacture clothing items that are not only lightweight and comfortable but even offers protection against UV rays even when wet. Similar to sunscreens, sun-protective clothing also has sun protection rating called UV protection factor or UPF. The higher the value, the greater the UV protection it provides.

There are also products available today that increases the UV protection of your clothes. One such product is a laundry detergent with sunscreen that works by adding a layer of UV protection to your clothes.

Avoid Sunbathing, Tanning Beds, and Sun Lamps 

A cancer research study revealed that many women associate tanning to health, attractiveness, and self-esteem. Most of the subjects on the study appear unconcerned about the harmful effects of getting a tan since it makes them more confident.

If you have the same belief about tanning, it is best that you avoid sunbathing, sunlamps, and tanning beds to achieve this purpose. Contrary to what many people believe, the UV rays of tanning beds and sun lamps are not harmless. Both UVA and UVB rays emitted by these tanning equipment damages the skin.

In fact, one study published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology revealed that tanning beds increase the risk of skin cancers especially among individuals who have been exposed to tanning beds at a younger age (approximately before 30 years old). Instead of tanning options that exposed your skin to harmful UV rays, it is best to use a sunless tanning lotion or similar products.

Avoid Being Outdoors in Direct Sunlight Too Long

One of the best ways to defend your skin from photoaging is to simply avoid going out and doing activities under direct sunlight. At the very least, avoid going out from 10 am up to 4 pm when the UV rays of the sun are at their strongest.

To know whether the rays of the sun is too strong, you can do the shadow test. Simply stand outside and observe the length of your shadow if it appears much shorter than you are, then it means the rays are strongest and you need maximum protection. Look for shade, use an umbrella, and other means of protection given here.

Use Skincare Products With Ingredients That Protect The Skin

Apart from wearing sunscreen, you can also include in your beauty routine the use of skincare products with natural ingredients that protect the skin from harmful effects of the sun. Nature is rich with plant extracts that have the ability to protect the skin from free radicals and other elements that cause skin degeneration.

Studies show that some of the botanical ingredients that have anti-photoaging effects include green tea, tropical cabbage palm fern extract, silymarin, soybean extract, and coffee arabica extract, among others. A clinical trial investigating the effects of applying vitamin C on the skin also show that it is effective in treating the signs of photoaging. When using skincare products, make sure that their ingredients list contains anti-photoaging benefits.

All the guidelines on how to defend your skin from photoaging mentioned above have all been proven to provide UV protection. It is important to note, however, that it is best to observe all the measures for maximum protection against the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful rays. If you consider all the benefits, especially how these practices can significantly lower your risk of getting skin cancer, doing all these things are definitely worth your time and effort.