Sun Wrinkles: How Does Sun Exposure Affect Aging Skin?

Curious about sun wrinkles? We can explain. Read on to learn how sun affects aging skin

Here's the effect sun has on aging skin

We all know the importance of sunscreen on sunny days. But just how much damage can the sun actually do to our skin?

According to recent research, sun damage is one of the leading contributors to developing wrinkles — and can also impact other people's perceptions of our ages. For example, someone who has spent far too much time in the sun over the course of their life may look significantly older than someone with less sun exposure. This is because of a process called "photoaging."

What happens to the skin during photoaging?

Photoaging is the word for premature skin aging due to sun exposure, which can also include the development of sunspots and the loss of the skin's natural elasticity. In other words, damage from the sun can definitely have a major impact on how quickly we appear to age.

Photoaging occurs when UV rays penetrate the outermost layer of the skin (the dermis). Particularly during the hours of 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, when the sun is at its strongest, these UVA and UVB rays can reach the deeper layers of the skin and cause unhealthy reactions that lead to the signs typically associated with aging.

One of the main results of photoaging is the development of wrinkles. Your skin sags and begins to wrinkle when the dermis starts to decompose. This doesn't mean your skin begins to rot and fall off — but even the mildest sunburn can cause an abnormal amount of collagen and elastins to appear in the skin. Your body's natural response to collagen and elastin is to produce an enzyme that tries to repair the damage. However, this enzyme often has the opposite effect: it starts the skin decomposition process that leads to wrinkles, sun spots, and other familiar signs of aging.

The results can be astounding! A recent study of two identical twins, held over the course of 11 years, found that the twin who spent more time in the sun — one with approximately 10 more hours of sun per week than the other — developed significantly more dramatic signs of aging. The twin who spent more time in the sun was perceived to be 11.25 years older than their identical twin!

Can the skin be protected from sun aging?

Luckily, your skin is one of the easiest organs to protect. Sunscreen is critical if you plan on spending a significant amount of time outdoors, even if the weather is cloudy or overcast. Also, a regular and dedicated skincare routine — one that includes exfoliation, moisturizer, and careful cleanliness with cleansers and toners — can keep your skin firm, soft, and wrinkle-free for years to come.

Your diet also plays a significant role in skin quality. Although diet is not the cause of any particular skin condition, many common skin afflictions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis can be exacerbated by poor diet. Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, and boosting your diet with vitamin or mineral supplements can all improve the quality of your skin.

One of the most important things to remember is to avoid smoking: cigarettes have been directly linked to collagen production. And that leads to an over-abundance of wrinkles!

Can anything be done about wrinkles after they appear?

Yes! Wrinkles and other obvious signs of aging can be addressed with many common modern treatments. Many over-the-counter creams and lotions can lead to a significant improvement in skin quality. Just look for treatments that advertise "anti-aging" qualities, like retinoid creams.

Other treatments can be performed in a doctor's office, but they may be more expensive. Things like dermabrasion, microneedling, and Botox or filler injections can all reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity.

In general, limiting your exposure to the sun is one of the most surefire ways to prevent premature wrinkles. As people age, their skin quality naturally changes, but you don't have to give up beach days and summer BBQs to keep your skin clear. A healthy diet, a regular skincare routine, and regular visits to your dermatologist will keep your skin glowing and healthy for years to come.

Resources— Shray Skincare, WebMD, Sunsafe Rx

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