Protect Your Skin Against ?Sun Damage and Photo-aging

Premature skin aging can be controlled if you take steps to protect yourself from sun damage

Credit: Wellness Matters

Be sure to follow the five Ss before stepping out into the sun’s harsh rays

You may not be able to stop the clock but you can defend against premature aging

Time may be marching on, but there’s no reason it needs to march all over your face. While there’s little you can do about natural, genetically programmed aging, there’s a lot you can do to defend against photo-aging–the premature aging of the skin that comes from spending unprotected time in the sun.

When the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays penetrate the skin, they cause changes to the cells, reducing the skin’s ability to repair itself (UV rays break down collagen and attack the elastin in the skin). Over time, this damage can produce everything from fine lines and wrinkles to loose, leathery skin; freckles and age spots to spider veins.

What’s worse, sun exposure is also the leading cause of skin cancer. Fair-skinned people and people who spend excessive amounts of time outdoors are at particular risk for photo-aging. 

Before you go out into the sun, defend against photo-aging by following the five Ss:

The Five Ss for Sun Protection

  1. Slip on a shirt: Select dark clothing made from tightly woven fabric. Tip: Many outdoor apparel companies are now producing clothing with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) built into the material. 

  2. Slop on sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of minimum SPF 30 at least 20 minutes before you go outside, and reapply it after sweating or swimming. (Remember, UV rays are always present, so wear sunscreen year round.)

  3. Slap on a hat: Choose a wide-brimmed hat. If you’re wearing a baseball cap, be sure to put sunscreen on the back of your neck.

  4. Seek shade: Stay out of direct sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

  5. Slide on some sunglasses: Select sunglasses that block 99% of UVA and UVB rays.

Smokers Take Note: Did you know that cigarette smoke also produces biochemical changes that speed up the aging process? Long-time smokers are especially prone to developing wrinkled, leathery skin and lines around the eyes and mouth. Over time the skin can even take on a yellowish hue. Happily, kicking the habit can reduce the wrinkling and improve skin tone – just one more good reason to stop smoking.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.