Conclusive Scientific Proof That Daily Use of Sunscreen Prevents Skin Aging

Cynthia Bailey, MD|June 13, 2013

daily sun exposure of skinThere’s no more wondering or hoping that you’ll get away with NOT wearing sunscreen every day! A new study just released in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed, without a doubt, that DAILY use of sunscreen prevents the degradative skin changes of aging. In the study, Australians who used sunscreen every day for 4 ½ years had no additional microscopic signs of skin aging as compared to those who used sunscreen discretionarily (when they felt like it). In the same study, they tested to determine if beta-carotene supplements retarded skin aging; results showed they did not. Bottom Line: if you want to stop the progressive aged appearance of your skin over your lifetime, you need to wear sunscreen on exposed skin every day. I know this to be true because in my dermatology practice I get to compare sun-protected to non-protected skin daily. Everyone's - and I mean everyone’s - buttocks skin is wrinkle free. Everyone’s inner arm looks years younger than their outer arm too, once the signs of sun damage start showing up. When someone doubts whether sunscreen will help keep their skin healthy I use that example as a demonstration and they “get it”. It’s not just wrinkles and the cosmetic consequences that are important. Those degradative sun-induced skin changes cause skin thinning and fragility over the years. Daily sun-induced skin aging over the years is why, as we become elderly, the skin on the back of our arms tears and bruises easily. I hope I’ve motivated you! Wear your sunscreen every day. What's my professional dermatologist's advice to you for preventing skin aging? Use daily sunscreen with the same diligence you use to brush your teeth. Apply it right after you’ve washed your face and put on your other products. Don’t forget your ears (I did for years and my earlobes have more wrinkles than my face!), the sides of your neck, the back of your neck if your hair is short, your chest if you're wearing a scoop or V-neck shirt, the back of your hands/arms, etc. Even in winter, you need sunscreen because the winter rays age your skin too. Use broad spectrum sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher and 5% or more zinc oxide. My bias is that zinc oxide products give you the best protection, so chose products that have 5% or more zinc oxide listed as an active ingredient, are labeled SPF 30 or higher, and also are labeled with the words “broad spectrum.” Augment your sunscreen's protection with additional sun protection measures. Ideally I’d love for you to add a full brim hat when you’re outside for extended periods and to cover as much skin as possible with clothing that gives you sun protection. Seek the shade and wear UV-blocking glasses to protect your eyes when you’re outside for more than a few minutes too.

To see the zinc oxide sunscreens that I know work and that I trust for my patients, my family, and myself, click here.

For a quick comparison on their attributes and to match a sunscreen to your skin type, click here for my sunscreen comparison chart.

Wishing you lots of fun in the sun without the future wrinkles! Reference Hughes MC, Williams GM, Baker P, Green AC., Sunscreen and prevention of skin aging: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2013 Jun 4;158(11):781-90. Photo: thanks and gratitude to tibchris and Andrew Plewes

What if you only go outside for a couple of minutes on some days and do not sit by a window, do you still need to apply sun screen on those days ?

Yes, in my opinion one does. Know that we can always look at our skin and if there is any tan or darkening of freckles then we have been exposed to UV rays. - CBMD

By Karen on 2016 11 03

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