Regular sunscreen use slows skin aging, study finds
We’ve heard the advice before from our parents, from our camp counselors and even in our graduation speeches: do not forget to wear sunscreen.
The link to skin cancer has been well established, but now there’s new evidence which finds that sunscreen seems to protect against skin aging.
The new study published by The Annals of Internal Medicine finds that regular sunscreen use protects against wrinkling, spotting and loss of elasticity caused by extensive sun exposure. Though it has long been known the negative impact that sun exposure can have on your skin, this is the first study to quantify the positive impact on skin aging of using sunscreen.
“Changes in the appearance of the skin are known to be influenced by sun exposure and the effects of growing older,” write the authors in an accompanying article. “Although sunscreen has been shown to protect against skin cancer, whether it [could] protect against skin aging [had] not been established.”
For the study, more than 900 participants were followed for four years. One group was told to use sunscreen daily and taught proper use. The other group was given no directions about sunscreen use. Skin changes were measured using microtopography, a technique in which sensitive silicone impressions were made of the back of each participant’s hands. Damage was measured at the beginning of the study and again at the end, on a scale from one to six.
“The daily sunscreen group showed no detectable increase in skin aging after 4.5 years,” write the authors in the report. “Skin aging from baseline to the end of the trial was 24 percent less in the daily sunscreen group than in the discretionary sunscreen group.”
There are a few key limitations to the study. All participants were under the age of 55 and it remains unclear what the impact on those older than 55 would be. Additionally, the sample size is relatively small and will need to be repeated with a larger group over a longer period of time to confirm the results. Nevertheless, the study exhibits the numerous benefits of sunscreen use.
In particular, studies show that children are at an increased risk for the negative effects of sun exposure, but all adults should take extra precaution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends applying a high SPF sunscreen before going outside and advises people to wear clothing that covers exposed skin.
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