Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to Protect Against Photo Aging

Everyone wants to look young but unfortunately there is no miracle pill or lotion which can do that. However, one of the best ways to look young is to protect against photo aging. Photo aging is the medical term that describes the condition of skin that is caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight. While looking bronzed may look great in your 20s, it will also make you a lot older by the time you are in your 30s and 40s.

Photo aged skin is not difficult to recognize. One develops premature fine lines, wrinkles, skin discolorations and rough texture. It is important to avoid excess sun because once photo aged skin develops, the changes are impossible to reverse. No matter what your cosmetic physician says, all the treatments for photo-aged skin are temporary and usually mask the lines and wrinkles.

The best way to avoid photo-aged skin is to:

Avoid sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm.

Always wear a sunscreen if you go out. Apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going out.

Wear appropriate clothing, a hat and long sleeved shirt.

Protection against photo aging:

Today, there are a variety of clothing and chemicals which one can use to protect against sunlight. There are UV reflective garments which can protect you from sun. There are also a variety of umbrellas and tents which also reflect the sunlight and prevent absorption of UV rays.

A lot of work has shown that the effects of UV radiation on your skin are directly related to the intensity and duration. The greater the exposure to sunlight, the more severely the skin changes. However even though the greatest intensity of UV rays is from 10 am to 4 pm, many people love the sun and others have no way of avoiding it. For those who cannot avoid the sun, use sun protective sunscreens. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher if you think you will be exposed to the sun for more than 20 minutes. What most consumers do not know is that even on cloudy days, you can get a sunburn. The majority of the sun’s UV rays reach the earth. Just because it is cloudy does not mean you do not have to wear a sunscreen.


There are three basic types of sunscreens.

Those which absorb UV radiation with chemicals like para-amino benzoic acid (PABA), cinnamates, salicylates and benzophenones.

Those which reflect UV radiation and contain ingredients like titanium and zinc oxide.
The latest sunscreens also contain a mixture of vitamins (C & E). These compounds do not absorb or reflect UV rays but are thought to enhance the ability of skin to repair the damaged caused by the sun.

The majority of sunscreens today contain a variety of chemicals that protect the skin. Individuals with pale white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes generally burn rather fast are at the highest risk for photo aging and skin cancer. These individuals need the maximum photo-protection. These individuals should use broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher.

Topical sunscreens must be approved by the FDA and are available as creams, lotions, gels, ointments and liquids. There is no difference between the formula - it is only a personal choice.

For consumers who do not know much about sunscreens always buy a broad spectrum sunscreens which will protect against both UV A and B rays. UVB rays generally cause more superficial skin damage but the UVA rays can penetrate deep and induce photo aging. The majority of available sunscreens are effective against either UVA or UVB and may also contain blocking agents like zinc oxide. Always read the label before you buy a sunscreen.

For those who just want protection against sunburn, a sunscreen with UVB protection is adequate. For those who want complete protection get one which also blocks UV A rays.

Application of sunscreens:

In general, apply the sunscreen 20-30 minutes before you venture outside.

Cover all the sun exposed areas especially the face, ears, neck, upper arms and legs. For lips get a lip balm sunscreen.

If you stay outdoors for more than 2 hrs then reapply the sunscreen. If you do sweat or swim, reapply the sunscreen after the exercise or use a waterproof sunscreen.

There is a lot of evidence showing that regular use of sunscreens can help protect against skin cancer including the lethal melanoma.

Side effects:

Like all chemicals, sunscreens also have a few rare side effects.

Contact allergy or dermatitis is the most common. If you have allergy to any product in the sunscreen avoid it.

Individuals who have atopic dermatitis, hay fever, eczema or acne should discuss the situation with a skin physician for the best sunscreen.


In the last decade clothing which reflects back UV rays have come into vogue. However this type of clothing is expensive and the evidence that they are protective against sunlight is still not available. It appears that the clothing industries has capitalized on public fear and have been marketing their apparel without real proof. If you cannot afford such clothing, normal clothing with long sleeves, wide brim hat, and sun glasses is just as adequate.

All individuals who spend time outside should be weary of the sun; especially gardeners, farmers, and laborers. Sun protection is something that should be started in childhood. Skin damage begins early and in most cases by the end of second decade the damage has already been done. A lot of work shows that early intense exposure to sun is a risk factor for melanoma.

The best clothing to wear includes those made from nylon and polyester. Tightly woven cotton garments are fine and quite comfortable in environments where there is high heat and humidity.

In general individuals with fair skin have a higher risk of photo aging and they need maximum protection.

Dark skin individuals may not sun burn and may have a low risk for skin cancer, but these individual can become dehydrated and develop wrinkles just the same.

If ever in doubt about buying a sunscreen, get a broad spectrum sun screen with an SPF of at least 30 or higher – and use it.

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