I know it seems weird to write a blog about SPF as we head into the winter season but as an Aesthetician working in the industry for half my life, I think there’s no better time to talk about it! As the earth moves further from the sun and its warm rays retreat, it’s easy to forget that even if we can’t feel it, those UV rays are still aging our skin every single day!
So how do we combat this assault on our complexions as we go about our daily lives? One of the best ways is by daily use of SPF! Applying a broad-spectrum, face-friendly sunscreen every day, rain or shine, summer or winter, is one of the most basic but effective things you can do to slow down the progression of sun damage in your skin.
But does the sun REALLY do that much damage, especially on cloudy days? The answer is a resounding YES! Regardless of the weather, the cumulative damage caused to our skin by just living our everyday lives is actually a bigger contributor to sun damage than spending time on the beach on our summer vacations! Of course, that’s not to say I advocate sunbathing as there is a marked difference between the amount of UV-induced aging people who have been lifelong sun-worshippers experience over those who have largely avoided tanning their skin. But overall, if you add up the amount of time the average person spends just living their life, it’s a lot longer than the occasions they may have intentionally sat in the sun to get a tan.
So how does too much UV cause premature aging to our skin? First of all, it’s important to understand what gives our skin its youthful look to begin with. Two important proteins that help to maintain young skin are collagen and elastin. Collagen is what gives our skin structure and firmness while elastin, as the name suggests, helps keep our skin elastic and gives it resiliency and “bounce”. Another important factor in skin health are stem cells, which allow for new cell turnover. UV radiation ravages the skin by killing off these stem cells and activates certain enzymes that break down the collagen and elastin – resulting in thinning, sagging and wrinkling of the skin, pigmented lesions, uneven texture and vascular disorders, all of which contribute to the look of aged skin. According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report, “Sun Protection: A Primary Teaching Resource” it is estimated that up to 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging may be caused by sun exposure!
Although this blog is focused on premature aging of the skin due to too much UV exposure, I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence as a skincare professional if I didn’t also mention the increased risk of skin cancer from too much sun. Both UVA and UVB rays cause damage to the skin cell DNA and the more the damage that accumulates, the higher the risk of developing skin cancer becomes. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US and worldwide. To learn more about sun exposure and skin cancer, please visit their website HERE.
Many of us grew up in the era of equating a tan with good health (often referred to as a “healthy glow”) and did most of our damage before we knew how dangerous it was – so now what? Is it too late? No! While we don’t have the ability to turn back time and slather SPF all over our young selves, the good news is we live in a world of technological advances that make it possible to reverse some of the sun damage we’ve already gotten. The use of lasers like Lutronic’s LaseMD Ultra, a non-ablative 1927 Thulium laser, can address the issues that make our skin look older, such as pigmented lesions and uneven texture, as well as the conditions that make skin more vulnerable to developing skin cancer, such as Actinic Keratosis. To learn more about the benefits of LaseMD Ultra, please visit our website HERE.
So what’s the takeaway?
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every single day
- Avoid direct sun whenever possible
- Protect yourself when you are in the sun by wearing wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and of course a sunscreen with at least SPF 30, to be re-applied at minimum every 2 hours or after swimming
- Consider aesthetic treatments such as LaseMD Ultra to address/reverse some of the signs of skin aging due to sun damage
And if you don’t want to take my word for it, the picture below says it all!