Everything You Need to Know About Aging Skin and UV Rays

1. What is the impact of UV rays on the skin?

a. How does the sun age your skin?

b. What are age spots?

2. How to protect yourself from UV rays

3. Does sunscreen prevent skin aging?


Would you believe it if we told you there’s a product out there that can slow down the clock on aging and even prevent premature aging? It’s inexpensive and easy to use, and you probably already own it—and if you don’t, you can buy it at the drugstore. It’s sunscreen!


Sunburns and tans aren’t the only indication of the power of ultraviolet radiation (UV rays). Fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, dehydration—exposure to UV rays can cause all of these problems and more. In fact, a staggering 80% of all signs of premature skin aging is caused by UV rays. Which is why dermatologists are big fans of sun protection being a part of your everyday skincare routine. It’s actually widely considered among professionals to be the gold standard in anti-aging.


If you’re skeptical about the effect of UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays on the skin, take a look at the skin on your body that doesn’t get as much sun exposure—like on the derrière. You’re not going to find sunspots or wrinkles there! Plain and simple, the only successful anti-aging skincare routine includes a sunscreen. Here, we break down how sun ages skin, how to prevent it and how to maintain youthful-looking skin with the best sunscreens for aging skin .

1. What is the impact of UV rays on the skin?


Fact: Ultraviolet radiation is bad news when it comes to your skin. Regular sun exposure—even for brief periods of time—puts your skin at risk, especially if you’re not using SPF daily. The real kicker is the fact that photoaging (wrinkles, loss of elasticity and dark spots) isn’t part of the natural aging process—it’s avoidable.


The most familiar effect is sunburn. It’s caused by UVB rays, which have a shorter wavelength. You might think your skin looks younger and healthier when it’s tanned, but the reality is that this golden glow leads to irreversible skin damage. UVB rays aren’t always the same strength year-round; they are stronger in the summer months.


UVA rays, on the other hand, are always present, no matter the season or the weather. These are the rays responsible for skin aging, because they’re able to penetrate much deeper into the surface of the skin, damaging the skin cells underneath. They’re so powerful that they infiltrate clothing and even glass. You may not see this damage immediately, like a sunburn or a tan, but it accumulates every time your skin is exposed to the sun without protection. Essentially, what UV rays do to your skin is accelerate skin aging and gradually contribute to the loss of elasticity, resulting in wrinkles and dry, coarse skin. UV rays not only cause premature aging but also increase the risk of skin cancer—including melanoma, the deadliest kind.

a. How does the sun age your skin?


According to the World Health Organization, chronic exposure to UV radiation causes a number of degenerative changes in the cells, fibrous tissue and blood vessels of the skin. These effects can cause premature aging, signs of which include freckles, leathery skin, wrinkles and pigmented areas also known as age spots.


b. What are age spots?


Sunspots, age spots, liver spots, dark spots—whatever you want to call them, these annoying small, flat dark areas are usually found on the face, shoulders and hands because these are the parts of the body that get the most sun exposure. Wondering what causes age spots? You guessed it: UV rays. When the skin is damaged, excess melanin is produced in the affected areas. This melanin acts as a shield, absorbing some of the damaging rays and protecting your cells against further damage. The results? An accumulation of this pigment, which turns into an age spot.


2. How to protect yourself from UV rays


Since there are countless studies that prove the link between the sun and skin aging, prevention and protection by means of sunscreen is so important for every skincare routine. Look for broad-spectrum UV protection, which combines organic filters (which absorb, convert and release harmful UV radiation) and physical filters (which reflect UV radiation away from the skin) to protect against both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.


While sun care is probably top of mind for you when the weather heats up, it’s really important to wear it every day and make it part of your skincare routine. It should always be the last step of your skincare routine and the first step of your makeup routine. Other strategies to maximize protection is to seek shade, wear wide-brimmed hats, cover your skin with sun-protective clothing and avoid being in direct sunlight during peak hours: from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


3. Does sunscreen prevent skin aging?


Sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer. We know this. But does sunscreen prevent skin aging? Absolutely! Over the past decade, there have been numerous studies conducted over long periods of time that have proven that regular sunscreen use protects against photoaging caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays. And when we say regular, we mean every single day.


The best moisturizers with sunscreen for aging skin often contain SPF; however, most don’t have a high enough SPF or UVA protection. Vichy Aqualia Thermal UV SPF 30 Daily Sunscreen Moisturizer is a great option because it has both broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays and an SPF 30, which is what the Canadian Dermatology Association recommends. It’s also packed with hydrating and fortifying skincare ingredients and is gentle enough for sensitive skin.


Having an SPF in your moisturizer is good, but it’s not optimal sun protection. The best sunscreen for aging skin is broad-spectrum and has a minimum of SPF 30, and it’s one that you’ll apply enough of and wear every day. The thing is, sunscreen is meant to sit on the skin to act as a defence between your face and the sun. It’s supposed to block out all those harmful UV rays and not sink into your skin, like a moisturizer.


The main problem is that we don’t put enough moisturizer on our face to get the full sun-protection factor of 30. Unless you’re going really heavy handed with moisturizer application, you’re probably only getting the effects of SPF 10 or 12. The most effective way to protect your skin is to apply your moisturizer first, wait a minute or two and then apply an SPF 30 (or more), every morning.


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