Sunscreen really does slow the skin aging process. Of course, doctors have been telling you to wear sunscreen for many years, apparently without much in the way of proof, so it’s nice to hear that a new study from sunny Australia said that we’re not wasting our money.
The new report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine is part of a Queensland Institute of Medical Research project that has gone on for over two decades. In this particular study, lead author Dr. Adele Green and colleagues studied the lines on the hands of over 900 participants for four years.
Dr. Green summed up her team’s conclusions: “We now have the scientific evidence to back the long-held assumption about the cosmetic value of sunscreen. Regular sunscreen use by young and mid-aged adults under 55 brings cosmetic benefits and also decreases the risk of skin cancer.”
Some of the study participants were given sunscreen and fully informed about the best way to use it. Because it wasn’t considered ethical to tell anyone not to use sunscreen, the control group simply wasn’t given any special instructions and presumably were free to use sunscreen whenever they felt like it.
Result? The group that was actively encouraged to use sunscreen every single time were 24 percent less likely to show new signs of aging after four years.
Most studies in the past focused on showing that sunscreen can reduce the incidence of skin cancer. Indeed, older sunscreens really only protected against UV-B radiation, which causes most sunburns and skin cancers.
However, so-called photo-aging — the formation of visible fine lines and spots — is caused by UV-A. Modern sunscreens are now usually formulated to include protection against that form of radiation as well.
To prevent skin damage caused by the sun, dermatologists now strongly advise people to wear sunscreen at all times, even if they’re outdoors for only brief periods of time.
University of Pennsylvania clinical professor Dr. Eric Bernstein is one expert who said flat-out that he lectures people about the importance of sunscreen, stating that even 15 minutes a day is a lot of exposure over the years:
“No one thinks they’re in the sun, and they’re in the sun all the time. I say, ‘How did you get here — did you tunnel here?'”
But it isn’t that simple. Women who aren’t exposed to natural sunlight for even a few minutes a day have an elevated risk of breast cancer — and the treatment of that disease is more likely to be fatal or disfiguring than the treatment for most skin cancers.
Therefore, some oncologists recommend that women do get that famous 15 minutes a day in the sun.
I’m not sure anyone actually needed a new study to tell us that sunscreen slows skin aging. But many of us are wondering if there’s a way to fight the skin aging without increasing our breast cancer risk.
Do you use sunscreen to slow skin aging every single time you head outdoors?
[sunny beach photo by Khoroshunova Olga via Shutterstock]