Summer is approaching, so practice sound skin protection habits right away
By Michelle Reid, Somme Institute
It is impossible to stop the natural aging process, but it is possible to delay it. Unfortunately, some age-related changes in our facial appearance are unavoidable and partially due to genetics and the passage of time. However, the greatest cause of the visible signs of aging is directly linked to environmental sources and is preventable. Sun exposure is one of the most avoidable causes of wrinkling, skin discoloration, laxity and, most importantly, skin cancer.
It is well established that exposure to the sun’s UV rays is a universal threat to healthy skin. Long-wave UVA and midrange UVB are the rays responsible for premature photo aging, immune dysfunction and some skin cancers. UVB rays are thought to be responsible for the majority of UV-related negative effects on the skin. UV radiation stimulates an increase in free radicals that attack collagen and elastin, the substances that keep our skin moist, smooth, flexible and elastic. These vital tissues fray and break under the assaults of free radicals, a process particularly noticeable in the face where folds of skin and deep- cut wrinkles are testaments to the effect of long-term free radical damage. UV exposure also reduces the natural antioxidant defense system in the skin, making it more susceptible to the free radical onslaught. Wrinkling, laxity, enlargement of pores, loss of elasticity, hyper-pigmentation and visible broken capillaries are all common as a direct result of UV exposure.
Not only does exposure to UV radiation cause the signs of premature aging it could also lead to skin cancer. Both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have identified UV as a proven human carcinogen. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, are all caused by UV exposure. Fifty percent of all cancer in the United States is skin cancer, and death from skin cancer occurs at the rate of one death per hour in the United States. Skin cancer kills more women in their late 20s and early 30s than breast cancer. The most significant amount of UV radiation hits the United States between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from April to October; however UV rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces which bounce back up to 80 percent of the rays, so they hit the skin twice. There is simply no such thing as a “healthy tan.”
Sunscreen is, above all, the most important aspect of a skin care regimen. A broad-spectrum sunscreen product must be applied each morning to protect the skin and prevent further damage. Choose an SPF of at least 15 and look for ingredients like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone or ecamsule to ensure adequate UVA and UVB protection. Due to the proven increase in free radicals and reduction in naturally occurring antioxidant levels caused by UV exposure, it is also advised to have topical antioxidants as a part of every skin-care regimen. Vitamins A, C, E and certain B vitamins such as B3 and B5 are excellent antioxidants in the battle against free radical damage and premature aging. Look for sun protection products that contain additional antioxidants as well as topical antioxidant products to add to daily skin care regimens for maximum protection.
Understanding the UV exposure related cascade of events that takes place in the skin and identifying ways to halt these reactions will allow you to properly protect yourself from unnecessary premature skin aging and skin cancer.