Over exposure to the sun is the main cause of premature aging in skin and is known as photoaging. The sun’s UV rays are primarily responsible as they cause both direct and indirect damage to cellular DNA. As a result, skin starts to form wrinkles, sag and develop pigmentation issues before its time. Ensuring skin is properly protected year-round, and using superior sun care products, can help to prevent photoaging.
Photoaging and how to prevent it
What is photoaging?
There are two types of skin aging − intrinsic and extrinsic:
As we age, so does our skin. This type of aging is entirely natural and there’s nothing we can do about it. It is known as intrinsic (or chronological) aging. Intrinsic aging is brought about by internal factors such as our genetics and the hormonal changes that happen at the different stages of life.
Extrinsic aging, on the other hand, is controllable. Extrinsic aging is brought about by external factors such as the environment (weather conditions and UV exposure), lifestyle choices (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) and medication.
When skin ages extrinsically, it develops signs of aging faster than one would expect and so the extrinsic aging of skin is commonly known as premature aging. Research shows that up to 90% of all symptoms of premature skin aging are caused by UV exposure*.
When premature aging is caused by UV exposure, and sunlight in general, it is known as photoaging.
* Source: Ramos-e-Silva et al., ‘Anti-aging cosmetics: Facts and controversies’. Clin Dermatol. 2013 Nov-Dec; 31(6): 750-8.
What are the signs and symptoms of photoaging?
As skin ages, it changes:
- The collagen and elastin responsible for the plumpness of youthful skin deplete – skin starts to lose volume and sag and it develops fine lines and wrinkles.
- Skin is less able to attract and retain the moisture it needs and skin’s own production of Natural Moisturising Factors depletes. It becomes drier.
- It can develop uneven pigmentation (a condition known as dyspigmentation or hyperpigmentation) and solar lentigines (more commonly known as age spots or sun spots).
You can find out more in skin in different ages: how the structure and appearance of skin changes over the years.
The sun, and the process of photoaging, causes many of these signs and symptoms to occur, and be visible, before their time. As the face, hands and décolleté are more exposed to the sun’s UV and HEV Light rays than the rest of the body, these areas – particularly the face – need specific and consistent protection, all year round, to help reduce visible signs of aging.
A UV camera can reveal sun-induced skin damage before it is visible to the human eye.
How photoaging occurs
Photoaging is caused by overexposure to the sun.
The protons in sun’s UVB rays are absorbed by skin cells and cause direct damage to cellular DNA. UVB is what causes our skin to burn in the sun and the direct DNA damage can also lead to skin diseases including skin cancer.
While this direct DNA damage plays a part in the photoaging of skin, it’s the sun’s UVA rays that are the main cause of premature aging in skin. UVA rays also damage cellular DNA, but they do so indirectly: they trigger the formation of free radicals and it’s these free radicals that damage our DNA in a process known as oxidative stress. Recent research has also shown that HEV Light rays contribute to the premature aging of skin, though to a much lesser extent than UV. Read more in How the sun’s UVA, UVB and HEV Light rays affect skin.
UVA rays are less intense than UVB, but they are 30 to 50 times more prevalent and are present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year so it is important to apply sun protection on a daily basis, and all-year-round, to prevent long-term damage. We also recommend that you look out for suncare products that include protection from HEV Light.
Protecting skin from photoaging
The key to protecting facial skin from photoaging is to understand the risks and adjust your behaviour to make sure skin is properly protected at all times - by using the shade and covering up, as well as choosing the right sun protection products and applying them correctly.
You can read more about how to minimise the risks of exposure, how to choose the right sun protection products for your skin and how best to apply them in How the sun’s UVA, UVB and HEV Light rays affect skin and you can read more about how to care for facial skin in particular in sun protection for the face.
We recommend that you incorporate sun protection products into your daily skincare routine and use products that have been specially formulated, and clinically and dermatologically proven to be effective, for your particular skin type. All products in the Eucerin sun protection range include UVA, UVB and broadband filters and offer superior protection from UV rays as well as combatting the oxidative stress caused by HEV Light. They are also clinically and dermatologically proven to be suitable for sensitive skin.
Eucerin Sun Fluid Anti-Age SPF30 and SPF50 has been specially formulated for aging skin. It protects skin from UVA and UVB and works to reduce the oxidative stress caused by HEV Light, thereby helping to prevent photoaging and reduces wrinkles. Active ingredients Licochalcone A and Glycyrrhetinic Acid work together to protect skin cells in the deeper epidermal layers from sun-induced damage and repair skin DNA, while the Hyaluronic Acid in the formula boosts skin moisturisation, plumps skin from the inside out and reduces even deep wrinkles. The formula has a light, non-greasy texture making it an ideal make-up base that’s easy to incorporate in your daily skincare routine.
If you already have sun spots, B-Resorcinol, a key ingredient in the Eucerin EVEN BRIGHTER range can be effective at fading them.