Keep Wrinkles Away With Regular Sunscreen Use
June 5, 2013

Keep Wrinkles Away With Regular Sunscreen Use

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While sunscreen can be effective in preventing painful burns or even skin cancer, a new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that it can also prevent photoaging, or skin wrinkling and aging as a result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

"We now have the scientific evidence to back the long-held assumption about the cosmetic value of sunscreen," co-author Adele Green, an epidemiologist with the University of Manchester, told CNN. "Regular sunscreen use by young and mid-aged adults under 55 brings cosmetic benefits and also decreases the risk of skin cancer."

The study researchers recruited just over 900 participants who were followed for four years. About half of the participants were told to properly use sunscreen daily, re-applying sunscreen after few hours outside, going in the water or heavy sweating.

The other participants were not given directions with regard to sunscreen use. The researchers noted that ethical concerns prevented them from asking this control group to not use sunscreen.

To measure the signs of photoaging among the volunteers, the scientists used a technique called microtopography, which involved taking the silicone impressions of the back of each volunteer´s hand. Damage found in the impressions was measured on a scale from one to six, with six signifying skin with severe aging. Skin aging levels were recorded at the start and the end of the four-year period.

"Skin surface patterns reflect the severity of the sun's damage to the deeper skin, especially to the elastic fibers and collagen," Green said.

Researchers found that participants in the daily sunscreen group were 24 percent less likely to show increased signs of aging. The study also found that volunteers over age 55, who naturally experience more age-related skin changes, didn´t see as much of a benefit as younger participants. The average age in the study was 39.

Previous research has shown that UV radiation damages collagen and other fibers responsible for keeping skin smooth and firm. Broad-spectrum sunscreens, like the SPF 15 used in the new study, provide protection against these damaging rays.

While the dangers of UV exposure have been well-known and widely reported for some time, some experts said the new study on photoaging may get more attention and change more habits.

"It has been a source of frustration for us that for some sections of the community, the sun-safe message does not seem to be getting through," Green told USA Today's Kim Painter. "We now know that protecting yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreen has the added bonus of keeping you looking young."

"Maybe sheer vanity will encourage young people to be proactive and use their sunscreen, because the cancer fear doesn't seem to be getting through to them,” Deborah Sarnoff, a New York City dermatologist and a senior vice president at the Skin Cancer Foundation, told the national daily paper.

She added that while the new study was “very well done," it may underestimate the effect of sunscreen because it used SPF 15, a minimum by dermatological standards, and was conducted in the 1990s, when the formulas involved were less refined than they are today.