Most of us look at the skin’s natural process of aging with a hint of dread as fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear, perhaps we notice sagging in areas of our face that used to be taut, or areas of darkened pigmentation appear. In response, we look for skin care products and professional treatments that can help minimize what we view as the inevitable aging process. But just how “inevitable” is it? Consider that many of the visible signs of aging are not caused by time alone. Rather, repeated exposure to the sun is one of the main causes of premature aging, called “photoaging,” and can be avoided with simple steps.
What is Photoaging?
Let’s first understand how photoaging works. The skin is composed of three main layers – the epidermis (the outermost layer), the dermis (the middle layer) and the subcutis, which is also known as the hypodermis (the basement layer). When UV radiation penetrates the skin for sustained periods of time, several reactions occur. Cells located in the bottom of the epidermis, called melanocytes, begin to produce melanin, which gives your skin a tanned appearance. This tanning process is intended to protect the skin from UV radiation. However, with more and more sun exposure, collagen and elastin fibers, which are located in the dermis and give skin its smooth and youthful appearance, begins to break down. This damage causes increased production of abnormal elastin and results in the production of faulty enzymes and ultimately leads to the skin rebuilding itself improperly. Over time, this process results in visible changes to the skin: it becomes more wrinkled and even leathery, with areas of noticeable hyperpigmentation called “age spots” or “liver spots.” (As you may have guessed, these spots have nothing to do with your age or your liver.)
Prevention is Key
While some degree of photoaging is inevitable if you plan to venture outdoors, there are steps that can drastically minimize the degree to which you experience photoaging. The key is to be prepared for the sun and prevent damage as much as possible. On a daily basis, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15. While it’s most convenient when SPF is included in your moisturizer (such as Lexli Day Moisturizer with SPF 15), sunscreen can also be applied at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. Apply sunscreen to all exposed surfaces of your skin, especially sensitive areas such as the ears, face, neck, shoulders, and hands. Sunscreen will wear off, so do not forget to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, or sooner in sweaty or wet conditions. And don’t be fooled by cloudy or overcast days. Most of the sun’s UV radiation can still get through, even in the winter months. When possible, seek shady places and make a habit of wearing a hat with a protective brim. Sunbathing without sunscreen and the use of tanning beds should be avoided altogether. For those who are already experiencing signs of photoaging, an exfoliation practice can be quite helpful. Learn about the proper approach to exfoliation and how peptide skin care products can aid in reducing the signs of photoaging.
Sun exposure is important, as it can lift our moods and provide our body with much-needed vitamin D. The key is to enjoy the sun’s rays safely and in a way that will not leave you looking older than you really are.
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