We all know the harsh truth, and that is that our skin changes with age and even quicker without the use of sunscreen.


Of course, genes and lifestyle play a role in the skin ageing process, but there are certain aspects which we can control that have an impact on the ageing of our skin.


As you get older, you may notice that your skin isn’t as smooth as it once was. It may also be drier, more fragile, and thinner than it used to be. Age can cause skin to bruise more easily, due to loss of support around blood capillary walls that happens with age. We accept that we can’t control the ageing process, but what happens when your skin ages prematurely, leaving you with lines and wrinkles while other people your age still enjoy smooth, soft skin? Read on to find out what can cause this to happen.


Ageing, the sun, and sunscreen


The biggest factor which can cause this premature ageing of the skin is the sun. Most of us enjoy the soothing rays of the sun which give our skin that sun-kissed colour and tan which we desire. We spend hours lying in the sun, trying to achieve that ‘darker’ appearance. However, we need to realize that the effects of the sun’s rays on our skin can be very harmful, causing premature ageing which results in wrinkles.


Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages certain protein fibers in the skin called elastin. The breakdown of elastin fibers causes the skin to sag and lose its ability to snap back after stretching. The skin is more fragile, bruises easily and takes longer to heal. While sun damage may not show when you’re young, it will appear later in life. It’s important to know the difference between UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation, as they play different roles in affecting your skin. These radiations are differentiated according to their wave length. While both UVA and UVB contribute to skin damage, UVA rays are now known to cause premature ageing, resulting in wrinkles, skin sagging and changes in skin texture. UVB radiation is primarily responsible for skin burning. This leads to stimulation of the melanocyte and causes the development of an uneven skin tone. UVC ray’s penetration into our atmosphere is largely prevented by the ozone layer and generally does not play a factor in skin health. All UV radiation rays can affect the structure of the cell and in turn may lead to skin cancer.


Anti ageing prevention through the use of sunscreen


In order to prevent the sun from prematurely ageing your skin, you need not only make sure that you use sunscreen, but you need to use the right one and use it correctly. This is important as exposure to ultraviolet light, both UVA and UVB, accounts for 90% of the symptoms of premature ageing. Dermatologists agree that the daily use of sunscreen can prevent premature ageing of the skin.


Although many people do realize that sunscreen plays a big role in the anti-ageing process, most people do not know how to select the correct and most effective sunscreen, or how to use it properly. Sunscreen ingredients can either be classified as ‘physical sunscreen ingredients’ or ‘chemical sunscreen ingredients’.  Physical sunscreens are mostly mineral based, and work by scattering the UV rays away from the skin, with either Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide acting as an active ingredient. Zinc Oxide effectively protects skin from the full spectrum of UVA and UVB rays making it truly the best natural sunscreen ingredient available. As it offers a physical sun protection, it is best patted onto the skin to form a barrier between your skin and the rays of the sun.  Chemical sun protection products work by absorbing the harmful UV rays, converting them into safer forms of energy.


When choosing a sunscreen, we usually just look at the SPF strength but there are in fact other factors to consider. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures the amount of UVB absorption, but there is no method of measuring the UVA absorption. The only way to determine if a sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB radiation is to look at the ingredients. A good sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 30 and contain avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide. In order to avoid premature ageing of your skin, you should use a certified sunscreen approved to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and not one with just a SPF designed to block burning UVB rays.


The importance of sunscreen with ageing


The importance of sunscreen and how to choose the correct product does not mean much unless we know how to apply it properly, as well as how frequently. Most people do not apply enough sunscreen, and therefore do not actually use it correctly. Sunscreen should be applied liberally to all sun-exposed areas of the body, to the point that it forms a film when initially applied. Sunscreen should be applied at least thirty minutes before going out into the sun, as it takes 20-30 minutes for it to be absorbed by the skin.  If you are applying other products to your skin, make sure that sunscreen is the last thing which you apply, as some sunscreens can break down in the presence of water contained in water-based foundations and moisturisers. Sunscreen also needs to be applied fairly often, particularly after swimming or if you have been sweating. Don’t reserve the use of sunscreen for only sunny summer days. Even on a cloudy day, 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays pass through the clouds.


There are various sources which claim that some of the chemicals used in sunscreen are bad for you. Science has made it clear that positive aspects of using adequate sunscreen far outweigh the negatives, especially when it comes to preventing premature ageing, wrinkle formation and skin cancer.


Apart from using sunscreen, there are other lifestyle changes one can make that will influence the skin’s ageing process. Firstly, minimize exposure to cigarette smoke, both first-hand and second-hand exposure. Smoking speeds up the ageing process, causing wrinkles and a dull complexion. Secondly, eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. This may help prevent damage which leads to premature ageing of your skin. Eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrates can accelerate the ageing process significantly. Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, as alcohol can dehydrate the skin, making it appear older. Thirdly, it is also helpful to exercise often. Regular exercise can help boost the immune system and improve circulation. This can result in the skin adopting a more youthful appearance.


In conclusion, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to use sunscreen regularly and liberally in order to prevent premature ageing. By adopting healthy lifestyle habits as well as following the advice on sunscreen given in this article, you are steering yourself in the right direction towards a healthier-looking skin.