It’s a precarious question: “How old do you think I am?” Most of us get to a stage where it’s better to not ask any more, for fear of the answer – but we shouldn’t have to worry! There’s nothing wrong with looking your age, no matter what it might be, and there’s nothing wrong with aging, either!
The problem comes when we age before our time, and signs of aging creep in to make us appear older than we really are. Then there are those who seem to be stuck in time, blessed by the eternal fountain of youth.
But why do these differences exist? Genetics, of course, play a part – but there is something bigger at play here. Believe it or not, in the majority of cases, the sun is the culprit in making us seem older than we really are. An incredible 80% of facial aging is related to UV exposure through a process referred to as photoaging. But what exactly is photoaging, and why is it so important?
What is solar radiation?
To understand photoaging, it’s important to understand what solar radiation is, and its impact on your skin.
The sun continually emits electromagnetic rays. Not all of them have the same intensity and, fortunately, the atmosphere filters out the most harmful. However, some do reach the Earth’s surface and form what is called the ‘solar spectrum’.
The solar spectrum is made up of different kinds of radiation which are measured and classified according to their electromagnetic frequencies. Perhaps the most notorious are ultraviolet A radiation (UVA) and ultraviolet B radiation (UVB), as they can significantly affect the skin, particularly in fairer skin types.
You are exposed to ultraviolet radiation no matter the weather – on both sunny and cloudy days – so every day your skin has to work to repair the solar damage caused.
What is photoaging?
The sun is an essential part of life, contributing to our mood and well-being, while also playing a key role in the synthesis of vitamin D. However, like anything in life, moderation is key. While the sun plays an important role in life, it also produces UV radiation, which in turn provokes something called free radicals (unstable molecules). These break down proteins in the skin and cause both cell and DNA damage.
One of your body’s natural defenses against these free radicals is antioxidant production. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals and counter the effects of radiation. When the number of free radicals becomes too great for the antioxidant defenses to fight off, damage occurs. This process and the damage it causes is referred to as ‘oxidative stress’. Results from this process seen on the skin can come in the form of earlier development of fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation – in other words, the signs of aging.
How can we combat photoaging?
Your skin has its own memory, accumulating damage year after year, both through solar radiation and other environmental factors. When you’re young, you might think that the only effect sunbathing without any sun protection has is a nasty sunburn; but future damage begs to differ. Photoaging leads to wrinkles, blemishes, or sagging of the skin. In more serious cases, sun damage can also lead to cancer developing, such as actinic keratosis or even melanoma.
To help prevent against both cancer and premature aging, it is essential to develop sun protection habits – the earlier, the better. Your skin should be protected from the sun’s radiation every day, whether it’s summer or not. UVA radiation doesn’t take time off, and when it penetrates the dermis, it destroys collagen and elastin day after day.
Because UVB and UVA solar radiation affect both our DNA and the cells within the skin, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF (at least SPF30) like Eryfotona Actinica SPF50+ is essential to be well-protected. With innovative products like Eryfotona now available, your sunscreen can also do more than protect you from radiation – it can also protect your skin against environmental aggressions with both anti-aging and anti-pollution ingredients.
What’s more, you can also help to repair your skin from solar damage and environmental damage by taking care of your skin through a restorative, protective routine.
Repairing photodamage in the skin
If you’re looking to repair accumulated solar damage, products containing vitamin C and other antioxidants are a great choice. Antioxidants on the skin help to slow down processes which damage collagen and its fibers. Try an antioxidant serum like Flavo-C Ultraglican for daily care or Melatonik™to repair the skin at night, and see the benefits of a restorative, protective routine.
Protect and care for your skin to help you stay looking younger, longer.
Read more: how to create a complete photoaging routine
Sources and references:
Zhang, S., Duan, E. Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside. In Cell Transplant (2018); 27(5): 729-738.
Naidoo, K., Birch-Machin, MA. Oxidative Stress and Ageing: The Influence of Environmental Pollution, Sunlight and Diet on Skin. In Cosmetics (2017): 4, 4.
Ahmad, R. Introductory Chapter: Basics of Free Radicals and Antioxidants. In Free Radicals, Antioxidants and Diseases (2018), IntechOpen
Flament et al. Effect of the sun on visible signs of aging in Caucasian skin. In Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigative Dermatology (2013); 6: 221-232.
Kiefer, J. Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation on DNA. In Obe G., Vijayalaxmi (eds) Chromosomal Alterations (2007). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
Pai, VV., Shukla, P., Kikkeri, NN. Antioxidants in dermatology. In Indian Dermatology Online Journal (2014) Apr-Jun; 5(2): 210-214.