DermNews: New Study Finds Sunscreen Prevents Aging

A new study funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia found that regular sunscreen use reduces the wrinkling, spotting and loss of elasticity caused by photoaging.

Here’s how the study worked: Researchers gathered a group of 900 Australians with similar skin types (fair, prone to burning) and similar sun protection habits (tended to wear sunscreen at least some of the time.) Each participant received a “skin damage score” measured on a scale of 1 – 6, with 1 signifying no skin damage, and 6 signifying severe signs of aging.

The participants were then split into two groups and given separate instructions: Half of them were instructed to wear sunscreen daily, the other half were told to continue their usual sunscreen practices. Both groups agreed to carry out their assigned behaviors for the entirety of the study.

Throughout the study, which lasted for four and a half years, researched tracked the participants’ skin changes using a technique called microtopography, which tests silicone on the back of the hand. To make sure the people who vowed to use sunscreen daily were actually using it, the sunscreen bottles were weighed regularly.

The study found that those who used sunscreen daily were 24% less likely to show increased signs of aging.

“Skin surface patterns reflect the severity of the sun’s damage to the deeper skin, especially to the elastic fibers and collagen,” says Dr. Adele Green, lead author of the study, “We now have the scientific evidence to back the long-held assumption about the cosmetic value of sunscreen… Regular sunscreen use by young and mid-aged adults under 55 brings cosmetic benefits and also decreases the risk of skin cancer.”

Believe it or not, the results of this study are the first actual evidence that photoaging directly affects the physical appearance of skin. For years dermatologist have been telling patients that sun protection prevents aging, but up until recently, the evidence was purely anecdotal (and for the record, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence; just check out this photo of a 70 year-old truck driver whose face bears wrinkles caused by partial sun exposure accrued during his 28 year-long career.)

Now doctors have real evidence to back up their advice.

The results come on the heels of announcements regarding the FDA’s new sunscreen label regulations, which emphasize the importance of sunscreen use and call on consumers to make sure they’re getting the proper protection from their sunscreen.

If ever there was a moment in history to reevaluate your sunscreen use and convince sunscreen -averse loved ones that they need to change their ways, the time is now. The facts speak for themselves.