By now, you know how important it is to wear sunscreen every day. You know it prevents sunburn and lowers your risk of developing skin cancer. But, sunscreen benefits your skin health in so many other ways too, like keeping dry skin moisturized and curbing acne breakouts. So, you might be wondering, does sunscreen prevent aging, too?

As you age, so does your skin—and time in the sun can exacerbate fine lines, wrinkles, dry and thinning skin, dull complexion, loss of elasticity, and sunspots. Daily use of sunscreen can actually protect against and slow these tell-tale signs of aging. Here's how.

How Does Aging Affect Your Skin?

How excessive sun exposure damages your skin

Wrinkles are just a part of aging, but there are certain lifestyle factors that can speed up collagen loss, including unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet high in sugar. Collagen is a structural protein that acts as the primary building block for healthy skin. The reality is that aging skin just doesn't produce collagen at the same rate it once did. This leads to a loss of elasticity, wrinkles, fine lines, and a lackluster complexion.

A lifetime of unprotected sun exposure will appear in other ways, too. Sunspots and hyperpigmentation are common on areas like your face, neck, chest, arms, and hands, given they're harder to keep covered in the warmer months. These conditions are usually just a cosmetic concern, as they're typically benign. However, sunspots that change in size, appearance, or pigmentation should be checked out by a board-certified Dermatologist.

Does Sunscreen Prevent Aging?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, unprotected sun exposure causes about 90 percent of skin aging. It's never too late to get serious about practicing sun safety. Wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day is the key to combating further signs of aging, repairing some skin damage, and maintaining a youthful, healthy glow.

To use sunscreen in your anti-aging process, find one that's formulated to tackle each specific skin concern. For dry skin, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with hyaluronic acid adds and maintains hydration, keeping skin looking plump and youthful, while the tinted EltaMD UV Restore SPF 40 revitalizes damaged skin with antioxidants that combat skin-aging free radicals. For dull skin, look for ultra-hydrating ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, niacinamide, and shea butter, which even out rough texture and bring it back to life. EltaMD's UV Glow Broad-Spectrum SPF 36 is a good choice here, as the niacinamide brightens skin and protects against skin-aging aggressors.

Prevention and Reversal of Signs of Aging

While you can't reverse signs of aging completely—after all, it's a normal part of life—you can improve the appearance of your skin and reduce further damage with a committed skin care routine and even cosmetic procedures.

The relationship between SPF and aging is so important, but once you have your daily sunscreen ritual nailed down, your anti-aging skin care routine should focus on brightening, tightening, and hydrating. Over-the-counter and prescription anti-aging topicals like retinoids, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and collagen can help prevent and improve the common signs of aging.

As for cosmetic treatments, ask your Dermatologist about what procedures they recommend to lessen the look of fine lines and boost luminosity. Skin-tightening laser devices that stimulate your skin to promote the production of collagen and elastin may be a good choice to give your skin that "bounce back." Microdermabrasion, which exfoliates dead skin cells and clears out your pores, can improve dull texture.

Getting ahead of premature signs of aging can be frustrating, but try not to feel defeated. Strive to be proactive about your skin and sun care and make certain lifestyle changes. Remember: If you prioritize your health and happiness—and enjoy your days in and out of the sun—your inner glow is sure to shine through.

Author

  • My name is Dr. Rina Allawh and I am a Board-Certified Dermatologist in the Philadelphia suburbs, with a special interest in the unique challenges for pigmented skin with regards to anti-aging, hair loss, sun care and acne. Founder and co-host of "Skin the Surface" podcast which serves as an educational resource about skin-related issues, a tool to empower people to take a more active role in their skin health including skin cancer prevention, and an outlet to discuss some of the current hot topics in dermatology.