Sunscreen can help to protect your skin from the signs of photo ageing.

Is the sun adding years to your skin?

With summer around the corner, many of us will be looking forward to whiling away the days in the warmth of the sun. But have you ever thought about what those hours soaking up the rays might be doing to your skin?

In addition to causing sunburn, if we're not careful, the sun can also take its toll on our skin through photo ageing. Here, we look at the relationship between sun exposure and ageing, as well as how you can protect your skin for years to come.

What is the role of the sun in ageing?

You may not have realised, but the sun is largely responsible for most visible signs of ageing. It comes under the umbrella of extrinsic ageing factors alongside nutrition, pollution, smoking and even repetitive facial expressions such as laughing or frowning.

One of the most immediately visible effects of UV exposure is a reddening of the skin, called erythema (sun burn). However, the sun can also cause photo ageing, which may have longer-lasting effects.

The sun can leave its mark on unprotected skin. The sun can leave its mark on unprotected skin.

You don't have to just take our word for it, either. In a study by Case Western Reserve University comparing identical twins, it was found that increased sun exposure, combined with a history of spending time outdoors and a lack of sunscreen use, contributed to an older appearance.

These findings are reinforced by those from a French study published in the journal of Clinical, Cosmetic And Investigational Dermatology. According to the research, about 80 per cent of skin ageing can be attributed to UV radiation. Furthermore, for every 2 per cent in skin damage, the study found your face can age up to three years.

Another study from the same journal discovered that the effect of UV also increases with age, meaning those who spend more time in the sun may find themselves looking older than they actually are.

What is photo ageing?

When our skin is exposed to too much UV radiation, it causes a biochemical reaction that can manifest in a range of different ways. For example, it can lead to an increase in melanin (the pigment that determines the colour of our skin) and also the thickening of the outer layer of skin, a process called hyperkeratosis.

Photo ageing can also play a role in the disintegration of the collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid that help to keep skin plump and youthful, as well as leading to the formation of free radicals. These volatile molecules can have an adverse effect on our health, contributing to DNA damage and cell damage.

Wearing sunscreen can help to protect your skin from the signs of photo ageing. Wearing sunscreen can help to protect your skin from the signs of photo ageing.

The visible signs of photo ageing include:

Another effect of photo ageing is skin cancer. UV radiation penetrates the skin, with the damage to the DNA of our cells causing them to mutate. This results in abnormal growths, which can become cancerous if our body is not able to eliminate the mutated cells.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and is among the most common cancers in Australia. According to the Cancer Council, Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world, a fact which only emphasises how crucial it is to protect your skin from the sun's UVA and UVB rays.

How can I keep my skin looking healthy and youthful? 

In the fight against photo ageing, protection is vital. Minimising UV exposure by keeping an eye on how long you spend in the sun is key, as is choosing the right sunscreen. Australia's Cancer Council recommends using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant one that has an SPF of at least 30.

Ultraceuticals' Ultra SunActive SPF 50+ Range ticks all of these boxes, offering a 4-hour water resistance and a velvety finish, thanks to our touch dry technology. Suitable for all skin types, you can incorporate it into your daily routine to support the health and youthfulness of your skin.