If you ask any skincare professional or dermatologist what the best anti-aging secret is, they’ll probably tell you this… stay out of the SUN! However, there was one tip that my dermatologist told me that I will never forget – The best way to see the amount of sun damage on your face was to compare your skin on your face to the skin on your… BUM!
Why Your Bum Is The Best Aging Guideline
Your bum is the one area that rarely gets any sun exposure. That’s why most people say their skin on their bum is the softest and least wrinkly.
Just imagine, if your face got the same amount of sun exposure as your bum, it would look and feel just as soft!
If you’re noticing fine lines, dark spots and rough patches, you most likely have the sun to thank for that.
HOW TO CONTROL AGING
It’s true that your genes are the strongest determinant of how your skin will age – and well, there’s not much you can do about that. There is one thing you CAN control when it comes to aging and that is sun damage. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if there’s one skincare product you NEED to have, it’s sunscreen. Read my guide on chemical vs natural sunscreens here.
You can spend all the money you want on vitamin C serums, retinols, or AHA facials but none of them will work if you don’t use sunscreen. In fact, using those products without sunscreen will actually do MORE damage because they make your skin more photosensitive.
Keep reading to learn more about your genes, different types of sun damage, and how you can protect yourself and reverse pre-existing damage.
GENES THAT DEFY TIME
You may think you’re doomed to lines, wrinkles, dark spots and saggy skin as you get older, but science says that’s not the case for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not going to look 25 forever, but you can be an “exceptional skin ager,” according to the Multi-Decade and Ethnicity study. This project, conducted by Olay, 23andMe and Harvard researchers, set out to determine the secret to younger-looking skin. Is it genes or lifestyle choices?
Well, the short answer is both.
After studying the skin of women between 20 to 74 years old, researchers found some very interesting results.
First, 10% of the participants were “exceptional skin agers,” women who looked 10 or more years younger than they actually were. They shared a total of about 2000 different gene expressions that allowed their skin to age slower than the average woman’s.
We all have these genes, but how strongly they express themselves vary from person to person. And as we age, these genes slow down, but for exceptional skin agers, they never seem to quit. In other words, the genes related to collagen production, response to oxidative stress and other factors that affect skin aging behave just as they did when the exceptional skin agers were in their 20s.
YOUR GENES WON’T PROTECT YOU FROM THE SUN
If you weren’t blessed with this type of gene expression, don’t fret – you’re part of the majority and there’s hope. The same researchers also concluded that we can affect this gene expression through our lifestyle choices, especially when it comes to sun exposure. The expression of CDKN2A—a gene associated with skin aging—was more prevalent in women with higher sun-exposure. Meaning, participants who had higher sun exposure in their lifetimes had more signs of aging compared to women who had a limited amount.
SUN RAYS ARE A CARCINOGEN
The sun causes aging because of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation it emits. UV rays can get into our cells and damage our DNA. Because DNA makes up our genes, damaged DNA prevents our genes from doing their job, such as keeping our skin looking firm and plump. Or even worse, genetic mutations can lead to skin cancer. In fact, the World Health Organization identified UV rays as a carcinogen.
UVA vs. UVB
There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB.
UVA does more skin aging damage than UVB because it makes up 95% of the sun’s UV radiation; it penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, and is present throughout the whole day—even when it’s cloudy. You can’t feel UVA damaging your skin. It’s a silent killer.
Although UVB doesn’t penetrate the skin as deep as UVA, but it is responsible for giving you those painful sunburns and it plays a key role in skin cancer. Unlike UVA, its intensity varies throughout the day and geographic location. The more sunny the area, the more UVB present. You’ll also know you’ve been exposed to too much of it when you get a sunburn.
BLUE LIGHT: THERE’S NO ESCAPE
Are you a hermit? Spend all your time indoors, with the curtains drawn and on your laptop? Well you’re not safe either, in fact you might be at the highest risk for wrinkles. Why? Because your laptops, phones, TV screens, ipads, fluorescent and LED lighting all emit high energy visible light (HEV) , also known as blue light. Blue light penetrates even deeper than uva/uvb rays research has suggested it is more harmful too.
WHAT SPF REALLY MEANS
Some studies have shown eating a diet containing vitamin C and vitamin E can protect the skin from UV rays, but you shouldn’t rely on this alone. The best and most effective way to protect yourself from the sun’s rays is to wear sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 for everyday exposure. If you’re going to be outside for very long, or you’re in a super sunny area, reach for 30.
The SPF value represents how long it would take for UV rays to burn your skin. For example, if you were wearing SPF 15, it would take you 15 times as long to burn than if you weren’t wearing any. The value also indicates how much UV rays it protects from you: SPF 15 protects against 93 percent; SPF 30, 97% and SPF 50, 98%.
HOW TO REVERSE SUN DAMAGE
Remember, it’s much easier to prevent sun damage than having to repair it! In the case you have suffered from sun damage, here are a few methods to improve the look of lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation:
1. Wearing sunscreen everyday
This gives your skin time to heal and repair itself.
Removes the dead, dull-looking skin.
3. Fade the dark spots
Products containing vitamin C have been proven to lighten hyperpigmentation.
4. Moisturize and hydrate skin
Like grapes, skin raisins when it’s dehydrated. A good moisturizer combined with a product containing the collagen-promoting effects of AHA such as glycolic acid can plump up the skin.
5. Professional laser treatments
If you have the means for them, laser treatments can fade all signs of sun damage.
What are you favorite non-toxic sunscreens? Tell us below!
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