As wrinkles, discoloration, and loss of elasticity in our skin start to become more apparent in our everyday complexion, it’s easy to assume simple aging is the reason for these visible signs. However in reality, the most responsible (80% to be exact) for these signs of aging is exposure to ultraviolet radiation, aka UV light, from the sun — a factor that ultimately contributes to photoaging.
Of course, it’s understandable that we’ll start to see changes as we age because naturally, the skin does start to lose elasticity and tends to become more fragile over time without necessarily being damaged. But when it comes to the real culprit of damaging that more fragile skin, that can be blamed on photoaging. To understand why photoaging skin is the main reason for visible signs of aging, we’ll first dive into what it is and the effective ways to combat it to promote and maintain a glowing complexion year after year.
What Is Photoaging?
Photoaging, also known as extrinsic aging, refers to the premature aging of the skin due to excessive exposure to solar ultraviolet light. It’s that excessive amount of UV radiation which then directly affects the amount of melanin, the skin’s natural pigmentation, we have in our skin that results in the visible signs of sun damage.
Signs of Photoaging:
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Skin pigmentation changes like sun spots, melasma, and freckles
- Sagging skin
- Uneven skin tone
- Rough, coarse, and leather-like texture
- Broken capillaries like spider veins
- Dull, dehydrated skin
And while we refer to this kind of UV damage as photoaging, dermatologists tend to have several additional names for it like photodamage, solar damage, or sun damage. Call it what you will, they all refer to the same — visible and internal skin damage that results from an excessive amount of unprotected sun exposure.
But what is it about excessive, unprotected sun exposure that results in the visible signs of photoaging? When ultraviolet radiation from sunlight comes in contact with our skin, that contact is what then results in DNA damage in addition to triggering our skin’s defense system — our immune system.
Once our skin’s immune system’s been triggered, that’s when our skin manifests a variety of visible signs like redness and discomfort in efforts to defend itself. This overexposure to sunlight radiation also results in the shutdown of new collagen all while reducing cellular antioxidant status which, when in good condition, helps to prevent cell damage naturally. So all while that DNA damage is happening, our skin’s ability to defend itself is also being damaged leaving skin defenseless, weak, and in no condition to function properly.
So what kind of UV light does photoaging have to blame? When it comes to solar radiation, UVA and UVB are the main culprits that can hit all 3 layers of our skin which damage them all differently.
UVA light can damage the skin on all layers from the upper layer, known as the epidermis, all the way down to our deepest layer known as our dermis. And within all those layers, there are a variety of parts in our skin that’s being affected including our collagen and elastin fibers which is what gives our skin that firm, lifted, and plump look. Within those skin layers too is where our blood vessels live which when damaged, result in visible spider veins often seen on cheeks and around the nose.
UVB light only affects our outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. And while it only affects that outer layer, UVB light happens to be the most potent form of solar radiation which causes the worst damage to our skin’s DNA. In addition to causing photoaging, it’s also known to cause precancerous cells to form which has the potential to result in skin cancer.
Overall, it’s all because of unprotected sunlight exposure to UVA and UVB light that we have to thank when dealing with photoaging in the first place. Without it, we’d have the more fortunate situation of dealing with just normal aging and the visible signs it carries on its own. Instead, we have the pleasure of dealing with two forms of aging on a daily basis — normal, aka intrinsic aging, and photoaging, aka extrinsic aging.
Photoaging vs. Normal Aging
What’s the difference between photoaging and normal aging? With normal aging, also known as intrinsic or chronological aging, skin aging happens within the natural and inevitable process determined by our genetics that affects sun-protected skin. In this natural process, our skin’s ability to produce collagen and elastin begins to slow with every passing year. In addition, the skin’s cell turnover rate will also degrade over time — resulting in a lack of new cells to surface to maintain a firm complexion.
Signs of Intrinsic Aging
- Hollowed cheeks and eyes
- Loss of firmness
When it comes to extrinsic aging, this form of aging deals with the extrinsic, environmental factors like unprotected sun exposure resulting in photoaging. So while normal aging is not avoidable, photoaging can in fact be prevented.
And while both forms of aging cause visible signs of aging, it’s extrinsic photoaging that’s most damaging to the skin and if not looked after properly, can result in some serious health issues.
Why is it Important to Prevent Photoaging?
Once the skin has experienced a high amount of unprotected sun exposure and damage has occurred, this is where other possibilities of risks begin to manifest themselves. In addition to any dark spots, spider veins, redness, or other visible aging signs, photoaging can also result in precancerous spots. These precancerous spots, also known as Actinic Keratoses or AKs, also don’t surface as obviously as other aging signs when in fact, they tend to grow gradually over time after the skin’s come in contact with an excessive amount of unprotected sun exposure over the years. However it’s helpful to note that while precancerous spots don’t mean you have cancer, they are more likely to develop into cancerous cells if not treated properly.
Thankfully though, photoaging is preventable. So unlike the inevitable, normal aging process that results in visible signs like sagging and loss of firmness, there is hope in preventing the visible and not so visible signs of damage caused by photoaging.
How to Treat & Prevent Photoaging
When it comes to treating and preventing photoaging, there are no better products than an effective Vitamin C serum, dermatologist-grade retinoid, and sunscreen to get the job done. Let’s discuss how each of these skincare essentials play their roles perfectly in preventing and treating photoaging altogether.
Vitamin C Serum
For preventing photoaging and to complement any anti-photoaging regimen, vitamin C is a favorite among dermatologist-recommended products. It’s a famously and widely-known antioxidant that works to powerfully protect the skin from photoaging caused by free radicals found in the environment. Additionally, the antioxidant’s benefits also include evening skin tone and promoting collagen production. It also has the potential to protect skin from any precancerous changes that may occur because of UV rays. And as collagen is a protein that is directly woven together with vitamin C, that addition promotes even a stronger structure to the skin for a more supple and firm appearance.
Therefore as far as preventative treatments that also have skin health benefits go, we’d recommend our derm-tested vitamin C serum, Liquid Cloak, to be the ideal choice to add into any anti-photoaging routine.
As previously mentioned, UVA rays are what damage and degrade the collagen fibers in the skin which ultimately results in a leathery texture, wrinkles, as well as a yellow discoloration to the skin. And when skin loses that essential collagen, that’s when a noticeable loss of volume and firmness becomes more obvious in the skin.
Over 50 years of research shows that the role of retinoids, more specifically dermatologist-grade retinoids like Night Shift, is to halt the breakdown of collagen, boost overall production, and encourage new skin cells to turn over faster — making them the ideal photoaging treatment. As a result in supporting collagen production and promoting cell turnover, the look of fine lines and wrinkles will be diminished. Pigmentation in the skin like freckles, melasma, and dark spots, which is a cause of photoaging, will also start to fade.
Retinoids can also work to prevent skin cancer by thickening the skin and reducing oil production to produce brighter, smoother, and more resilient skin. And by increasing cell turnover, they’re able to rid your skin of old cells all while preventing damaged cells from multiplying, which can reduce the risk of skin cancer overall.
So even after the damage that photoaging’s left behind on the skin, retinoids can work wonders to not only correct the visible signs left behind from UV light, but also help skin to ward off precancerous cells from spreading further.
Sunscreen continues to serve as the ultimate solution to block or reduce the risk of UV radiation. Some even go as far as claiming it provides further protection from damaging free radicals. With most dermatologists recommending physical or mineral sunscreen, they work by blocking UV rays. Ultimately, this daily essential works to prevent premature aging, sunburns, lower blotchiness on the face, improve skin health, and even lower the incidence of skin cancer.
Dear Brightly’s derm-tested 100% mineral SPF 30 sunscreen, NeverSkip, blocks both UVB and UVA rays with zinc oxide while being suitable for sensitive skin. The formulation also includes triglycerides and vitamin E to reduce free radical formation and smooth skin.
By incorporating these three dermatologist-recommended essentials into your routine, your skin will be more equipped to defend itself from the internal and visible damages of unprotected sun exposure. And as an added bonus, it’ll experience some additional skin health benefits to promote a firm and protected complexion over the years.
Lifestyle Tips to Prevent Photoaging
In addition to those three products, some small but nonetheless effective lifestyle improvements can work alongside those routine essentials to further prevent any future damage done by photoaging.
- Avoid intentional sunbathing and instead, try nontoxic self-tanners
- When outdoors, wear a hat with a brim
- When outdoors, wear sunglasses with UV-blocking lenses
- Avoid excessive sun exposure between 10am to 2pm when the rays are at their strongest
Aside from normal aging being inevitable no matter which preventative measures we take, it’s good to know there are in fact options when avoiding the effects of photoaging. Therefore by incorporating a protective vitamin C, like Liquid Cloak Vitamin C Serum, a collagen-boosting and dermatologist-grade retinoid, like Night Shift, a preventative sunscreen, like NeverSkip, and some simple lifestyle tips, your skin will be readily equipped to avoid the visible and internal damage that comes with photoaging skin.
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