Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 7th 2013 Contents A36
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, June 7, 2013
It turns out sunscreen does more than protect
you from cancer and painful sunburns---it offers a
boost to simple vanity.
A new study finds that regular sunscreen use pro-
tects against photoaging: the wrinkling, spotting
and loss of elasticity caused by exposure to the sun s
While they may not be shocking, the findings---
from Australian researchers---are the first to quantify
sunscreen s anti-aging properties.
More than 900 participants were followed for four
years. Some were told to use sunscreen daily and
instructed in proper use, including re-applying sun-
screen after being outside for a few hours, after going
in the water or after sweating heavily.
Other participants were given no directions with
regard to using sunscreen---it was considered unethical
to ask them to not use it.
Skin changes were measured through a technique
called microtopography, in which researchers made
sensitive silicone impressions of the back of each
participant s hand.
"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, the
study s lead author.
Damage was measured on a scale from one to six,
with one signifying no damage and six meaning skin
with severe aging. Participants were given a score
at the start of a four-year period and another score
at the end; those who used sunscreen daily were 24
per cent less likely to show increased signs of aging,
"We now have the scientific evidence to back the
long-held assumption about the cosmetic value of
sunscreen," says Green. "Regular sunscreen use by
young and mid-aged adults under 55 brings cosmetic
benefits and also decreases the risk of skin cancer."
The sun does damage with different types of radi-
ation, according to Dr Lawrence Gibson, a professor
of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic. UV-B radiation
is the primary cause of most skin cancers and is
also the main cause of sunburns.
Photoaging is mostly caused by UV-A radiation,
which robs the skin of its natural ability to hold its
shape and also causes freckles and so-called liver
"Your skin tries to protect itself, and makes all
this splotchy pigment," says Gibson. "It s the body s
response trying to protect itself from that bombard-
The new report, published in the Annals of Internal
Medicine, is part of a research project that has
stretched for more than two decades, led by Green
and colleagues at the Queensland Institute of Medical
Research. The measurements were taken between
1992 and 1996, and patients used older types of
In theory, says Gibson, modern sunscreens should
be even more effective.
"Back in the 90s, we didn t have many good UV-
A sunscreens," he says. "Now, we have broad-spec-
trum sunscreens that block both UV-A and UV-B
rays, although none of them block all the UV-A."
While sunscreens have improved, Gibson cautions
that they are no replacement for limiting total expo-
sure, and avoiding intense sun during the middle
part of the day.
He also notes that photoaging is not part of the
natural aging process---it s avoidable.
"If you see a 90-year-old person, and look at a
part of their body that has not been exposed to the
sun, you don t see any photoaging," he says.
Anyone who spends time outdoors during daylight
hours should use sunscreen, even if they have darker
skin pigment and tan easily, the Mayo Clinic advis-
es.Children are especially susceptible to the sun s
harmful effects. Babies under the age of six months
should be kept out of direct sunlight because their
skin is so fragile.
A word about SPF: It s not an indi-
cation of how much time you should
spend in the sun. An SPF of 30 does
not mean you can stay out twice as
long as an SPF of 15, the clinic says.
An SPF of 15 filters out about 93 per
There's proof: Sunscreen reduces aging
cent of UV-B rays, compared to 97 per
cent for SPF 30.
Last year, the Environmental Working
Group said it had found 25 per cent of
800 tested sunscreens were effective
without containing harmful ingredients.
To make the watchdog group s safe list,
sunscreens had to be free of oxyben-
zone, retinyl palmitate (a type of vitamin
A), not have an SPF above 50 and pro-
tect against UV-A and UV-B rays.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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