The #1 Cause of Aging: Sun

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The #1 Cause of Aging: Sun

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woman in sun hat

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun has been classified by the World Health Organization as "known to be carcinogenic to humans," meaning that it has been scientifically proven that sun exposure causes skin cancer. 

The sun fast-tracks signs of aging. 

In addition to causing potentially life-threatening skin cancer, UV rays are also the opposite of the fountain of youth. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Skin that has been exposed to UV rays (lying out in the sun, working outside or use of tanning beds) experiences premature aging—changes to the skin that are not caused by the natural aging process. 

Damage accumulates over time. Repeated UV exposure breaks down collagen and impairs the creation of new collagen. The sun also attacks our elastin fibers. Without collagen and elastin, skin loses its strength and flexibility, making us look older, faster. 

In fact, UV rays from the sun and tanning beds account for up to 90% of skin changes we typically associate with aging. These signs can include: 

  • loose and wrinkled skin  
  • leathery skin texture 
  • freckles and sun spots (commonly referred to as liver spots and often seen on the backs of the hands, chest, shoulders, arms and upper back)  
  • dryness and rough/reddish skin patches (actinic keratoses) 
  • the appearance of red blood vessels 
  • easy bruising 
  • thinning of and yellow discoloration of the skin 

8 steps to prevent skin cancer and premature aging

  1. Apply a UVA/UVB sunscreen of SPF 30+ every time you're outside. 
  2. Cover all areas of exposed skin even on cloudy days, cool days and in the winter. 
  3. Sunscreen wears off. Reapply every two hours, or more frequently if swimming, sweating or toweling off. 
  4. Check the expiration date. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of no more than three years. 
  5. Seek the shade. Limit your exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
  6. Wear hats and clothing that cover your skin. 
  7. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and the tender skin around your eyes from UV rays. 
  8. Do not use tanning beds... ever!

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