How Does The Sun  Age Your Skin

How Does The Sun Age Your Skin

Many of us are aware of the sun’s effect on skin. But you may not know exactly how the sun causes wrinkles, or what turns an innocent tanning session into brown spots or a tired, aged-looking complexion.

We spoke to Atoshi George – Senior Scientific Advisor at L’Oréal – to discover the science behind sun exposure and ageing. Here she gives the low-down on the effects of sun damage on the face, what UVA and UVB rays really do, and how you can protect yourself against them daily.

All science of beauty

What’s the number one cause of skin ageing?

At L’Oréal we’ve been researching the key causes of ageing for many years, which means we can more effectively develop products that help keep our skin looking its best for longer. We’ve found that UVA is the biggest cause of extrinsic ageing (ageing caused by external factors). It does so by targeting the keratinocytes in the basal layer of the skin. In fact, UV damage causes up to 80% of the signs of ageing.


How does the sun age your skin?

The first thing to understand is that the sun emits a whole spectrum of energy. We usually focus on the two major ones – UVA and UVB. Both types of UV radiation damage the skin, but in different ways.

UVA and UVB rays

UVB light is also known as long wavelength (around 320nm – 400nm) and accounts for around 95% of the UV light that reaches our skin. Although they are less intense, UVA rays are 30 – 50 times more prevalent, regardless of whether you can feel or see the sun. UVA is always present in any daylight, penetrating through clouds and even glass.

UVA damage can happen without us feeling it. Unlike UVB which heats the skin, UVA attacks the structure, penetrating deeper and causing a number of damaging reactions. These can range from crosslinking the collagen to releasing free radicals.

UVA is also the dominant tanning factor: a change in your skin colour indicates your skin has undergone attack. The production of melanin arises when the skin experiences an increase in radiation. Melanocytes release melanin to act as a mini umbrella for the surrounding cells, in an attempt to prevent any further damage and absorb the additional radiation. 

UVB is the most well-known of the radiation spectrum, so there’s a lot of information about its effect. Known as the ‘Burn’ ray, UVB rays are shorter and more intense, causing the skin to burn and turn red. These high-energy photons cause an inflammatory response, meaning we can often feel the heat on our skin. And this can happen all year round, especially in high altitudes or from reflective surfaces which can bounce back up to 80% of the rays.

Free radicals

Free radicals form when sunlight reacts with oxygen in the air. It knocks out one of the electrons in its natural orbit, making the oxygen particle ‘unstable’ and creating a free radical. When these particles come into contact with the skin, they damage the cells. They do this by changing the structure, or even worse: by damaging the fundamental DNA of the skin. This can result in a process known as oxidative stress.

The body and skin are always exposed to free radicals, but as we age, our ability to repair and protect the skin decreases. Excessive damage to the cells and DNA can cause a wide range of effects. Once these free radicals enter the skin, they react further by destabilising the proteins which can have a butterfly effect, where a small change can lead to a significant impact on your skin.

The younger, better condition and better equipped your skin is, the more able it is to contain this high-energy particle and dampen the effect.

Four key signs of skin ageing

The signs of premature ageing can be split up into these four key areas:

  • Wrinkles. Either expression lines like crow’s feet, or wrinkles or created by tissue sagging.
  • Skin sagging. Tissues slackening and ptosis, which can be seen by loss of shape.
  • Uneven skin texture. From visible cheek pores to photo‐damage manifestations.
  • Uneven skin tone. Including pigmentation disorders, microvascular heterogeneities and dyschromia.

How to prevent sun damage on the face

What if the answer to preventing premature ageing was as simple as using an SPF? Using an everyday product, such as a moisturiser with SPF like Revitalift Laser Renew Anti-Ageing Cream SPF 20, will make a huge difference to how much the sun affects the skin.

Face cream for sun damage

Many people forget to use an additional SPF – especially women who wear makeup. The idea of adding a sun cream on top of a regime can seem one step too far. 

When you incorporate an SPF into your base moisturiser, you can ensure your face is protected from daily rays come rain or shine. Even if you use a foundation which contains protection, it’s always a good idea to apply your SPF first to give you a more solid foundation and reduce the chances of it getting wiped off during the day. SPF moisturiser actually provides an excellent base for makeup application.

The beauty of using an anti-ageing cream with SPF is that you’re working on all levels and timelines. The SPF begins preventing damage from the moment you apply it, leaving your skin looking better in the future.

Check out our daily SPF skin care routine here.


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