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Most of us know the sun can age your skin. Most of us have also embraced sunscreen for those weekend hikes or trips to the beach. The concept of “Slip-Slop-Slap”— slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat—is second nature for long stints in the sun. That’s a great thing, but did you know most sun-related skin damage doesn’t actually happen during these planned outings? It accumulates instead from occasional, non-deliberate sun exposure that just adds up over time.
The sun can age your skin prematurely!
The premature aging of the skin due to chronic exposure to UV light is known as photoaging. While a burn is the short-term consequence of too much sun, photoaging reminds you of your time in the sun years later, and accounts for 90-percent of the age-related changes in skin appearance.(i)
Do you shade hop when you drop off your kids? Do you wear a beach hat when you go to the bank? Do you stop and slather on sunscreen before every trip to the mailbox? We don’t either. That’s why sunscreen should simply be a normal part of your morning routine, even if sunshine isn’t written into your schedule.
UVA rays can go through glass!
If you can’t get outdoors as much as you’d like, we sincerely hope you can fix that soon. Until then, keep in mind staying indoors doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fully protected. Those same aging rays can go right through glass! A study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging demonstrated asymmetrical skin aging, where ten test subjects appeared to be aging faster on one side of the face. All ten people had indoor jobs, but all ten habitually sat with one side of his or her face near a window. The side near the window exhibited more signs of sun damage. This is called asymmetrical facial damage and is believed to be a result of UVA rays. At least 50-percent of these rays can pass through glass and silently damage your skin. Car windows are even worse, letting in 60-percent of all UV rays!(ii)
You wouldn’t sunbathe for 60 hours, would you?
Think of how much time you spend driving. The average American spends about 25 minutes a day just driving to and from work, with many of us spending much longer than that. That’s over 100 hours! With 60-percont of those rays hitting our skin, it’s like 60 hours of exposure to aging rays every year! And that’s just one of the things you do outside. See how this exposure can add up over time?
All rays are not created equal. Neither are our risks.
UVA rays and UVB rays are very different. UVB rays show up quickly, are kind of brutal when they burn and leave a lasting reminder to do better. We’ve all learned from those rays. UVA rays, on the other hand, are the ones we have to watch out for. They’re subtle. Their damage may not show up for years. And aside from aging our skin, they have been shown to lead to some forms of cancer.
Environmental factors also contribute to our risk. According to the World Health Organization, sand reflects up to 25-percent of UV rays. If you think you’re safe in the winter, snow reflects up to 80-percent of the sun’s rays. If you seek out the snow by heading to the mountains, UV radiation levels are boosted by 10 to 12-percent because there is less atmosphere to protect us.(iii)
Stop aging in its tracks!
UV rays can trigger a chain reaction in the skin that might not show its effects for years. You can’t go back in time, but you can stop the chain of events with a proper suncare and repair routine. And, of course, you can prevent future damage by wearing sunscreen everyday—even if your schedule isn’t looking super sunny. Who knows, you might find time to steal a walk during your work week, and you’ll already be prepared!
- When You Aren’t Wearing Sunscreen but Should Be
- Winter Sunscreen Use
- Vitamin(Retinol) and Sunscreen Just Don’t Mix!
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(ii) Clinical Interventions in Aging 2010:5 277–284 © 2010 Mac-Mary et al, publisher and licensee Dove Medical Press Ltd.