What Is Photoaging?

How the Sun Ages Your Skin

Woman sunbathing on lounge chair at poolside
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Photoaging refers to skin damage caused by prolonged sun exposure, specifically UVA and UVB rays, and can lead to skin cancers. Most of the skin changes that occur as we age are accelerated by sun exposure. Common, visible signs of photoaging include dark spotswrinkles, droopy skin, a yellowish tint, broken blood vessels and leathery skin.

What Is Photoaging?

Skin is composed of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and subcutaneous tissue.

The dermis contains proteins including collagen, elastin and other important fibers that affect the skin's strength and elasticity, and are responsible for skin's smooth, youthful appearance. UV radiation (UVR) damages these important proteins, leading to photoaging.

UVR is made up of UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays age; UVB burn. UVA rays have longer wavelengths and can deeply penetrate the dermis. The rays damage existing collagen, which causes increased elastin production. Such abnormal amounts of elastin leads to the production of enzymes known as metalloproteinases that repair damaged collagen. However, these enzymes usually end up causing more harm to the collagen than good by incorrectly restoring the skin. As the skin is exposed to UVA rays on a daily basis, this process keeps repeating, resulting in wrinkles and leathery skin.

UVA exposure also causes fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, mouth and forehead, as well as age spots, or liver spots.

An age spot is a spot of pigmentation caused by sun exposure. They appear not only of the face, but on the rest of the body, including the hands, the arms, the chest and the back.

How to Prevent Photoaging

While many elements of photoaging are unavoidable, visible signs of aging can be prevented. Apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15 every day to areas that are exposed to the sun: the face, neck, chest, hands, arms, legs, etc.

In addition to preventing photoaging, daily application of sunscreen can also reduce current signs of photoaging, as well as the risk of developing skin cancer.

How to Treat Photoaging

As beneficial as photoaging prevention is, some things can't be completely reversed. There are many dermatological advancements that treat photoaging, namely light-based technologies including photodynamic therapy, intense pulsed light and laser therapy:

  • Photodynamic therapy is a technique that involves applying a light-sensitizing medicine to the skin. Once the medication has penetrated the skin, the affected area is exposed to a light that activates the medication, promoting collagen growth that gives skin a more youthful, supple appearance.
  • Intense pulsed light is a light therapy technique that is effective in diminishing the appearance of uneven pigmentation and broken blood vessels over a series of sessions.
  • Laser therapy can treat a variety of skin issues depending on the wavelength of light applied to the skin. Different wavelengths are used for minimizing blood vessels, treating age spots, reducing wrinkles, removing hair, etc.

    Sources:

    SkinCancer.org

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