The term "photoaging" refers to skin damage caused by too much exposure to the sun's UVA & UVB rays. Photoaging leads to wrinkles, rough patches and changes in skin pigment.

The Science of Photoaging

UV radiation contains UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn, so most sunscreens focus on blocking these rays. But UVA rays are the main cause of photoaging. UVA's long rays can permeate deep into the skin's middle layers, wreaking havoc on its collagen fibers and rejuvenating processes.

Spotting Signs of Photoaging

Age or liver spots don't have anything to do with your liver or age—they're caused by sun damage. Broken blood vessels and dry or rough skin patches are also common signs of photoaging. And if you have more wrinkles or sagging skin than others of a similar age and skin type, photoaging has damaged your skin.

Photoaging Therapies

Luckily, there are several treatments available designed to reverse the damage of photoaging:

  • Topical lotions containing vitamins E or C can help skin cells repair UV damage.
  • Photodynamic therapy or PDT, involves applying a light-sensitizing medicine to the skin, allowing it to absorb and then shines a colored light to activate the medicine and stimulate collagen and protein growth.
  • Intense pulsed light or IPL, delivers short bursts of light in specific wavelengths. It's particularly effective in minimizing the appearance of age spots and broken blood vessels.
  • Traditional laser therapy can remove the very top layer of the epidermis, revealing healthier under layers. Specific light frequencies are used to target specific problems, like uneven texture or sunspots.
  • Fractionated lasers, often used in a technique called "laser resurfacing," use light that's broken into columns instead of a single beam to treat the different effects of photoaging at the same time. Lasers can be ablative, which are extremely effective but require several days of home rest and up to a month of healing time, or non-ablative, which produce less dramatic results but require less recuperative time.

Preventing Photoaging

The best way to minimize photoaging's effects is to prevent it in the first place:

  • Avoid the sun, especially if you're in a high-risk group for UV damage (light skin/light eyes/burn easily), especially between 12:00 and 2:00pm.
  • Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every single day.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, which can block up to 98 percent of the damaging UV rays.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 80 percent of sun damage occurs to people under the age of 18. Protect your kids now, and they'll have healthier, younger-looking skin when they're your age.



Sources: "What Is Photo-aging." Skin Cancer Foundation. Web. 2011 "Light-for-Light." Skin Cancer Foundation. Web. 2011 "Protection Against Photoaging" American Academy of Dermatology. Web. 2010