With hot summer days fast approaching, many Americans are heading to supermarkets and drug stores to pick up an annual staple – sunscreen. But according to a new study by Australian researchers, sunscreen shouldn’t just be used seasonally, at least not if you want to maximize the health and appearance of your skin. The study finds that daily application of sunscreen results in fewer wrinkles and better skin overall. Specifically, subjects under the age of 55 who applied sunscreen every day had 24% less aging to their skin than individuals who only put on sunscreen once in a while. The study included both men and women.
The findings represent further evidence that the “tan is beautiful” doctrine could cause long-term damage. In order to have young-looking beautiful skin, it might be necessary to protect yourself from the sun at all times.
Sunscreen: A Genuine “Anti-Aging” Product
Over the course of the study, researchers from Brisbane, Australia’s Queensland Institute of Medical Research divided about 900 Australians ranging in age from 25 to 55 into two separate groups. One group was told to wear sunscreen whenever they felt like it, while the other group was instructed to apply sunscreen to their arms, hands, neck and head each morning. Both groups used sunscreen rated at least SPF 15.
To track the effects of sunscreen on skin aging, the researchers looked at the back of each individual’s hand, once at the study’s start and then again about four-and-a-half years later, when the study concluded. The researchers gave each participant’s hand a grade from 1 to 6 to reflect the level of skin aging present, with higher numbers being worse.
The individuals in the daily-sunscreen group were 24% less likely to have their skin aging rating climb over the course of the study in comparison to those in the other group. While the study only looked at individuals under the age of 55, the researchers are confident that the same benefits would hold true for older adults as well.
As a bonus, the individuals who applied sunscreen every day also experienced a drop in their likelihood of developing skin cancer.
A Carefully Controlled Study
Of course, there are many factors that can contribute to skin aging aside from sun exposure, and the Australian researchers behind the new study were careful to account for them, including whether the participants wore a hat to block out the sun, their skin color, the amount of sun they were exposed to on average, and whether they smoked.
The researchers also sought to determine whether taking the dietary supplement beta-carotene affected skin aging. Beta-carotene is packed with antioxidants, and some have claimed that it’s capable of slowing skin aging. However, use of the supplement didn’t appear to slow skin aging in the context of the study.
Although the study only tracked the skin quality of the participants for 4.5 years, experts say that this is plenty of time for solid findings to be formed, and that a longer study would likely come to the same conclusions.
The Bottom Line
Wearing sunscreen every day, especially on your face, neck and arms, can greatly reduce the rate at which your skin ages. A study by Australian researchers has found that people develop fewer and shallower wrinkles when they apply sunscreen daily.
The full text of the study can be found online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.