What exactly is photo aging and why is it of interest? Well, photo aging basically refers to the damage caused to the skin over our lifetime through UV radiation. Sun exposure leads to a lot of signs of aging including wrinkles, dark spots, leathery skin, sagging skin and in some cases, even skin cancer. With global warming becoming more of a concern every day, photo aging has sparked renewed concerns over the sun’s adverse effects on one’s skin
How much photo aging a person’s skin is prone to will depend on his/her skin colour and how much sun exposure they’ve had over the years. Those with fair skin who have a history of sun exposure are more likely to display more signs of photo aging when compared to those with darker skin with the same amount of sun exposure.
So how is photo aging triggered? When one’s skin is repeatedly exposed to the sun’s harsh UV rays, it eventually loses its ability to repair/heal itself. This then leads to signs of photo aging. Constant exposure to UV rays breaks down collagen and slows down the production of new collagen on the skin. This eventually leads to wrinkled skin that has lost its elasticity.
The main problem with photo aging is that it is not easy to spot. The damage occurs over a period of years and is not visible to the naked eyes. And then one day, it suddenly looks like a person has aged so much overnight, when in fact the photo aging process has been subtly going on for many years. One way to see how much photo aging has occurred is with the help of an UV camera, which helps us to spot photo aging even before the visible signs show up.
Let’s now look at the preventive measure to be adopted to fight photo aging:
- Never step outside without slathering on sunscreen. Even if it is winter, the sun’s still potent enough to cause invisible damage. So always wear a sunscreen and make sure its SPF 30 or above.
- Avoid stepping out in the sun from ten in the morning to around four in the evening when the sun is at its most lethal form.
- Cover up with wide brim hats and scarves to minimise damage.
- Always reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours to ensure maximum protection.
- Most people seem to forget that our lips are also prone to sun damage. Wearing a lip balm with SPF will help protect your delicate lips from the harsh rays of the sun.
- Carry a good quality sun glass to cover up your eyes. Squinting or scrunching up your eyes will lead to crow’s feet around the delicate eye area.
- Wear a water-resistant sunscreen when swimming. You are much more susceptible to the sun’s rays when you are wet than when you are dry.
Since it is not easy to spot and is quite shocking when it eventually becomes visible, photo aging has been termed ‘the silent villain’. If you are already showing signs of photo aging then make an appointment with your dermatologist. Sit down with him/her and discuss the available options and see which ones meet your needs. With a lot of research happening in this area, there is hope that we will have a more effective system in place to fight photo aging. Till then injectable fillers, chemical peel, and dermabrasion are some options available to us at present to counteract some of the damage caused by photo aging.