Aging is a complex and progressive process, and it is inevitable. One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to keep your skin looking healthy and youthful for longer is to protect it from the sun. Or more specifically, from the spectrum of ultraviolet (UV) radiation which can be either from the sun or from other synthetic sources.

Chronic UV radiation causes a variety of age related changes in the skin. It causes mutations in the DNA of the skin cells. It causes reactive oxygen species that can cause damage throughout the skin cell. It also causes freckles and pigmentary alterations, thinning of the skin, fragile blood vessels, and reduced elasticity. These changes of functionality result in changes in appearance, like wrinkles, uneven color or texture, drooping skin, dilated superficial blood vessels, and an increased pore size.

Collectively these changes in the skin are known as photoaging or sun damage. And the appearance of photoaging in some people can be quite dramatic. There are several interesting pictures floating around on the internet that illustrate the effects of sun damage on physical appearance quite nicely. The included photo is of  a truck driver with decades worth of sun exposure to the left side of his face, while the right side remained relatively protected in the truck. Notice the difference in drooping of the skin, the depth of the wrinkles.

One sided sundamage in truckdriver Bill Elliot

While photoaging happens to some degree in all skin types, it is particularly striking in those with lighter skin. Lighter skin lacks the natural protection that skin pigment provides and is inherently more susceptible to UV damage.

So this is where I make a plug for sunscreen. And try to dissuade you from tanning on a regular basis. Using regular sun protection guards the skin against the damage caused by UV radiation. Not only will this help protect your skin from developing skin cancer, but it will also keep it looking young and health for a longer time. Use sun protection!

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