Skin Deep

Want to look younger? Wearing sunscreen is a critical first step

Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream, one of the sunscreens recommended by Dr. Leslie Baumann.
Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream, one of the sunscreens recommended by Dr. Leslie Baumann. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

We all know that wearing sunscreen each and every day is imperative for shielding the skin from the UV damage that leads to visible signs of aging and skin cancer. But according to a new study published in the Dermatological Surgery journal, sunscreen can actually improve existing signs of aging as well.

This study followed 32 people who applied broad-spectrum SPF 30 for 52 weeks. As early as 12 weeks into the study, researchers saw improvement in skin tone, discoloration, crow’s feet, skin clarity, skin texture and overall sun damage. Study participants were also told not to use any over-the-counter or prescription anti-aging or anti-acne products over the course of the trial, and to avoid excessive sun exposure.

I am not at all surprised by these findings, and I’m glad this has finally been proven. This demonstrates the skin’s ability to rejuvenate itself by continuing to produce collagen when it is shielded from environmental damage. When the factors that contribute to collagen breakdown are eliminated, the skin becomes thicker and smoother. Famed dermatologist, Dr. Albert Kligman, used to tell the story of a coma patient in a windowless room whose skin improved year after year. Although he never proved this was due to a lack of sun exposure, he was definitely onto something!

These findings reinforce what dermatologists have been saying for years: Sunscreen is one of the most effective anti-aging products available today. I know this will make it easier to convince all my patients that they should be wearing sunscreen daily (in addition to using an antioxidant serum) not only to prevent visible signs of aging, but to improve their appearance as well.

However, a vast majority of people don’t use enough sunscreen, or apply it incorrectly. To reap the age-reversing benefits of SPF, be sure to follow these tips…

  • Use ½ teaspoon of sunscreen on your face, and another ½ teaspoon for your neck and chest.
  • Do not rely on the SPF in your foundation or powder for sun protection.
  • Use an SPF of at least 15 every day, regardless of whether you’ll be spending time outdoors.
  • Use an SPF of at least 45 if you plan on being outside for more than 15 minutes, and be sure to reapply every hour.
  • If you’re expecting more than one hour of direct sun, first apply a chemical-based sunscreen (with ingredients such as Mexoryl or avobenzone) and follow with a second layer of a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide.
  • For maximum skin protection, take Heliocare, which is an oral antioxidant supplement.
  • No sunscreen is perfect, so wear a hat, clothing with UPF (UV protection) and stay in the shade when possible.
  • A regular tee shirt only has an SPF of 5. Hold fabric up to the light, and the amount that shines through gives you an idea of its sun-protection level.
  • My chemical sunscreen recommendations are Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch, EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 and La Roche-Posay Anthelios.
  • My physical sunscreen recommendations are Obagi Sun Shield Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 50, PCA Skin Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 45, EltaMD UV Physical Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 and Blue Lizard Sensitive.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.