Many of you think wrinkly skin is a consequence of aging. As inevitable as that extra candle on your birthday cake every year, right?
Wrong. Lines and wrinkles have little to do with aging, but a lot to do with exposure to sunlight. (There are, of course, other factors as well. Diet, lifestyle and genetics to name three, but this post will focus on sunlight.)
Think about it. Most, ahem, mature adults have smoother and more line-free skin on the parts of their bodies that are not usually exposed to the sun. Coincidence? No.
In previous posts, I’ve mentioned free radicals and how they’re responsible for aging our cells, and ultimately, us.
And that’s what happens when sunlight hits your skin: it triggers a blast of free radicals. While damaging your cells’ DNA in the process, bad enough on its own, it leads to skin losing its elasticity, becoming thinner. While those may sound like mostly cosmetic changes, the worst-case scenario has got to be skin cancer.
And as if that’s not enough, damaging enzymes are also released, causing an inflammatory reaction. Inflammation, as you may recall from my ‘mushroom’ post, particularly the chronic variety, is an underlying element of most western diseases.
According to Cancer Research UK, getting sunburned just once every two years can triple the risk of getting malignant melanoma, or skin cancer.
Now, that’s scary, when I think back to my teenage years and early twenties when having a tan ranked pretty high on my list of priorities. Sunscreen, what sunscreen?
I vaguely remember someone suggesting cooking oil; apparently you’ll tan quicker! (Please, please, don’t try that!) Which wouldn’t have worked for me, anyway. The times in my life I’ve had a proper tan I can count on one hand. I burn.
So, now I wear SPF all year round, come rain or shine. That’s right. Even on a drab and rainy Tuesday in November. The sun emits UVA and UVB radiation even on cloudy days.
So, anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Before anyone says anything: yes, we all need a certain amount of sun exposure to get our daily dose of vitamin D.
And many of us that live in northern Europe are deficient in this vitamin and would likely benefit from supplementing (still debated among experts, as so many other things).
So, no, I’m not advocating sitting indoors with curtains drawn and hoodie up.
But do take care when out in the sun. According to those in the know, as little as fifteen minutes’ exposure could be all you need to top up with that essential vitamin D. Per day, that is.
After that, do put on some sunscreen. And make sure you get one with both UVA and UVB protection: one causes sunburn and the other goes deeper into the skin, causing aging.
Until next time,
References: Clayton, P. (2004). Health Defence (2nd edition). Aylesbury: Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd.