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New Study: Wearing Sunscreen Every Day Can Keep Aging Away

Woman With Sunscream Remember all those times we told you to wear sunscreen every single day to prevent aging? We have even more research showing that you should slather up often. A recent study done in Australia has confirmed what studies on mice and dermatologists have been saying for years: Using sunscreen daily stops photoaging. And here’s a spoiler: If you’re using sunscreen, but not using it daily and reapplying after a few hours or after swimming or heavy sweating, you’re doing your skin a disservice. The best effects are seen with those who use sunscreen every single day and reapply often.

The Study: Daily Sunscreen vs. Discretionary Use

This study demonstrates that applying sunscreen every day is more effective than applying it only when it seems appropriate. This study demonstrates that applying sunscreen every day is more effective than applying it only when it seems appropriate.
The study had 900 white participants who were younger than 55-years-old. One group was randomly assigned to apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more to their head, neck, arms, and hands in the morning after washing, after spending several hours outside, or after sweating heavily. Another group was asked to use sunscreen at their discretion. Across both groups participants were also randomly assigned either 30 mg beta-carotene or a placebo pill (Annals of International Medicine). This amounted to four groups: regular sunscreen use with beta-carotene, regular sunscreen use with a placebo, discretionary sunscreen use with beta-carotene, and discretionary use with a placebo. The study took place between 1992 and 1996, and lasted a total of four-and-a-half years. Researchers took impressions of the participants’ skin at the beginning and end of the study, and had these impressions assessed by researchers who were not aware of who was using sunscreen or taking beta-carotene. These assessors gave a score from 0 to 6, with 0 being smooth, elastic skin with absolutely no photoaging, and 6 being wrinkled, inelastic skin with severe photoaging.

The Results: Daily Sunscreen Can Prevent Photoaging!

Those who used sunscreen every day with frequent reapplications looked younger after 4.5 years than those who used sunscreen at their discretion. Those who used sunscreen every day with frequent reapplications looked younger after 4.5 years than those who used sunscreen at their discretion.
In the beginning, both groups had a median of 4. By the end of the study, the group who used sunscreen every day still had a median of 4, while a group who used sunscreen at their discretion had a median of 5. The group using sunscreen daily had 24% less aging than the group using sunscreen at their discretion. Researchers saw no difference between the beta-carotene supplement and placebo groups. And it’s worthwhile to note that neither group had bad habits in the sun, notes Dr. Barbara A. Gilchrist, dermatology professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and editor of The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, in this New York Times article. This merely illustrates the difference between groups who use sunscreen every single day, and those who use it at their discretion — but all of them use sunscreen. Some of the studies limitations were that about one-third of participants did not have molds taken at the beginning and end, the study did not investigate the effects on individuals over 55-years-old, and the study only looked at the effects of daily or discretionary sunscreen use light-skinned people, and the study was too small to be confident in the results on beta-carotene.

Which Sunscreen Should You Use?

Believe it or not: Up to 90% of visible aging comes from damage from UV exposure. This is particularly true in the case of premature aging.  As the study above indicates, the best protection from aging is sunscreen; but what’s the best sunscreen to use? Overall, I prefer physical-mineral sunscreens, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (which physically stop the rays) over organic-chemical sunscreens like avobenzone and oxybenzone (which absorb UV rays and convert them into a less harmful form of energy). Both offer excellent levels of protection, but there are several reasons why physical-mineral sunscreens might be a better choice overall. Organic-chemical sunscreens are less photostable than physical-mineral sunscreens, and because of this, are more likely to cause irritation (Chemical Research in Toxicology). And organic-chemical sunscreens penetrate the skin more than physical-mineral sunscreens, which are too large to penetrate the past the stratum corneum (Journal of Pharmacological and Pharmaceutical Science, Toxicological Science). [Read More: Are Inorganic Sunscreens Better than Organic Ones?] And zinc oxide is a better physical blocker than titanium dioxide by virtue of having more broad-spectrum protection. There are two kinds of UV rays: UVA (aging) rays and UVB (burning) rays. Both block UVB rays, but zinc oxide blocks more UVA rays than titanium dioxide (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology). Here are some sunscreens that are either completely physical-mineral or a mix of physical-mineral and organic-chemical, along with the percentages of active ingredients in each, with high amounts of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Remember, the addition of an antioxidant serum, like our Vitamin CE Caffeic Serum, has been proven to help boost the effectiveness of sunscreen (Journal of Investigative Dermatology).

Kiss_my_face

Kiss My Face Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40 ($16.99, amazon.com) (10% zinc oxide, 7.5% titanium dioxide)

blue_lizard

Blue Lizard Australian Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 30 ($13.13, amazon.com) (10% micronized zinc oxide, 5% mincronized titanium dioxide)

vanicream

Vanicream Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin, SPF 60 ($17.95, amazon.com) (7.5% Zinc oxide, 7.5% titanium dioxide) But if you want something that does a little extra in addition to sun protection for your skin, consider…

Pca

PCA Skin Weightless Protection SPF 45 ($30.00, amazon.com) (9% zinc oxide, 7.5% octinoxate) — PCA contains brightening ingredients like kojic acid, as well as mulberry and licorice extracts, and an extra boost of antioxidants in the form of vitamin E.

NIA24

NIA24 Sun Damage Prevention 100% Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30 ($45, amazon.com) (9.45% titanium dioxide, 3.6% zinc oxide) — NIA24 contains 5% Pro-Niacin, a vitamin B3 derivative that has been shown to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmented spots, sallow skin, and red blotchiness (Dermatologic Surgery).*Note: With this sunscreen, you should not use a vitamin C serum, as L-ascorbic acid should not be used with niacinamide. [Read More: Should Niacinamide and L-Ascorbic Acid Be Used Together?]

Bottom Line

If you haven’t been wearing sunscreen every single day and reapplying it often, now is the time to start. This recent research study proves what past studies, dermatologists, and FutureDerm has been saying for years: Daily use of sunscreen will keep you looking younger longer, and will help prevent skin cancer. Thinking of sunscreen application like brushing your teeth, something you do regularly, can make a huge difference in your skin in the long run.

Date: June 4 2013 at 11:42 AM
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Comments (17)

  1. Robert
    June 4 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Great article. I will say though that if your mainly indoors most of the day, or outside and it is not warm enough for you to sweat, then there is no need to re-apply often a zinc oxide sunscreen. You could re-apply once later in the day but how much to re-apply beyond the original 1/4tsp for the face as well as the neck is up for debate. I say maybe just top up a little. I've never seen and real clear science showing how much, if any, you need to re-apply in this scenario.

  2. Kevin
    June 4 2013 at 4:32 PM

    What Robert said. :) I just started using this stuff: CeraVe Invisible Zinc (SPF 30 Face). While not invisible as you apply it, it gets the job done. :) http://www.amazon.com/CeraVe-Sunscreen-Face-Lotion-Ounce/dp/B00BGBUOI0/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1370395723&sr=8-5&keywords=cerave+invisible+zinc

  3. Candice Hesse, PA-C
    June 5 2013 at 6:30 AM

    Great, informative email! Love your site. I recommend it to patients often. This is just another great article :)

  4. lana
    June 5 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Interesting article. Lately, I have been coming across more and more frequently all sorts of articles about zinc being potentially dangerous and even potentially causing cancer, so I actually started to look for more titanium-based sunscreens (nstead of my heavily zinc-based obagi product). i wonder whether there is any science behind those concerns. Thanks!

  5. V.Quin
    June 6 2013 at 1:22 AM

    I've seen hundreds, and I mean really hundreds of articles and people saying the importance of using sunscreen from years ago. Back then, I only thought the remark was mostly cause by the attempt from companies to make consumer buy their product which require daily repurchase, but this evidence state that it was not merely just a empty statement to lure money. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Natalie Bell
    June 6 2013 at 4:28 AM

    Hello Robert, Thank you for commenting! I think it's a tough call about exactly how much reapplication you need. Personally, I try to reapply even zinc sunscreens because I have a tendency to touch my face occasionally through the day and I want to keep my very fair skin from burning. We have written about wearing sunscreen indoors: http://www.futurederm.com/2012/07/19/do-i-need-to-wear-sunscreen-indoors/. Unless you have UV protected windows, you're getting more sun exposure than your realize in your home, office, car, etc.

  7. Natalie Bell
    June 6 2013 at 4:30 AM

    Hello Kevin, Thank you for commenting! That looks like a great sunscreen. I'm a fan of CeraVe products — they tend to have a lot of "tried and true" ingredients, so to speak.

  8. Natalie Bell
    June 6 2013 at 4:31 AM

    Hello Candice, Thank you so much for commenting, and thank you for sharing FutureDerm with patients! We really appreciate it.

  9. Natalie Bell
    June 6 2013 at 4:36 AM

    Hello lana, Thank you for commenting! You might be talking about the discussion going on about whether or not nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can penetrate the skin. This study involving electron microscopy found that less than 0.03% penetrated the top layer of skin, and they were unable to find nanoparticles in the lower layers of skin. Study: http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/98701 But if you're talking about another way it might cause cancer, let me know. We'd happily investigate and see what scientific evidence we can find about the issue!

  10. Natalie Bell
    June 6 2013 at 4:36 AM

    Hello V. Quin, Thank you for commenting! I'm glad we've convinced you about the benefits of wearing sunscreen!

  11. Clair
    June 7 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Hi Natalie.. Wow SPF 60... And price isnt that high either. That looks good. But I have never used more than SPF 30-40. I mix and match with other skin creams.. Am a bit wary when these companies start making tall claims. Have you used this Vanicream?

  12. Sue
    June 9 2013 at 5:29 PM

    We tend to use what the cancer society promote here in NZ as melanoma is a high risk here with the depleted ozone layer being much more of an issue that elsewhere. They do a wide range of products in the plus 30 factor and use a variety of ingredients similar to those mentioned in this very interesting article. I use moisturizer a lot but didn't consider the aging effects enough to think of using sunscreen instead as part of daily routine.

  13. Chris
    June 10 2013 at 4:49 AM

    Just want to point out an article that was written here by John Su. The last sunscreen that was recommended contain niacinamide which should not be used together with l-ascorbic acid. So combining that specific with a vitamin C serum is a bad idea. http://www.futurederm.com/2012/10/25/should-niacinamide-and-l-ascorbic-acid-be-used-together/

  14. Natalie Bell
    June 10 2013 at 6:08 AM

    Hello Clair! Thank you for commenting. Truth be told, there's isn't an immense difference between higher SPFs. Because people tend to apply less than the recommended amount, we usually advise using at least SPF 30. To give you an idea of the difference: An SPF of 30 blocks (96.6%) and how much an SPF of 50 blocks (98%). (You can read about it here: http://www.futurederm.com/2007/10/01/sunscreen-part-i-uva-uvb-and-proper-use/). It's best to use the recommended amount if you can (which you can read about here: http://www.futurederm.com/2013/04/26/how-much-exactly-is-2-0-mgcm2-the-amount-of-sunscreen-necessary-to-achieve-the-labeled-spf-rating/). I haven't gotten to try the Vanicream sunscreen, but I really like using Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream and I really like. I hope this helps!

  15. Natalie Bell
    June 10 2013 at 6:10 AM

    Hello Sue! Thank you for commenting. Are you using a moisturizer with SPF? That's effective! But I'd still recommend applying a sunscreen several times a day (and adding one to your routine if you aren't using one.)

  16. Natalie Bell
    June 10 2013 at 6:13 AM

    Hello Chris! Thank you for commenting, and pointing that out! I definitely should have added that in. For the sake of future readers, I added in a note about it and a link to the article.

  17. charu alwani
    June 12 2013 at 4:00 PM

    Dear Natalie, This article is like godsend for me! I have a medium skin tone, and skin that is very prone to hyperpigmentation with t zone prone to acne and cheeks dry-normal. hence always looking out for zinc oxide sunscreens with maximum sun protection, but yet for acne prone skin, hypoallergic and no fragrance.!currently i use elta md and laroche posay UVIDEAspf 50, I mix the two as I want the zinc oxide from elta md and PA+++ from Laroche posay. this suits my acne prone skin fine. what do you think of my sunscreen routine ? Is it good enough protection or would you suggest something else for my skin? Ideally would like a sunscreen with 9-11% zinc oxide, PA++++ rating, hypoallergic, fragrance free , and one that does not look horrendously white and forms a good makeup base. Please suggest something, or if any of the sunscreens you have listed meet these requirements Thanks :-)

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