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Does sunscreen prevent skin aging?

Beyond protecting against skin cancer and sunburn, the use of sunscreen is touted as one of the best precautions to prevent premature skin aging. But can it truly help delay the formation of wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of premature skin aging?

Is sunscreen effective in reducing the risk of developing wrinkles prematurely?

Continuous exposure to UVA and UVB rays is responsible for the photoaging of the skin. In other words, UV exposure causes the skin to age faster than it would naturally. While it's difficult to completely avoid the sun's UV light, certain preventive measures for photoaged skin can be taken to limit UV ray exposure and thus delay the skin aging process, the most common of which is the daily application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more on exposed areas.

Exposure to UV rays is responsible for more than 90% of visible signs of aging, including wrinkles, roughness, loss of elasticity, skin dryness, and irregular pigmentation.

While cleansers, moisturizers, and exfoliants are important products for limiting skin damage, nothing can replace the daily necessity of using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day, whether the sun is shining or it's raining, regardless of one'sage.

Many experimental pieces of evidence suggest that sunscreen has effects on photoaging, but this phenomenon has only been proven to date in hairless mice. Only one clinical study on humans has demonstrated this. In 2013, Australian researchers conducted the first controlled and randomized trial on 903 Australian men and women to assess whether sunscreen or oral antioxidant supplementation can effectively prevent the progression of skin aging in adults under 55 years old. The participants were randomly divided into four groups:

  1. Those who are advised to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 15 to their face, neck, arms, and hands every morning and to reapply after sweating profusely, swimming, or spending more than a few hours outdoors;

  2. Those who could apply the same sunscreen whenever they wished;

  3. Those who received a β-carotene tablet every day;

  4. Those who received a placebo tablet.

After four and a half years, researchers analyzed silicone impressions taken from the back of the left hand of the subjects. They found that the group that used a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily showed "no detectable increase" in skin aging after 4.5 years. Furthermore, skin aging over the course of the study was 24% lower in subjects from the group that received sunscreen every day compared to subjects who applied a sun protection product at their discretion. On the other hand, supplementation with β-carotene overall had no effect on skin aging.

The sunscreens are products that combine various sun filters (organic and inorganic) that protect the skin by absorbing, blocking, or scattering harmful UV rays.

This initial human clinical trial proves that daily use of sunscreen significantly slows down photoaging. To prevent accelerating the skin aging process, the daily application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 in generous amounts and frequent reapplication, especially after swimming or activities that make you sweat, are highly recommended.


  • GREEN A. C. & al. Sunscreen and prevention of skin aging: a randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine (2013).


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