Skin aging? Wrong, it’s sun damage
By Karen Mullins
TORONTO – Eight out of ten Canadians believe that skin damage on the face and hands is due to natural aging – but experts say they are wrong.
If you were to ask Canadians about wrinkles a little over half (53%) would say it’s an equal combination of sun and age as the cause according to a Photoaging survey by Angus Reid Public Opinion for the Canadian Dermatology Association.
While age is a factor, it’s fairly small compared to the damage of repeated repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
“On sun exposed areas, most skin changes that we see – as much as 80-90 percent – are caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Many people think that these changes are due to chronologic aging,” says Dr. Cheryl Rosen, national director of the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Sun Awareness Program.
Photoaging can be seen on the skin as brownish sun spots often termed “liver spots”, uneven skin colour, spider veins on the nose, cheeks and neck and wrinkles. Unlike natural aging these skin conditions are largely preventable.
Natural or chronologic aging features include fine lines, even skin tone and thinner skin later in life. Natural aging depends on genetics and time and is unchangeable.
For dermatologists this lack of knowledge is a concern. Without being aware of how damaging the sun can be in skin aging unprotected sun exposure will continue to lead to photoaging as well as skin cancers.
“The best way to prevent wrinkles, age spots and sagging skin is to have a good sun protection regimen,” Dr. Rosen recommends. “Be especially careful to protect the face, neck and back of the hands.
“People with fair skin who usually burn when out in the sun and those who get a lot of sun exposure through outdoor work or recreation are most at risk for photoaging,” she adds.
The survey found that women were more likely than men to about the effects of the sun and that about half of all Canadians know the common signs of photoaging. When asked about sun protection measures to prevent photoaging, many Canadians said they would wear an SPF 30+ sunscreen (67 percent), sunglasses (66 percent), wear a hat (59 percent) and limit the amount of time spent out in the sun (57 percent).
Disturbingly only four in 10 said they would avoid tanning of any kind believing that a tan makes them look better.
“Too many people still believe a tan makes them look better. Perhaps knowing that being tanned also leads to wrinkling and other signs of chronic sun exposure will start to change this perception,” says Dr. Rosen.