As a practitioner who specializes in cosmetic medicine, I am constantly being asked, “What can I do to look younger?” What might be a more essential question is “How do I prevent or slow down the aging process?” Surprisingly, one of the most common causes of aged looking skin is within our control. Sun exposure is one of the most avoidable culprits of aged-looking skin and yet we continue to expose ourselves in excess on a daily basis. Ultraviolet rays are harmful; causing thickening and thinning of the skin which leads to fine lines and wrinkles. Other damaging effects include the formation of pigmented lesions (freckles, moles, age spots), not to mention, precancerous and cancerous lesions.

Summer is now in full swing and we are all enjoying spending time outdoors. So what can you do to keep your skin looking not only younger but healthier?

• Sun avoidance is essential. Americans spend way too much time “baking” in the sun. Spending time in a shaded area (under an umbrella) and wearing protective clothing (SPF clothing, a hat, and sunglasses) are easy and affordable ways to limit your sun exposure. Don’t worry about your vitamin D levels! Research suggests that you only need 10-30 minutes of sun exposure 2-3 times per week.

• Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas at least 20 minutes prior to your exposure. You should choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (also known as broad spectrum). It is recommended that you use at least an SPF of 30 and reapply every two hours (especially if you are swimming or sweating). For very light skin types, the use of physical blockers such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide may be warranted.

• The use of antioxidants (such as vitamin C or E) and retinoids can help prevent cell damage and the formation of unwanted age spots and wrinkles. These products can be added to most daily skin care regimens. Consult your practitioner to find out if these products are appropriate for you.

We can’t control how many birthdays we have celebrated. In fact, there are many things in life that we don’t have control over – however, the amount of sun exposure we experience is NOT one of them. Start being proactive! Take the necessary steps needed to prevent sun damaged skin and limit the signs of early aging.

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