Anti-wrinkle creams step aside: a new study suggests applying sunscreen daily may work better to keep your skin looking young. Though it s been widely suggested that sunscreen could delay skin aging, little evidence has been shown until now. In this first large study on sunscreen and skin aging published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers set out to demonstrate how sunscreen and B-carotene can not only protect against skin cancer, but also that it may protect against skin aging.
Researchers compiled data from 903 men and women from Australia over a period of four years. The participants were randomly assigned to two groups. One group of people younger than 55 years old were asked to apply sun-protection to their head, neck, arms and hands each day. Some were also assigned to take b-carotene or placebo pills. Another group could use sunscreen at their discretion.
By the end of the study, nearly 77 percent of participants asked to use sunscreen daily would apply it at least three or four times per week, significantly more than the discretionary users. After 4.5 years the daily sunscreen group showed no significant increase in skin aging. The number of people who showed photo-aging at the beginning of the study dropped from 58 percent to 49 percent by the end of the study, suggesting that sunscreen may have played a role in the decrease, although there was no change in photo-aging between those taking b-carotene and placebo pills.
ACSH S Dr. Gilbert Ross had this perspective: Despite this study, we really don t know exactly what promotes skin aging. One thing we do know: excess UV exposure, generally from sunlight, does increase skin changes of aging, especially age spots and wrinkling. Therefore, these results are consistent with that theory, even though the differences noted were minimal. Unfortunately, the likelihood of a major movement among Americans towards applying adequate amounts of sunscreen daily is very small, but hopefully the prospect of youthful skin will be more appealing than the often-ignored warnings about the climbing rate of skin cancers.