Mom Knows Best!
I should have listened when Mom told me how to look younger longer! Growing up, she insisted I wear sunscreen anytime I was going to be exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays. In high school, however, I discovered that a nice golden tan seemed to made my face look healthier and my legs appear slimmer and alas, the sun worshiping began. There were many, many days of lathering my skin with baby oil and holding friendly tanning competitions with my girlfriends. There were countless tanning salon memberships and (cringe) heart-shaped tan line stickers. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was essentially pressing the fast forward button on the natural aging process of my skin.
Most of us wouldn’t color our hair gray before it’s time, would we? So why do we often go to such great lengths to accelerate the aging of our skin? Maybe it’s because we just don’t know what we don’t know. Sure we have all heard about getting skin cancer but until it hits close to home by impacting someone we love, the thought of that happening to us seems unlikely. Aside from the medical concerns, if you simply want to look young longer, it’s time to understand the truth behind what happens to our skin after consistent sun exposure.
Cosmetically, over time, sun exposure can lead to dark pigmentation, or sun spots. These spots are also called age spots or liver spots but regardless of what you call them, they remain extremely unpopular. Additionally, the sun’s Ultraviolet (UV) light damages certain fibers in the skin called elastin. The breakdown of elastin fibers causes the skin to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to snap back after stretching. Obviously, the earlier you start protecting yourself from sun exposure, the better. Sun damage at a young age will eventually show up later in life so regardless of your age, it is always a good time to begin the habit of protecting your skin.
There is finally good news for us rehabilitated sun worshipers! We now have the ability through advanced technology to remove many of those ugly sun spots, tighten skin and reduce wrinkles. Winter is the best time to begin photofacial (age reversal) treatments because our skin is closest to its natural color. Then, using proper sunscreen protection (I swear by my daily Elta MD sunblock) after treatments, those of us who have spent years damaging our skin can actually get a second chance.
It has been said that a 40 year old who consistently protects their skin will actually have the skin of a 30 year old. Conversely, a 40 year old who has not taken care of their skin can have the skin of a 50 year old. The choice is ours. To know that much of aging (around 80%) is within our control, my new goal is to always look as young as I feel. I’m not completely giving up my love affair with the sun. I still enjoy the beach and the way the sun feels on my shoulders. I’m just becoming smarter about how I protect my skin and know that since I’ve been given another chance, there is no way I’m messing up again. I’m finally listening to my mother.