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Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Aging Effects of UV Rays

Damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause your skin to age prematurely — think wrinkles. The good news is that premature aging due to UV rays is largely preventable. By taking steps to avoid excessive sun exposure and protecting your skin when you’re in the sun, you can help keep your skin healthier and postpone wrinklesfor years to come.

The Sun’s Spectrum of Ultraviolet Rays

Radiation energy emitted from the sun reaches the earth in the form of UV rays. Ozone in the Earth’s atmosphere provides some protection, but the breakdown of the ozone layer that has occurred over the past few decades is making us even more vulnerable to UV rays damage. Even on overcast days you’re still being exposed to UV rays — “cloud cover” offers no protective value.

Two types of UV rays reach the earth, UVA and UVB (the sun also emits UVC rays, but these are absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere). UVA rays are the rays that cause tanning as well as wrinkles and other signs of premature aging, and UVB rays cause sunburns and skin cancer. But both ultimately damage your skin. UV rays are more powerful during the summer months. They are also stronger in high altitude areas and the closer you get to the equator — geographic factors that increase your risk of premature aging.

Damage Done by UV Rays

When UV rays reach your skin, they interact with a natural chemical in the skin called melanin. Melanin is your first line of protection and absorbs UV rays in order to shield your skin against sun damage; this chemical reaction is what gives skin a tan. When the amount of UV rays you’re exposed to exceeds the protection provided by melanin, however, you get a sunburn.

Repeated overexposure to UV rays can lead to various forms of skin damage including:

  • Fine lines
  • Wrinkles
  • Age spots, freckles, and other discolorations
  • Scaly red patches, called actinic keratoses, thought to be the beginnings of skin cancer
  • Tough, leathery skin that feels and looks dry and rough

As if these signs of aging weren’t enough, the sun causes numerous types of skin cancer, including life-threatening melanoma; eye damage such as cataracts, which impair vision; and a weakened immune system, leaving you less able to fight off infections.

Break the UV Ray Cycle

You can help protect your skin from wrinkles and other sun damage with the following steps:

  • Use sunscreen. Every day, generously apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, choosing products that provide what’s called “broad spectrum” protection against both UVA and UVB rays. When you’re in the sun for prolonged periods of time, reapply sunscreen every two hours.
  • Wear protective clothing. Whenever possible, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to further shield your skin from the sun. Consider clothes made from fabrics with built-in SPF.
  • Avoid peak sun hours. Stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are at their most intense.
  • Follow the UV Index. The UV Index is a daily indicator of how much UV radiation is expected to reach the earth — think of it as a pollen count reading for your skin. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Weather Service, it’s usually broadcast along with your local weather report. A rating of 1 to 2 is considered low, and anything over 11 is very high. The higher the number, the more you risk overexposure to UV rays.
  • Never use tanning beds. Tanning beds emit the same UV rays that come from the sun, so skip them. Contrary to popular belief, they are not a “safer” way to tan.
  • Bronze yourself with sunless tanning products. If you like the look of sunkissed skin, consider do-it-yourself tanning products or splurge on a salon spray-on tan. But remember to still use sunscreen and take all other precautions against UV rays when you’re going to be outside.

While the sun may feel warm and inviting, exposure to UV rays comes at a cost. Take steps to protect yourself from the havoc that sun damage can wreak on your skin.

7 Ways to Reduce Wrinkles

Are you tired of waging a war against wrinkles? Scott Gerrish, MD, of Gerrish and Associates, PC, a non-surgical skin care specialist with offices in Virginia and Maryland states, “Don’t give up yet. There are steps you can take to lessen and even reverse one of the biggest signs of aging: wrinkles.”

7 Simple and Smart Skin Care Steps to Reduce Wrinkles

1.Avoid sun exposure. Try to wear white or light colors, and wear a hat when you’re outdoors. Also, don’t use tanning booths, which can be worse than the sun.

2.Wear sunscreen. For the best anti-aging protection, Dr. Gerrish strongly recommends, “Apply sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 (sun protection factor) thirty minutes before sun exposure to protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. Look for one with zinc or titanium oxide in the ingredient list.”

3.Avoid environmental pollutants. Ozone, smoke, and gasoline fumes are just a few of the pollutants that can age skin and cause premature wrinkles.

4.Start an anti-aging skin care program. June Breiner, MD, an internist in Maryland suggests, “Consult with a non-surgical skin care doctor. There are many products available that thicken your skin and reduce wrinkles.”

5.Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. Smoking takes away oxygen and nutrients, and it also increases the number of free radicals in your body’s cells, a main cause of skin aging. “The amount of cigarette consumption and the number of years you have smoked are correlated with an increase in premature wrinkles,” states Dr. Breiner.

6.Wear sunglasses. Other than staying indoors and away from windows, sunglasses are the best way to protect the thin, sensitive skin around your eyes from UV radiation.

7.Sleep on your back, if possible. Sleeping with your face pressed against the pillow can cause sleep lines, which can turn into wrinkles. Satin pillow cases can also help in the anti-wrinkle fight.

Your Guide to Anti-Aging Ingredients

As you search for the right anti-aging product, you’ll come across countless creams, lotions, serums, and cleansers that promise to improve the appearance of aging skin. Shopping for anti-aging products can be overwhelming, but having an idea of how different ingredients work can help narrow your choices. Keep in mind that most just make your skin look more moist, lessening the appearance of aging skin; some can actually affect the skin and lessen the damage; and a few protect against further damage.

The Beauty Shopper’s List for Anti-Aging Ingredients

These are some of the most common skin care ingredients intended to improve the appearance of aging skin:

  • Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). AHAs can help your skin appear more fresh and youthful by reducing the signs of sun damage, exfoliating the dead outer layers of your skin, and helping your skin retain moisture. Glycolic acids are a popular AHA.
  • Ammonium lactate. If your skin is dry and flaky, ammonium lactate can help keep it moist and remove dead skin cells.
  • Antioxidants. Products that contain antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C and coenzyme Q10, can repair aging skin, and may even help protect itfrom further sun damage and the effects of free radicals, molecules that irritate your skin and cause it to become inflamed.
  • Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Similar to AHAs, BHAs help to exfoliate your skin. They are intended to help reduce the appearance of fine lines,wrinkles, and texture abnormalities. In a product ingredient list, BHAs may be listed as salicylic acid, salicylate, sodium salicylate, willow extract, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, tropic acid, or trethocanic acid. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that BHAs should be used with sunscreen to avoid skin irritation.
  • Growth factors. These are compounds that may be found in anti-aging products, due to their ability to stimulate cell division, blood vessel growth, and to help produce skin-firming collagen and elastin in your skin.
  • Lactic acid. Lactic acid, an AHA derived from milk, is often added to moisturizers to help get rid of dead skin cells and enhance the moisture content of your skin.
  • Peptides. Peptides are protein components that are sometimes added to anti-aging products because they can increase the collagen in your skin, making it appear thicker.
  • Petrolatum. Petrolatum, the main ingredient in petroleum jelly, is common in lotions and creams that soften skin by creating a barrier to help seal in moisture.
  • Retinoic acid. A specialized form of vitamin A, retinoic acid is the only skin care product ingredient that has been approved by the FDA for reversing signs of sun damage. It is available by prescription only. After applying retinoic acid every day for several months, you should begin to see the texture of your skin improve — your skin pigmentation will even out, and there will be increases in the amount of skin-firming collagen.
  • Sunscreen. Sunscreen is one of the best ways to prevent signs of aging caused by sun exposure, including fine line and age spots. Many anti-aging skin care products contain sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15; look for “broad spectrum” protection that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Urea. A common ingredient in moisturizers, urea increases the ability of your skin to hold water and reduces the scaly appearance of dry skin.

Most anti-aging skin care products contain more than one of the above ingredients. Keep in mind that some of these ingredients can irritate your skin as they slough off top layers, so be cautious when using anti-aging products on sensitive skin. Also, since trying too many products can often do more harm than good, consider consulting a dermatologist to help select anti-aging products that will do the most for you.

5 Common Culprits in Skin Damage

Your skin is affected by everything from the sun to irritating laundry detergent and cigarette smoke.

And it can show — with anything from redness to wrinkles, and in some cases even skin cancer. But before you resign yourself to the effects of your environment on your skin, consider the five most common culprits of skin damage and find out what steps you can take to avoid them.

1. Sun exposure. The sun is the biggest cause of skin damage, says Faramarz Samie, MD, PhD, director of Mohs Surgery and vice chair of the department of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. The ultraviolet rays of the sun break down the various components of the skin such as collagen and elastin that help keep your skin looking smooth. These rays also affect melanocytes, which can lead to changes in your skin’s pigmentation. What’s more: The aging effects of the sun eventually show on your skin as wrinkles, age spots (patches of brown spots), and possibly skin cancer.

To avoid skin damage that can be caused by the sun, dermatologists advise staying out of the sun during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest, wearing protective clothing such as a hat, and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen — one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays — with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours for maximum protection.

2. Free radicals. One of the ways the sun damages your skin is through production of harmful substances called free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules with a single electron. In short, doctors think that ultraviolet light from the sun can lead to damaged DNA and skin damage, Dr. Samie says. Free radicals may even play a role in the development of skin cancer. They are also the result of exposure to tobacco products or other environmental factors. Some skin care products contain antioxidants such as vitamins C and E that can help lessen the effects that free radicals have on your skin. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants (especially berries, broccoli, carrots, and spinach), can also promote healthy skin.

3. Smoking cigarettes. Overall, the skin of a smoker isn’t as healthy and doesn’t heal as well as a nonsmoker’s skin. It also has a tendency to wrinkle easily. That’s because smoking cigarettes causes your blood vessels to constrict, or become more narrow, and that lowers the amount of nutrients and oxygen that reach the skin and keep it healthy. As a result, the skin loses elasticity, meaning it can’t snap back into shape as easily. This lack of nutrients also makes it harder for skin to heal when you have a wound, and can lead to skin ulcers. In women, smoking leads to lower estrogen levels, which dries out the skin.

Cigarettes can also cause the skin on your face to become dry, more prone to wrinkles and stretch marks, and appear dull and gray, according to Smokefree.gov, a website created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute. Wrinkles can appear in smokers as young as in the early thirties, but quitting can help you avoid premature aging.

If you have trouble quitting, talk to your doctor about the best smoking cessation option for you. Nicotine gum, inhalers, lozenges, nasal spray, and patches can all help you quit, along with prescription medications such as bupropion, varenicline, nortriptyline, and clonidine.

4. Irritants. Certain chemicals in cleaning products and laundry detergent can cause red, irritated skin and allergies in people who are susceptible, Samie says. For example, ammonia and bleach have a tendency to irritate skin. These chemicals may cause contact dermatitis, which causes scaling, irritation, and sometimes even a chemical burn. People with sensitive skin may experience more skin irritation than others. There are also over 3,000 substances in our environment that can cause allergies.

The easiest way to protect your skin from irritants is to avoid contact, either by wearing gloves when you clean or wash dishes or by switching to less irritating products. Also, moisturizing your skin can help. Some people may need an antihistamine or steroids for treatment.

5. Smiles and frowns. As you age, your skin loses elasticity, which means it loses the ability to snap back into place after you make facial expressions the way it did when you were younger, Samie says. As a result, your skin is more likely to show wrinkles even when you’re not frowning or laughing.

While there’s no need to avoid showing expression on your face, you can try to combat wrinkles by preventing skin damage from the sun by using sunscreen. You might also consider using over-the-counter or prescription wrinkle creams or other topical medications to smooth out the skin. Also, there are many procedures available to reduce wrinkles, including microdermabrasion, chemical peels, laser resurfacing, and injectable fillers such as collagen.