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UNDERSTANDING THE CAUSE AND EFFECTS OF AGEING OF THE SKIN AND RECOMMENDING PRECAUTIONS TO MINIMISE DAMAGE CAUSED BY UV LIGHT

Welcome to our first blog. A great opportunity to educate our clients further on topical areas of all things skin. We have dedicated our first blog to understanding the impact of UV and how this contributes to the dreaded ageing of the skin. But do not worry – it is not all bad, we will also discuss ways of minimising this damage caused by UV light. So, if you want to learn more, keep on reading…

It is super important to understand that despite our common resistance against ageing, it is a natural change that we all endure during adulthood (at least we are not alone in the ageing journey) and particularly as we reach middle-aged, several of our bodily functions unfortunately begin to decline. Also, whilst ageing is inevitable, lifestyle and environmental factors further contribute to the skin’s health and appearance including:

  • Intrinsic environmental effects
  • Extrinsic environmental effects
  • Physical changes
  • Biochemical changes

If you are sat wondering what intrinsic and extrinsic environmental changes are – we are about to explain. Often terminology within the world of skincare can be quite overwhelming but simply put, intrinsic environmental effects are internal causes including reduced collagen, a slow rate of skin renewal and poor hormones. Extrinsic environmental effects are simply external causes including sun exposure, sleep, hydration and nutrients (or lack of them).

Other causes include physical changes, which are what we often notice the most and can be very self-critical regarding wrinkles, sagging skin and loss of firmness. Additionally, pigmentation and uneven or dull skin tone are further signs. Lastly, biochemical changes include a decline is elastin production and less skin cell turn over, alongside a less efficient blood flow of nutrients delivered to the cells.

So now we know the different contributing areas of ageing in further detail, it is now time to understand the ageing impact of UV. Photoaging is damage to the skin caused by exposure to sunlight and UV radiation/light. Obviously, we are always exposed to the sun, despite the UK not being the most tropical of climate (if only). However, often we mistake just going on holiday as exposing our skin to the sun, which is not the case but more on that later. Radiation on the other hand, is from artificial sources including tanning beds, welding touches and the sun itself. It is crazy to know that UV light is responsible for 90% of visible changes to the skin! Photoaging can manifest itself in different ways including: melasmas, freckles and texture changes.

There are 3 groups of UV radiation:

  • UVA rays – can cause the skin cells to age and can cause indirect damage to the cells’ DNA. UVA is mainly linked to long-term skin damage including wrinkles.
  • UVB rays – can damage the skin cells DNA directly and these rays cause sunburn. They are thought to cause most skin cancers.
  • UVC rays – are not normally a risk factor for skin cancer due to the rays reacting to the ozone high in our atmosphere. UVC rays can come from man-made sources including UV sanitizing bulbs used to kill bacteria and germs.

So how is our DNA impacted by UV? Well, UVA rays are the ones that cause the skin to age however, they can indirectly damage DNA by generating reactive oxygen species which forms DNA mutation. UVB rays directly damage our DNA causing sunburn. The cells trigger an inflammatory response which is the sources of sunburn redness. The skin cells beyond repair will die leading the sunburn to peel. The unrepaired cells that do not due from UVA or UVB can accumulate and lead to skin cancer.

Hyperpigmentation

So you are in the know, whilst we are discussing all things UV and ageing, hyperpigmentation is caused by an increase in melanin. This can occur during pregnancy which causes a greater production of melanin. However, UV light is a major cause or this and will further darken already hyperpigmented areas.

It can also be caused by a reduction of melanin production (we know what you are thinking – you cannot win either way). Pigmentation loss can occur from skin damage including burns, blisters and other traumas to the skin. Pigment loss is generally not permanent however it may take a long time for the skin to re-pigment. This is referred to as hypopigmentation. Notably, those with hypopigmentation are at a higher risk of developing skin cancers.

Photosensitivity

This is a heightened skin sensitivity or unusual reaction when the skin is exposed to UV radiation from sunlight or UV light. Photosensitivity is commonly caused by medications, skincare products, diseases and medical conditions.

There are two types of photosensitivity reactions:

  • Phototoxic is the most common reaction and usually occurs from a medication (oral or topical) and is activated by exposure of UV light causing damage to the skin. A phototoxic reaction can look and feel like sunburn.
  • Photoallergic is far less common and occurs when UV rays interact with the ingredients in medicine or other skincare products applied directly to the skin. A photoallergic reaction can leave the skin with rashes, bumps, blisters and even oozing lesions.

Tumour & Cancers

It is common for skin cancers to be caused by UV light which damages the DNA cells within the skin cells. Over time, UVA and UVB damage can grow uncontrollably, making more likely for skin cancers to develop. UVB is thought to be the main cause of the non-melanoma skin cancer. Melanoma can grow down through the layers of skin, if a tumour grows through the wall of a blood or lymph vessel, cancer cells can break off and spread to other parts of the body leading the cancer to spread.

We know it is something we do not all like to read about, particularly the ‘C’ word. However, knowledge is power regarding this and prevention rather than cure is most favoured and recommended. Here are our top tips to minimise damage caused by UV light:

  • Avoiding UV sunbeds – as the UV rays within sunbeds increase the risk of developing skin cancers. UV sunbeds can also cause the skin to age prematurely making the skin visibly coarse, wrinkled and leathery (to be avoided)
  • Minimise exposure – UV rays are the strongest between 10am-4pm, limited exposure of UV rays during these hours will significantly minimise risks of sun damage.
  • Shade – refers to structures that provide shelter from direct sunlight (e.g., trees, umbrellas and canopies). Due to the broad range of objects such as material, surface areas and the orientation to the sky, it must be considered that shade will vary widely in their protection from UV rays. While it is recommended to seek deep shade, this should not be considered as full protection.
  • Diet and nutrition – both fundamental to our overall health and skin and offers a further layer of protection from exposure and absorption of UV radiation as it enabled the skin to protect itself. A diet that is rich in antioxidants and vitamins will play a part in protecting the skin from sun damage because they can counteract free radicals which accelerates the ageing process. Foods that are rich in beta-carotene (such as mango) include many antioxidants and vitamins which can offer some protection. Similarly, foods that are rich in lycopene and flavanols (such as tomatoes) can increase sun protection. Consuming soy products such as tofu can boost collagen in the skin and delay the onset of wrinkles and by boosting the production of healthy collagen this will offer protection against premature ageing caused by UV radiation.
  • Awareness of medications/procedures causing photosensitivity – this can occur when photosensitising medication or cosmetic procedures can cause an unexpected response on sun exposed skin. Photosensitisers in medication are commonly found in antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen and retinoids such as Isotretinoin. Photosensitisers in topical products are generally found in fragrances such as benzoyl alcohol, essential oils such as lavender oil and acne topical medication such as benzyl peroxide. In addition to the above many anti-ageing treatments can cause photosensitivity including those professionally administered such as chemical peels. Photosensitivity can be treated by identifying the photosensitising agent and avoiding this treatment, if this is not possible for example the medication cannot be discontinued due to treating an existing condition a strict sun protection regime should be in place to protect the skin.
  • Protective clothing – can absorb and block harmful UV radiation and is extremely effective in protection from sun damage and skin cancer. Ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) indicates how much UV radiation (both UVB and UVA) a fabric allows to reach your skin. A fabric must have the UPF of 30 to qualify for the skin cancer foundations seal of recommendation. Not only can the skin become damaged due to UV rays the eyes can also be impaired too. If the eye area is exposed to the sun, both long and intensive irradiation can lead to inflammation of the conjunctiva and cornea therefore wearing glasses and sunglasses with guaranteed UV protection will prevent UV damage.
  • Sunscreen – is vital in protecting the skin from UV rays. The SPF number determines how long the suns UV radiation would take to redden the skin when using the product versus the amount of time without any sunscreen, for example a SPF 30 would take around 30 times longer to burn than if there was no sunscreen present. It is important that the SPF carries protection for both UVA and UVB rays. The skin cancer foundation recommends a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. The correct use of SPF will significantly protect the skin from UV damage.

We hope you feel a little more knowledgeable regarding the impacts of UV and ways of minimising this. If you have any questions regarding your skin in respect to UV or ageing, feel free to contact us via email for a consultation and advice.


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