More Benefits Of Slathering Sunscreen: Fewer Wrinkles

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After yesterday's downpours, it's honest-to-God sunscreen weather today. And if you're like me — slathering sunscreen all over the kids but not bothering to slather myself until I'm hunkered down for a day at the beach — think again. A new, attention-grabbing study out this week bolsters the evidence that sunscreen should be a critical part of everyone's daily health regimen.

The new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that daily use of sunscreen can help minimize wrinkles and aging skin. The Wall Street Journal reports that "people instructed to apply sunscreen every day showed 24% less skin aging, as measured by lines and coarseness of the skin, than those told to use the cream as they usually do."


Here are more details from the Journal:

This study, part of a long-running skin-cancer-prevention trial, covered 903 adults younger than 55 living in Nambour, Australia, near the country's Sunshine Coast. All study participants were given sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15+. Half were randomly to be instructed to apply the sunscreen daily to exposed areas, reapplying after water immersion, heavy sweating or several hours spent outdoors, while half were told to use it as they normally would.

By the end of the study, which was funded by the Australian government, 77% of those told to use sunscreen daily were using it at least three to four days a week, compared with 33% of the control group. (The sunscreen was provided by a sunscreen manufacturer.)

Researchers took silicone impressions of the backs of participants' hands at the beginning of the study and after 4½ years. Trained assessors then graded the patterns of lines and skin coarseness on the hand impressions on a scale of one to six. The damage seen on the surface of the skin reflects the tissue damage underneath the skin, said Adèle Green, senior scientist and head of cancer and population studies at Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia and lead author of the study.

The New York Times also covered the study, and noted that until now, "most studies of sun-damaged skin were conducted with mice, not people, and it was not clear whether the results would be the same."

Dr. Barbara A. Gilchrest, a dermatology professor at the Boston University School of Medicine and the editor of The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, said she, too, found the study convincing.

Dr. Gilchrest, who was not associated with the study, noted that its subjects were not inveterate tanners but rather people who tried to protect their skin.

“They were not taking the worst sun offenders and taking them out of the sun,” Dr. Gilchrest said. “Everyone had pretty darn good sun-protection habits to begin with.”

Here & Now also took on the topic of sunscreen this week, with helpful advice on how to navigate the complex new product labeling. Here are straightforward tips from Nneka Leiba, senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group and an author of the group’s 2013 Guide to Sunscreens:

--Do use sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These offer broad spectrum protection and have minimal absorption through the skin.
--Don’t use sprays or powders.
--Don’t use products with containing oxybenzone, which readily penetrates the skin.
--Don’t use sunscreens over SPF 50.

This program aired on June 4, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Health Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for Bostonomix.