What Is Photoaging?

‘The term “photoaging” was first coined in 1986 and describes the effects of chronic ultraviolet (UV) light exposure on skin,’ (Kligman & Kligman, 1986).

As early as the 19th century, researchers found a profound difference in the appearance of facial skin of farmers and sailors, to that of indoor workers. While their skin appeared not only darker in colour, researchers also found a difference in the thickening of their skin – also, noticing brownish discolouration and skin related illnesses on light exposed skin.

Areas such as the face, neck, upper chest, hands and forearms are usually the first to show signs of change in the skins complexion; sunburn, sun spots and dryness. ‘Clinical signs of photoaging include dryness; dark/light pigmentation; sallowness; either deep furrows or severe atrophy; telangiectases; premalignant lesions; laxity; and a leathery appearance,’ (Yaar, Eller, & Gilchrest, 2002).

The skins dermis contains supportive structural fibres such as collagen and elastin while help give our skin its smooth and youthful appearance. By overexposing our skin to UV radiation, we bare the risk of premature ageing also exposing ourselves to skin related diseases.

How it Works?

UV light penetrates into the skin; depending on its wavelength and interacts with different cells that are located at different depths. UVB light has shorter wave-lengths which mostly absorb into the skins epidermis and predominantly affects epidermal cells. UVA has longer wave-lengths and is known to penetrates deeper into the skin – interacting with both epidermal cells and dermal fibroblasts. It is the longer UVA wave-length, which poses the most danger to us, causing sunburn and age spots; which overtime can lead to more serious health conditions.

Overexpose to the sun and UV rays causes an increase in the production of elastin in our skin. This is not good news – as more elastin production produces enzymes called metalloproteinases. Usually designed to rebuild damaged collagen, these enzymes malfunction and therefore incorrectly rebuild the skins structure. As this process is repeated with daily UVA exposure, the incorrectly rebuilt skin forms wrinkles, sunspots and the depleted production of collagen results in leathery looking skin.

To help prevent the process of sun damage, photoaging and premature ageing, it is important to keep these simple factors in mind when doing any outdoor activities.

Remember to wear a hat and longer clothing such as light pants and a longer sleeved top. This will insure the surface of your skin is covered up and protected from the suns UV rays. If you are unable to wear longer clothing during the warmer months, make sure you apply a high coverage SPF sunscreen, where your skin may be exposed.

Keep in mind – by applying a strong protection sunscreen; you are helping protect your skin from those longer wave-length UVA rays, which expose our skin to damage like sunburn and in the long run age us quicker!


About The Author

Branka Duric

Beauty Editor experienced in writing on Fashion, Beauty, Health & Skincare.