The Link Between Sun Damage and Wrinkles (and How to Prevent Both!)

September 29, 2019

The Link Between Sun Damage and Wrinkles (and How to Prevent Both!)

It’s beautiful, bright, and feels amazing on our skin after bitter, long Midwestern winters. It provides us with Vitamin D and helps us stay happy and motivated. However, there is a dark side to the sun too—it accelerates aging. In fact, it has been found to visibly accelerate skin aging by 80% according to a study from the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology.


How Does Sun Damage Happen?

The sun’s rays are made up of ultraviolet A and B rays. When they hit your bare skin, they create free radicals. Free radicals damage cellular structure, DNA, proteins, and connective tissues like collagen and elastin. This radiation also causes inflammation in the body (hello sunburn!) and suppresses the immune system. 


Does Sun Damage Cause Wrinkles?

In a word—yes. Sun damage is linked to premature wrinkling, sunspots (also called age spots or brown spots), and of course, skin cancer. UVB rays cause sunburn but also do the good work of stimulating the production of Vitamin D, which we need. UVA rays, however, are the real villains. They destroy collagen and elastin necessary for youthful, bouncy skin. This results in crepey skin which we commonly call wrinkles. And here is the even more sinister part—UVA rays can permeate windows, which means even if you are indoors or in your car, you’re susceptible.


In a clinical study in Japan, women who lived in the sunnier city of Kagoshima received 1.5 times more radiation than women in northern-located Akita. The women in Kagoshima were observed to have “significantly longer facial wrinkles, a higher number of wrinkles, larger hyperpigmented spots, a higher number of spots, rougher facial skin texture, more yellow foreheads and upper inner arms, darker foreheads, and less stratum corneum hydration in the cheeks and arms.” This resulted in women from Akita looking between eight to 16 years younger than their Kagoshima counterpart. There are many other studies that support these findings. 


Five Simple Ways to Reduce Sun Damage 

One of the best ways to stave off wrinkles is to reduce sun damage. Sun damage is one of the few aging processes we can control. Here are a few easy to implement tips to keep your skin healthy while still enjoying the physical and mental benefits of a sunny day.


  1. Stay in the shade between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is at it’s highest and brightest and be sure to stay hydrated.

  2. Use an SPF 30 or higher every day as part of your daily care routine. Use higher if you are in the percentiles that are more susceptible to burning such as redheads or those with pale skin. Be sure to use sunscreen every day as 80% of your lifetime sun exposure is incidental (not intentional).

  3. Use lip protection balm for your lips.

  4. Use a wide-brimmed hat to protect delicate facial skin whenever possible. If you’re headed to the beach, use a rash guard or cover-up to protect other areas like your décolletage and arms.

  5. Reapply sunscreen again as needed.


Too much sun can give you a temporary sun-kissed glow but can leave you with early wrinkles and pigmentation. Follow our tips to keep your skin at its most youthful, dewy best. If you’re looking for a way to keep your skin glowing this summer, contact us to talk about a skincare regimen for your skin goals.