July 28th, 2008
10:33 AM ET

Sun safety staves off sagging skin

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

I love the beach.  But the sun and surf don't like my skin.  I cover myself with SPF 40 and limit my time outdoors but still I come out with blotchy skin, redness and peeling.  It hasn't always been this way.  When I was younger, I would get a great tan – with freckles.  But as I got older, the great tan went away. Little did I know I may have been damaging my skin.  

Dermatologists believe that how we treat our skin in our 20s will have a huge impact on how our skin ages. Dr. Thomas Nigra, a dermatologist with Washington Hospital Center, says, "What you do in your teens and 20s shows up in your 30s. So what you do in your 30s doesn't really mean a total protection because you've already done a lot of damage that results in your skin sagging in your late 30s."

Small lines and wrinkles begin to show on the face. More sun exposure means more wrinkles.  The reason?  Too many UV rays from the sun.  "The light penetrates deeply into the dermis.  It then causes the collagen and the elastin to get lax and the skin sags," Nigra says.

Some sunscreen can protect you from further damage. But not all sunscreens are the same. According to a recent survey by the Environmental Working Group, many sunscreens don't adequately do the job.  The consumer advocacy group says look for ones that protect against UVA and UVB rays. If all those letters are confusing, think of UVB as the burning spectrum – "B" for burning and the A spectrum as "A" for aging.  And then look for protection against both in a sunscreen.

Also products that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide do a good job with an SPF of 30 or higher if you're sunbathing and an SPF 15 on a daily basis.  If you are around water, make sure your sunscreen is waterproof, not water resistant. To keep skin from drying, use a moisturizer at night, especially after a day in the sun.

As we get into our 40s and 50s, we start to get age spots.  Doctors recommend retinoids, which are a chemical form of Vitamin A.  They help clear up some of those spots and rejuvenate the skin.

Also watch for skin cancer.  Although skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma can happen at any time, more cases are reported in this age group.  Also keep an eye on moles and dark spots.  They could be signs of developing cancer lesions.  

Do you love the beach or being out in the sun?  How do you protect yourself from aging and harmful rays?   Let us know.

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Jolie

    Wear a hat and have some style! It saves the eyes and the skin.

    July 28, 2008 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. phil

    I don't go out in the sun often at all. When I do, especially driving to work, I put a sunscreen on before leaving home. I think it's SPF 70 by Aveeno. It smells great and doesn't feel sticky or anything when it dries. It's a spray. Read the directions. Usually you have to wait 15-30 minutes after applying before going out. The sunscreen needs time to be absorbed by the body. Then when I'm at work, if I go out for lunch, I put Banana Boat SPF 15 on my head, ears, and face (I shave my head regularly). I love the water, not the sand so much tho, but this year I haven't been to the beach once. So pathetic since my job is a 5 minute walk from the beach.

    July 29, 2008 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. phil

    I also wanted to add that yeah, OK I look pasty white, especially in the gym, next to these folks who are all nicely golden brown. But they are younger than me, (mostly) and they joke with me about how white I am but I tell them well, by the time you're my age, you'll look like you're in your 50's (I'm 38) and when I'm in my 50's I'll look like I'm still in my thirties. They don't laugh anymore... heheh

    July 29, 2008 at 20:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. wilma sumner

    phil ,you know what you are talking about , when I was young I loved being in the sun,now i wish i had been as smart as you!!!

    August 2, 2008 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rachel Heath

    I'm so glad I hated to sunbathe when I was younger!

    August 4, 2008 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Brenda (North to Alaska!)

    Anyone heard anything about SPFs over 30 potentially causing chemical burns to skin? Haven't researched it, so it may be a rumor – wondering about experiences out there.

    August 8, 2008 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Margaret

    I found a new product , Sun Protect & Repair spf 45, that I have to share. I asked myself it was possible to have a true 2 for 1 but it is! It is spf45, non tinted, main protection ingredients are OMC and zinc oxide. Sun Protect & Restore absobs quickly and completely, does not have the opaque white film like most . It also has anti-aging ingredients to reverse and repair the damage the sun has caused, boost skin's resistance to UV rays. One ingredient actually repairs burn damaged skin and another stops damaged cells from multiplying. That's huge news since these damaged cells have the potential of becoming cancer cells. It is so light and easy to wear.

    March 17, 2010 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Libby Murray

    Retinoids are great on the skin but don;t use it if you are pregnant or has plans to become pregnant..:~

    July 28, 2010 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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    the good thing about retinoids is that they can also reduce skin wrinkles and stop acne at the same time,:'

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    retinoid does not only help treat acne but it is also good in treating wrinkles and removing those fine lines"-

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    retinoid is always one of the best medication that you can use on your skin ~,`

    December 21, 2010 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.