Beliefnet
A Prescription for Healthy Living

 “Do you want to look like an alligator handbag when you grow up?” If you have fair skin and a tendency to burn, chances are you were probably asked this question by your mom at some point in your sun-worshiping life. Truth is, most of us don’t think about what we will look like after the age of, say, 30, so we park ourselves on a sheet of aluminum foil, grease ourselves up with some Crisco oil and spend the next 12 hours in the direct sunlight because, boy, do we look great with a tan when we are 18! The downside is that we don’t stay 18 forever, and eventually we will turn 40 and 50. It is then that the oil and foil come back to bite us on our wrinkly behinds. There is nothing attractive about a tan wrinkled woman who is probably no older than 40, yet looks about 60 because she continually exposed herself to damaging UV rays without wearing the proper protection (sun visor, hat, sunglasses) and sunscreen.

As women, our dream is to have a face and body that is completely free from any evidence of aging. As a result, we will try every single product on the market in the search, and with the hope that we will find the perfect combination of chemicals that will stop the aging process and delay the development of wrinkles.

Naturally every square inch of our skin is prone to aging; however, the area(s) most often exposed to the sun will age prematurely. While small amounts of exposure to the sun can be good for you, you literally open yourself up to all sorts of skin-related problems when you spend too much time in the sun without proper sunscreen. Some specific developments associated with too much sun exposure, and the resultant damage may include dryness (actually roughness), saggy appearance, keratoses (liver spots), and wrinkles. Wrinkles can be classified into two categories: Fine surface lines and deep furrows. Wrinkle treatments are generally more effective when treating fine lines. Deeper creases may require more aggressive techniques such as Botox injections and even plastic surgery. Wrinkles are found primarily on the parts of the body where sun exposure is greatest. These areas include the face, neck, backs of the hands, and tops of the forearms.

Factors that promote wrinkles include:

– Smoking

– Genetics

– How much skin has been exposed to the sun, as well as how much time you spend in direct sunlight

– Skin type: People with light-colored skin are more susceptible to sun damage.

Obviously, some of these factors are beyond our control, but we can control our exposure to the sun, as well as whether or not we smoke. It is likely that the exposure to harmful UV rays used in tanning beds and spending lots of time outside, even while wearing a maximum protection sunscreen, could contribute to the development of wrinkles. Some sunscreens contain ingredients such as Parsol 1789 which provides UVA protection, but these are only partially effective.

Treatment

There are several topical creams and cosmetic techniques available to improve and minimize the appearance of wrinkles:

Vitamin A Acid (Tretinoin)

This topical agent is very effective in improving such signs of aging as pigmentation distribution, rough patches and the overall wrinkling of the skin. This cream should be used on a continual basis. This particular medication may initially produce redness and peeling, but these side effects are essential in order to notice marked improvement. This medication is available by prescription only. Consult your healthcare provider or dermatologist to see whether this medication is the most effective form of therapy to meet your needs.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acid

Otherwise known as the fruit acid, this treatment contains glycolic and lactic acid. These topical treatments are considered safe and effective and at the worst, may cause some mild irritation.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants include Vitamins A, C and E, as well as beta-carotene. These topical treatments may provide a certain amount of sun protection, as well as a mild improvement of wrinkles.

Moisturizers

Over-the-counter creams and moisturizers will keep the skin looking well hydrated, minimizing the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

 Cosmetic Procedures

There are a number of other cosmetic procedures that may be performed in order to minimize the signs of aging. These other procedures include glycolic peels, deeper peels, dermabrasion, laser resurfacing, non-ablative laser resurfacing, Botox injections and plastic surgery.

Protection

The best way to avoid premature aging as a result of sun exposure is to minimize the time you spend in direct sunlight. Make sure that your moisturizer contains an SPF. Make sure to wear sunscreen when outdoors, no matter how long you plan to stay outside. You should not be exposed to direct sunlight for more than 20-30 minutes. Believe it or not, this is more than enough time to develop a healthy glow without turning into an alligator handbag.

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