Chronic sun damage and the perception of age, health and attractiveness

The Researchers: P. J. Matts and B. Fink

Published In: Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, Vol. 9, pp.421-431, 2010


Sun-damaged skin looks older.


A weekend in the Bahamas might give your skin a vibrant, sun-kissed glow, but those short-term benefits can backfire in the long run.

In this literature review, researchers explored what current science says about how chronic sun exposure affects skin appearance. In short: badly.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) in ordinary sunlight can do a number on your skin’s appearance. UVR damages collagen and elastin (proteins found in your skin), which leads to wrinkles, roughness and sagging—the classic signs of aging.

Collagen helps strengthen the blood vessels that feed the skin, so healthy collagen levels give your skin a youthful glow. Since UVR exposure damages collagen, it diminishes that glow, leading to dullness and uneven skin tone.

Together, the effects of chronic sun exposure—wrinkles, roughness, sagging, uneven tone and dullness—lead others to rate sun-damaged skin as older, less healthy and less attractive.

If you absolutely must get a tan, go the way of the Jersey Shore cast and stick to spray tans instead.

Beauty connection

Staying out of the sun isn’t just about looking 25 when you’re 40—it’s about preventing skin cancer, and keeping your skin healthy. Remember that daily exposure (not just beach days) damages your skin over time, so protect your skin with one super-simple solution: Sunscreen. And a word to the wise? Orange foods, like carrots or sweet potatoes, contain carotenoids that can give your skin a tan-like glow when you eat them regularly. Go on, try it!

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