Wearing sunscreen when you’re out in the blazing summer sun is a no-brainer. But those who conscientiously slather it on when they’re out on the beach or lounging by the pool don’t always take the same protective measures on a daily basis. Protecting your skin shouldn’t only be something you do on occasion—and now there’s another reason to rethink your sunscreen habits.Science has already shown that a broad spectrum sunscreen can help stave off a painful burn and protect against potentially deadly skin cancer, but new research points to another effect of daily sunscreen use that until this point we’ve known to be true, but only anecdotally: It helps prevent wrinkles and keeps your skin looking young.

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A June 2013 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found that wearing sunscreen regularly does indeed prevent sun-induced skin aging. That means sun spots and wrinkles, which develop through years of being exposed to damaging UV rays, can be significantly avoided by adding one tiny, extra step to your daily morning routine.In the study (the first one done on humans), adults under 55 were randomly assigned to one of two groups: one that instructed them to apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater to the head, neck, arms and hands every morning and to reapply after going in water, sweating or spending a few hours in the sun; and one where users were simply told to apply sunscreen at their own discretion.

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The backs of the patients’ hands were examined at the beginning of the study and again at the end, 4.5 years later. And what researchers found verifies the belief that sunscreen use can play an important role in preserving your youthful appearance. Participants in the daily-use group experienced 24 percent less skin aging over the entire study period than those in the discretionary-use group.The takeaway? Sunscreen is a supreme anti-ager, but only if you use it every day.Participants were also randomly assigned to take either beta-carotene pills or placebo pills to determine if this suggested anti-ager works, too. Interestingly, the beta-carotene supplements didn’t seem to make any difference on skin aging. However, researchers note that the study was too small to draw any concrete conclusions about beta-carotene’s ability to prevent photo-aging. So until a larger or longer study is done, keep loading up on antioxidant-rich foods. It’s good insurance to eat lots of vitamin-filled veggies that can potentially help your skin protect itself, even if the benefits might end up being smaller than previously assumed.

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