Experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham offer advice on how to slow aging targeting the changes induced by chronic UVA and UVB exposure as one of the most responsible for accelerating the skin's aging process.
"Daily incidental sun exposures add up and result in wrinkles, sun spots and potentially cancerous lesions," says Marian Northington, M.D., director of UAB Cosmetic Dermatology.
"The No. 1 way people can prevent photoaging is wearing a 30-plus SPF sunscreen - one that contains zinc oxide - every day."
If the sun has already taken its toll, or for those with more mature skin, the advice is to turn to retinol creams in order to diminish the signs of aging.
"Using an over-the-counter cream with retinol, which is a vitamin A derivative, can decrease the risk of skin cancer and improve skin pigmentation and abnormalities, as well as increase collagen content to help with lines and wrinkles," Northington says.
The skin care expert adds that if more advanced methods are needed, a visit to the cosmetic dermatologist can offer safe and effective non-invasive options that will reduce photoaging with little downtime.
She states that technology has now advanced to such an extent that there are now skin tightening devices available that improve skin laxity, as well as injections that will replace lost volume that occurs with aging, to lift the face non-surgically and reduce lines and wrinkles.
"Fraxel laser resurfacing is [also] an excellent way to improve wrinkles, pigmentation and abnormalities," she adds.
Studies have shown some dermatologic skin-improvement methods have benefits beyond an improved appearance, and that consumers are experiencing a boost in self-esteem through dealing with and slowing down the aging process.
"Outward appearance can have a significant impact on a person's self-esteem, so 'looking better' both in one's own eyes and in the eyes of others can add to self-esteem," continues Josh Klapow, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Public Health and a psychologist.
"However, self-esteem is an internal experience that needs to be driven by far more than appearance."
Klapow explains that unrealistic expectations about looks can spell trouble, as it is hard for people in their 70s to look as though they are in their 20s. If the idea of looking younger is kept in perspective, however, it can lead to a healthier mental state.
"Feeling good about what you look like can help you feel better about who you are," Klapow adds. "But feeling good about who you are, independent of what you look like, is a far more powerful way to have and keep high self-esteem."