Photoaging: Why Sun Exposure Makes You Age Prematurely?

What is Photoaging?

Photoaging Appear

Photoaging is simply the premature aging of skin directly caused by chronic exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light can be either from sun beds or direct exposure to sunlight such as when you are outdoors several hours daily. Photoaging can cause different skin aging signs including fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and precancerous lesions (in severe cases). It is natural for the skin to age but photoaging is one of the primary accelerators of the process.

Collagen is what gives the skin its strength and it also plays an important role in protecting it from stress and other harmful substances like pathogens and toxins. Collagen protein can be viewed as the cement that holds the main structures of the body together. The problem is that natural aging decreases the production of collagen and it also causes the breakdown of collagen in the skin. The result is the thinning of the skin making it easier to damage. This is the reason different skin aging signs like fine lines and wrinkles appear.

Photoaging and collagen are connected in the sense that photoaging decreases the number of collagen present in the skin which directly causes skin aging signs to develop.

What is Collagen?

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a form of protein produced by cells in the body. It holds skin together just like glue giving it firmness and elasticity. When a person is young, the skin is plump and smooth because of the skin’s ability to regenerate itself. However, as a person gets older, the production of collagen slows down so the skin becomes less firm and rough. Also, bad skin care habits can accelerate the aging process of the skin causing the appearance of premature skin aging signs.

Where Does Photoaging Appear?

Photoaging can appears on parts of the body that is mainly exposed to sun like- the face, neck, and back of the hands. If women are taken in consideration the another area where photoaging is commonly seen is décollet(low neckline). Effect of photoaging can also be seen on lips, arms, legs and shoulders.

Symptoms of Photoaging

The symptoms of photoaging differ from one case to the next. However, it is generally recognised as the premature degradation of skin on certain regions that are usually exposed to UV light for prolonged periods. It usually affects the face and hands but can also manifest in other parts of the body. The symptoms of photoaging are as follows:

  • Premature skin aging signs including fine lines and wrinkles
  • Age or liver spots
  • Discoloration of the skin (lightening or darkening)
  • Dryness of the skin
  • Coarseness of the skin
  • Dilated or damaged blood vessels near the skin’s surface
  • Saggy skin
  • Leathery or weary appearance of the skin
  • Actinic purpura

How Much Sun Exposure is Needed to Cause Photoaging?

It depends on the person and its skin type. It is usually caused due to over the years sun exposure without skin protection.

How Photoaging Causes Skin Aging Signs to Appear?

Before anything else, it is important to fully understand collagen. It is found in the dermis and is primarily responsible for the skin’s strength giving it firmness. As skin ages, the collagen in the dermis breaks down and the ability to make new collagen is compromised. This causes damage to the skin and eventually leads to wrinkles and other skin aging signs.

There are two ways that ultraviolet radiation decreases the amount of collagen in the skin. First, it causes the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These are molecules that damage skin cells near them which will make the skin less firm. UV radiation also reduces the ability of the skin to produce new collagen further enhancing the skin aging process.

How to Prevent Photoaging?

Photoaging can be prevented simply by reducing exposure to UV radiation. As much as possible, avoid unprotected sun exposure and it is advisable to skip sun beds which have been found to damage the skin considerably. If you can’t avoid sun exposure, at least protect your skin from the UV rays of the sun by using protective clothing (hats, long-sleeved shirts, etc.) and wearing sunblock. It would be best to avoid sun exposure from 10 AM to 4 PM since the UV radiation of the sun is strongest during this time period.

Treating Photoaging

Treating Photoaging

Most photoaging treatments are for the purpose of increasing the firmness and elasticity of the skin or reduce the visibility of skin aging signs like fine lines and wrinkles. The most popular treatment is the use of topical retinoids (Vitamin A) which has been shown to reduce wrinkles in photoaged skin. Another popular treatment is the use of fluorouracil which also works to improve the appearance of photoaged skin. Topical alpha hydroxyl acids can also help reduce the visibility of skin aging signs. There are also topical formulations with added antioxidants like Vitamin C which help reduce ROS in the skin thus reducing photoaging’s effects on the skin.

How to Keep your Collagen?

Photoaging Prevention

By now you should understand the importance of collagen when it comes to the firmness and youthful qualities of the skin. Here are ways you can keep your collagen and prevent premature skin aging signs from appearing on your face.

  • Increase Vitamin C Intake
    A study which was published in the American Journal of Nutrition found that women older than 40 with the highest amount of Vitamin C in their diet were not as prone to developing wrinkles compared to those who consumed lower levels. The Vitamin plays an important role in the formation of collagen.
  • Quit Smoking
    Smoking caused the production of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases which directly damages the collagen in the skin. This is the reason most smokers typically have worse wrinkles.
  • Reduce Consumption of Sweets
    Eating a high amount of sugar regularly causes premature skin aging through glycation. This is when the excess sugar in the blood attaches to lipids, proteins like collagen and nucleic acids forming advanced glycation end products that accelerate the skin aging process.
  • Use Skin Care Products with Antioxidants
    Antioxidants can help slow down the aging process of the skin considerably. They protect the skin from free radicals which are among the top causes of skin damage and aging signs. There are many topical formulations that contain antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and green tea extract.
  • Use Retinol
    Retinoid creams which can be obtained through a prescription are proven to boost the production of collagen. Retinoids work to decrease the harmful substances in the skin which break down collagen after exposure to the sun. It also targets skin receptors that signal to produce collagen. There are milder retinoid products that can be purchased over-the-counter which are advisable for those who just want to maintain their youthful and firm skin.
  • Live a Healthier Lifestyle
    Your lifestyle plays a crucial role when it comes to how fast your skin is aging. Firstly, you need to have a diet high in natural foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains which are high in nutrients. Avoid processed foods which are usually high in sodium, preservatives and other food additives. These may contain chemicals that accelerate the aging process. Studies have found that diets high in sugar from processed foods also promote the development of premature skin aging signs. Secondly, you need to drink plenty of water since dehydration contributes to skin aging. Then, you also need to be active and exercise regularly which can help improve the health of your skin.


It is very important to take protective measures from photoaging even before there are signs that you have the problem. Photoaging is directly related to the development of skin aging signs since it doesn’t just damage collagen in the skin but also reduces the natural production of collagen.


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