The No. 1 Way to Naturally Look Younger

More than anything else, it is wrinkly skin that makes you look old.

What has been suspected for years has been proven true by Australian researchers: Use sunscreen faithfully every day, and it will help protect against aging skin.

We have long known that sunscreen protects our skin from sunburns and lowers the risk of developing skin cancers, but can it protect against wrinkles? Apparently, the answer to that is a resounding yes.

The study: Led by Dr. Adele Green from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, the team analyzed data collected from 1992 to 1996 on 903 adults, all of whom were younger than 55. During the research period, half the participants applied sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater on their head, neck, arms and hands every morning and reapplied as necessary throughout the day. The others used sunscreen as needed at their own discretion. At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers measured the amount of photoaging for each participant using the back of the left hand.

What is "photoaging"? It occurs after long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Such UV rays actually penetrate the skin and cause collagen to break down and DNA to mutate. Translation: Old-looking skin.

The results: For those who used the sunscreen daily, there was no indication at all of photoaging; that is, there were no detectable changes in the skin's condition, once other sun-related factors were taken into account. Specifically, those in the group who used sunscreen daily were 24 percent less likely to show any increased sign of skin aging, including clinical changes that might not be visible to the naked eye.

"If you ask most dermatologists ... they'll tell you the two things they recommend for people who really want to avoid photoaging are, don't smoke and use sunscreen," Dr. Alan Boyd of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, told Reuters Health. "There are definitely a diminished number of people who have pre-cancerous (skin) changes if they are regular users of sunscreen. "It's not too much of a leap to assume the signs and features of photoaging would follow hand in hand."

The gotcha: Sunscreen may just be the fountain of youth, but you have start using it early in life if you want it to prevent wrinkles when you get older.

The study findings were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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