Can Sunscreen Reverse Sun Damage? Yes, According to Science

For those of you who’ve been skipping out on sunscreen and feeling the aftermath of harmful UV rays, it’s not too late for damage control yet. From unsightly sunspots to deepening crow’s feet, science says that sunscreen may reverse these signs of sun damage.

In 2016, a groundbreaking study funded by Johnson & Johnson’s Skin Research Center examined the effects of applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 for a year. And boy, were the results astonishing! Since then, the importance of sunscreens has been cemented firmly on the top rung of the beauty ladder.

What Did the Study Uncover About the Positive Impacts of Sunscreen on Your Skin?

Before delving into the results, it’s worthy to note that the sunscreen used in the study did not contain any anti-aging ingredients. Additionally, the participants were not allowed to use anti-aging products throughout the year-long study. Only a simple moisturizer, sans anti-agers once again, was the other product in their skincare routine. Indeed, participants’ complexion improvements are solely attributed to sunscreen.

Onto the results: Daily application of a photostable, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 reversed much of the existing sun damage, with the greatest progress seen in sunspots (52%). Other notable achievements include:

  • Clearer skin (41%)
  • Smoother skin (40%)
  • A more even skin tone (35%)
  • Reduced appearance of crow’s feet and fine lines (25%)

To expand more on the last point, yes, it’s possible for sunscreen to turn back the hands of time, so to speak. By repairing existing sun damage and preventing the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, sunscreen boosts your skin’s regenerative power to ward off future wrinkles and sagging skin. Definitely a win-win situation if you ask me.

What Can We Learn From This Study?

can sunscreen reverse sun damage
Image by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

As the study has shown, the first line of defense against visible signs of aging doesn’t necessarily involve anti-aging skincare products. Instead, the key to a healthy, youthful-looking complexion is to apply sunscreen every day. “Prevention is more important than cure” is an oft-repeated mantra in the beauty community.

Some of us may have thought that it’s okay to get away with sunscreen in our younger years, and maybe that’s true. But as time passes, darkening sunspots and lattice-like fine lines are going to sneak up on us one day.

If you have forgone sunscreen until now, and have noticed subtle signs of aging on your face, don’t panic. As science has shown us, including a daily sunscreen in your beauty regime may actually reverse hyperpigmentation and wrinkles over time.

The trick is to apply sunscreen daily. No matter rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, you should be religiously applying sunscreen every single day.

How Long Will It Take To See Results?

can sunscreen reverse sun damage
Image by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

You may be wondering how long it will take to witness said benefits for yourself. As the saying goes, “Good things take time.” And it’s the same with sunscreen too.

According to the study, participants only started seeing visible improvements after 12 weeks. In other words, expect clearer and smoother skin around the three-month mark, assuming daily dedication to your sunscreen of choice that ticks all the right boxes (see below).

While three months may seem like a long time, think of it as a beauty investment that will grant you cumulative skin benefits over time. The research team notes that consistent sunscreen usage greatly improved overall skin texture and tone, and the improvements are only going to build up over time.

Practice consistency and patience to reap the full benefits of effective sun care in the long run. There’s nothing more motivating than knowing baby-smooth skin is a likely reality, even in your forties and fifties.

What to Look for in a Sunscreen?

Now that you’re all caught up on the skin miracle that is sunscreen, what should you look for in one?

Pick a sunscreen that contains these three characteristics:

  • Broad-spectrum: A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays target the inner skin layers while UVB rays affect the top layer of your skin.
  • SPF 30 or higher: If you’re often indoors, SPF 30 is the absolute minimum. For those who are usually out in the sun, go for SPF 50 or higher. The greater the SPF level, the greater the sun protection.
  • Photostability: A photostable sunscreen will not degrade in the presence of sunlight, thus maintaining its efficacy. Check the ingredient list to see if your sunscreen contains photostable filters like zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and octocrylene.

Remember to reapply your sunscreen every two hours. Opt for a water-resistant sunscreen if you’re going to be doing water sports.

And above all, practice good sun protection habits. For instance, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., i.e., the hottest times of the day. If you have to be outdoors, wear sun-protective clothing.

Sunscreen — Your New BFF

can sunscreen reverse sun damage
Image by yue su on Unsplash

All these small actions may seem effortful at first, but they go a long way to protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancer. Your skin will thank you once you reach your golden years and still retain a youth-like complexion.

After all, there’s nothing quite like an ego boost than the occasional remark of “Wow, you look younger than your actual age!”

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