Sunscreen May Help Skin Retain Its Youthful-looking “Padding”

There is plenty of solid scientific evidence that sunscreens can help protect your skin from other aspects of premature aging.

sunblock streaks on skin

Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen may have benefits that go beyond protecting your skin from premature wrinkles, spider veins, and “age” spots.

Sunscreens may also help preserve the skin’s lower (subcutaneous) layer of fat. The thinning of subcutaneous fat is one of the key reasons aging facial skin begins to wrinkle, sag, and lose its youthful contours.

In recent laboratory experiments, researchers at the Skin Research Center at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies in Skillman, N.J., found that using a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen blocks the secretion of interleukin-11 (IL-11), a protein that’s believed to play a role in the thinning of subcutaneous fat.

These findings suggest that sunscreens “may prevent IL-11-mediated loss of subcutaneous fat and might slow or reverse photo-induced changes in facial contouring,” one of the researchers involved in the study told Dermatology Times.

More research is needed, of course, to confirm this study’s specific results. But there is plenty of solid scientific evidence that sunscreens can help protect your skin from other aspects of premature aging.

So put on a sunscreen each time you go out in the sun—in winter as well as in summer.

California Raises Tanning Bed Minimum Age to 18

The state previously allowed children as young as 14 to use the services of tanning salons if they had permission from their parents.

On Jan. 1, 2012, California will begin enforcing a new state law—the first one in the country—that makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a tanning bed without a doctor’s prescription.

The state previously allowed children as young as 14 to use the services of tanning salons if they had permission from their parents.

This law is welcomed news for physicians, public health officials, and others concerned about the health perils that tanning beds pose to people of all ages, but particularly to children and teenagers. Indoor tanning beds emit strong and dangerous ultraviolet (UV) rays. That UV exposure not only leads to premature wrinkles, age spots, and other unsightly changes to the skin, but it also raises the risk of skin cancer.

People who use tanning beds are up to two-and-a-half times more likely to develop skin cancer than those who don’t use them. Melanoma—the most deadly form of skin cancer—is now the leading cause of cancer among young adults between the ages of 25 and 29 and the second-leading cause of cancer among young people aged 15 to 29, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Although the new law permits teenagers under the age of 18 to use a tanning bed with a doctor’s prescription, such scenarios are unlikely. The best treatments for skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne are found not in a tanning salon, but in a dermatologist’s office, where any light energy that’s used (such as with lasers) is carefully—and safely—administered.

Does Shedded Skin Reduce Air Pollution?

One of the many amazing facts about human skin is that each of us sheds about 500 million skin cells daily.

That’s because the skin’s outermost layer of dead cells (the stratum corneum) gets replaced every two to four weeks.

Shedded skin is a major source of the household dust that accumulates on tables, sofas, floors, and other surfaces. That makes it a nuisance (and a somewhat icky one at that). But a fascinating new study suggests that skin flakes may actually be beneficial to our living environment. One of the ingredients in those flakes—a skin oil called squalene—has been shown in past research to help reduce levels of the air pollutant ozone in airplane cabins. Ozone can, among other things, worsen asthma symptoms.

The authors of the new study, which was published in May in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, decided to see if something similar happens in other indoor environments. They collected and analyzed dust samples from 500 bedrooms of preschool children in 151 Danish daycare centers and found that, yes indeed, the squalene in the dust reduced indoor ozone levels by about 2 to 15 percent.

“It is only within the last five years that we’ve grown to appreciate the central role that squalene (from human skin oil) plays in oxidation chemistry within indoor environments,” the researchers wrote.

“Squalene in settled dust,” they concluded, “… contributes, in a small way, to the indoor removal of ozone.”

FDA Issues New Rules for Sunscreen Labels

You won’t see words like “sunblock” and “waterproof” on sunscreen products for very much longer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in June several new regulations for sunscreen labels, which will go into effect in 2012. The rules are designed to clear up some confusion that consumers have regarding sunscreen products and to make sure that all such products do what they say on their labels: protect the public from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

New Rules of UV Rays

Here’s a summary of the new rules:

  • To be labeled “broad spectrum,” a sunscreen must protect against both UV-A and UV-B rays. Both types of ultraviolet light damage the skin, leading to wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of premature skin aging, as well as skin cancer.
  • A sunscreen that is not broad spectrum or that has an SPF value of less than 15 must have a warning label saying that it doesn’t protect against skin aging or skin cancer.
  • No longer can a sunscreen be labeled with the words “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” or “sunblock.” Instead, the product can only use the word “water-resistant,” and it must tell consumers how often it must be reapplied to remain effective.
  • A sunscreen can no longer have an SPF value of greater than 50. High SPF numbers are misleading. Research has shown that products with such numbers do not provide that much more protection than those with a value of 15.
  • If you have any questions about sunscreens, talk with your dermatologist.

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