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What is Photoaging - Causes and Preventions?

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What is photoaging?

Photoaging is premature skin aging caused by over exposure to the sun’s rays.

When skin ages prematurely it develops signs of aging faster than one would expect. Research shows that up to 90% of all symptoms of premature skin aging are caused by UV

1 Ramos-e-Silva et al., ‘Anti-aging cosmetics: Facts and controversies’. Clin Dermatol. 2013 Nov-Dec; 31(6): 750-8.

What causes photoaging?

sun ray penetrating skin
Preamutre skin aging caused by the sun’s rays

Over exposure to the sun is the main cause of premature aging in skin which is known as photoaging. The sun’s UVA rays are primarily responsible, but high-energy visible (HEVIS) light can also cause the oxidative stress that damages cellular DNA. As a result, skin starts to form wrinkles, sag and develop pigmentation issues before its time. Ensuring skin is properly protected year-round, and using superior sun care products, can help to prevent photoaging.

The photons in sun’s UVB rays are absorbed by skin cells and cause direct damage to cellular DNA. UVB is what causes our skin to burn in the sun and the direct DNA damage can also lead to skin diseases including skin cancer.

While this direct DNA damage plays a part in the photoaging of skin, it’s the sun’s UVA rays that are the main cause of premature aging in skin. UVA rays also damage cellular DNA, but they do so indirectly: they trigger the formation of free radicals and it’s these free radicals that damage our DNA in a process known as oxidative stress. Recent research has also shown that high-energy visible (HEVIS) light rays contribute to the premature aging of skin, though to a much lesser extent than UVA. Read more in How the sun’s UVA, UVB and HEVIS light rays affect skin.

UVA rays are less intense than UVB, but they are 30 to 50 times more prevalent and are present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year so it is important to apply sun protection on a daily basis, and all-year-round, to prevent long-term damage. We also recommend that you look out for sun care products that include protection from HEVIS light.

What is the difference between general skin aging and premature skin aging?

woman with photoaging
The rate at which our skin ages is determined by both internal and external factors
effects of premature aging
Excessive exposure to the sun causes premature aging.
photoaging skin
Aging skin loses volume and develops wrinkles.

As skin ages, it changes:

  • The collagen and elastin responsible for the plumpness of youthful skin deplete skin starts to lose volume and sag and it develops fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Skin is less able to attract and retain the moisture it needs and skin’s own production of Natural Moisturizing Factors depletes. It becomes drier.
  • It can develop uneven pigmentation (a condition known as dyspigmentation or hyperpigmentation) and solar lentigines (more commonly known as age spots or sun spots ).

You can find out more in How does skin change over the years?

There are two types of skin aging − intrinsic and extrinsic:

Intrinsic aging

As we age, so does our skin. This type of aging is entirely natural and there’s nothing we can do about it. It is known as intrinsic (or chronological) aging. Intrinsic aging is brought about by internal factors such as our genetics and the hormonal changes that happen at the different stages of life.

Extrinsic aging

Extrinsic aging, on the other hand, is controllable. Extrinsic aging is brought about by external factors such as the environment (weather conditions and sun exposure), lifestyle choices (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) and medication. These factors can cause skin to age prematurely.

Clinical studies

A UV camera can reveal sun-induced skin damage before it is visible to the human eye.

How can I protect my skin from photoaging?

woman touching face
Help prevent photoaging by wearing sun protection even on cloudy days
sun direct on person
Superior sun protection can help to prevent photoaging
sunserum photoaging
Eucerin’s Advanced Spectral technology protects skin from photoaging

The best way to protect skin from photoaging is to limit the time spent in the sun, avoid it during its most intense hours, wear protective clothing and apply a superior sun protection
product that offers the level of protection that your skin needs. We also recommend that you use sun protection products that have been specially formulated to suit your skin type and condition. As the face, hands and décolleté are more exposed to the sun than the rest of the body these areas need specific and consistent year-round protection to help reduce visible signs of aging.


All face and body sunscreens in the Eucerin sun protection range for adults include Eucerin’s Advanced Spectral Technology which combines broadband and photostable UVA/UVB filters1 for superior UV protection with Licochalcone A , a powerful antioxidant which works to neutralize the free radicals caused by UV and HEVIS light

If photoaging is your primary skin concern try:

In addition to Eucerin’s Advanced Spectral Technology the products contain Glycyrrhetinic Acid which supports skin’s own DNA repair mechanism and Hyaluronic Acidwhich visibly reduces signs of aging. The tinted products also contain color pigments that help to cover uneven pigmentation and instantly unify the complexion.

If you already have pigmentation concerns such as sun or age spots , the Spotless Brightening range is clinically proven to be effective at fading them and preventing their reappearance.

You can read more about how to minimize the risks of exposure, how to choose the right sun protection products for your skin and how best to apply them in our sun protection articles.

1 Meeting the highest standards for UVA and UVB protection as defined by Cosmetics Europe. The levels of UVA protection are higher than the EU

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