As the years go by, our skin also picks up the signs of the passage of time and sun exposure. That is why it is important to pamper and take care of it. I’ll tell you what photoaging is and how you can prevent and improve it.
Don’t you have more spots now than when you were younger? I, for example, after being on birth control for a few years and pregnancies, spend all winter treating my skin blemishes that become much more pronounced again in the summer. But worst of all, no one told me when I was in my twenties that all the wild things I did under the sun (Nivea included) were going to take their toll on me now that I’m on my way to 40.
How important it is that we teach our children to protect themselves from the sun while enjoying the outdoors. And how important it is to make this care a daily routine both in winter and summer, indoors and outdoors (watch out for screens and blue light).
I hope that this post will make you curious and that you will start taking care of one of the most important organs of our body: the SKIN.
According to the article Photoaging by Anna L. Chien, Sewon Kang, Craig A. Elmets and Rosamaria Corona photoaging is the “premature aging of the skin as a result of prolonged and repeated exposure to solar radiation and other environmental factors.”
These changes go hand in hand with natural aging and are the cause of many age-related skin alterations.
Being an action produced mainly by solar radiation, constant exposure to the sun is one of the predominant factors. In addition, age, fair skin and residence in areas with a high level of solar radiation are conditioning factors that will favor the appearance of photoaging.
Different studies have proven that the signs of this change in the skin are stronger in fair-skinned populations than in dark-skinned people whose effects begin to be noticed at older ages.
The dermal extracellular matrix is a complex network of various macromolecules, including collagen and elastic fibers, glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans, which provide strength and resilience to the skin (Chien et al., 2022). If you expose your skin to the sun for long periods of time, the integrity of the structure of this capillary network is lost and existing proteins in the collagen deteriorate until they cause the well-known wrinkles.
The sun’s UVA and UVB rays are mainly involved in the process of skin degeneration. And not only this type of radiation, visible light, which accounts for 40% of solar radiation, also attacks the dermal matrix, so special care and protective measures should be taken when exposed to the sun.
Environmental factors: it has been proven that the conditions of the environment in which we live are also key to skin photoaging. Air pollution with particles such as lead, soot or nitrogen oxygen from car fumes also causes deterioration of the skin layers. The same happens with tobacco smoke, if we are smokers constant harmful particles will go not only to our lungs, but also to our skin.
Artificial blue radiation from screens: found in most electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, tablets, televisions and even in some LED bulbs. Although it is true that this light has a lower radiation than ultraviolet rays, it has been proven that a long exposure (as most people have nowadays due to the continuous use of technologies) causes oxidative stress. The consequences of this situation are the destruction of the skin’s collagen fibers, again causing less firmness and the appearance of wrinkles. People who tend to develop more photoaging due to this cause are those with darker skin because their cells tend to produce more melanin. The physical symptoms are mostly the appearance of hyperpigmentation of the skin.
The main changes caused by photoaging that you will notice are:
These effects may vary depending on age, geographic location, gender, and conditions and lifestyle. In addition, they must be clinically diagnosed by a professional. Depending on the severity and conditions of these factors, the procedure of action and type of treatment is decided.
According to Anna L. Chien, Sewon Kang, Craig A. Elmets and Rosamaria Corona other severe damage caused by photoaging are:
But what would this blog be without talking about what our genitals can suffer as a result of photoaging.
Remember that both the mons pubis and the external face of the labia majora have a very similar structure to the skin of the rest of the body. Until years ago, fashion dictated beauty standards in which hair removal of the external genitalia was limited to the bikini line, but this has changed and now the most common is to find vulvas completely devoid of hair. These vulvae are more exposed to any type of damage, including that produced by solar radiation.
This, together with factors such as the type of hair removal, friction, skin contact with menstruation and absorbents, as well as metabolopathies such as diabetes (acanthosis nigricans), chronic inflammation among others cause accelerated photoaging of our genital area and the appearance of changes in coloration with spots, wrinkles, loss of turgor, and ultimately, a more aged appearance of our vulva.
They are those changes that occur in the lower layers of the skin and that cannot be observed with the naked eye, such as the decrease of collagen in the skin, elimination of epidermal ridges, epidermal atrophy and the appearance of rare epidermal cells.
Various methods are used to improve the consequences of photoaging, which we will see below, although all of them depend on the economic possibilities, the severity of the skin changes and the patient’s own intentions.
The first advice is patient education for year-round sun protection with high-spectrum sunscreen and protective clothing.
After an analysis of the effects on the skin, i.e., a visit to the dermatologist at least once a year, topical medications are prescribed. among which are the topical retinoids (to me personally are those prescribed by my dermatologist, although they are not suitable for all skin types because they are irritating and have to prescribe the concentration and frequency adapted to your needs) which are natural substances related to vitamin A. They should not be applied to women seeking pregnancy or pregnant women.
In addition to the above, other types of therapies can be incorporated to help improve the skin. You can also include cosmeceuticals (I am a big fan of this type of treatment, and if it can be done in a targeted way after an analysis of your basal state of vitamins and minerals, so much the better) which are substances such as antioxidants or vitamins that are incorporated in some cosmetic products or can even be taken orally.
Other options to consider are: chemical peels to remove defined layers of skin (I usually have one a year around December, which leaves the skin beautiful and very even), topical fluorouracil which results in dermal remodeling, and photodynamic therapy to improve the appearance of wrinkles and skin blemishes.
They are also often used as a complement to the above and have been shown to have a positive effect on the signs of photoaging. They are:
Our vulva must also be treated to prevent accelerated aging caused by solar radiation.
Generally, I recommend to my patients specific sunscreens for the genital area (yes, that’s right, there are some) and apply them when we are going to expose ourselves to the sun. Generally, there are also fabrics that can prevent the passage of the sun’s rays, but they do not usually match in price or design.
On the other hand, in consultation, we make a specific study of the patient’s skin. And different treatments are evaluated in order to treat this photoaging.
Generally, I accompany any treatment with a guide of lifestyle recommendations, as well as a specific study to know what type of supplementation would suit my patient to combine with the proposed treatment.
Targeted mesotherapies, genital cosmetic lightening and energy-based techniques are just a few ways we have to address all the damage that solar radiation can do to our genitals.
The best way to prevent the signs of photoaging is to use high-spectrum sunscreens, regardless of your skin color or type, EVERY DAY AT HOME AND OUTSIDE.
It should be taken into account that surfaces such as concrete or areas with a large amount of snow reflect ultraviolet rays more intensely, increasing the risk. Other recommendations are to use objects and clothing that cover the most delicate parts of the body to avoid solar radiation. Tight, dark, synthetic fabrics protect the body from the effects of radiation. I usually buy for the summer the swimsuit shirts, which traditionally we saw only tourists on our beaches and more and more locals use.
Now that you know what you need to know about photoaging, don’t hesitate! Come to our office and we can analyze your case in detail to improve the appearance of your skin.
Soy la doctora Bárbara Fernández del Bas, ginecóloga especialista en sexología, ginecología integrativa, funcional y medicina antienvejecimiento. Gracias a mi formación, la aproximación a mis pacientes siempre es de forma global. Soy consciente de que somos más que mamas, útero y ovarios. Somos un todo. Por eso, siempre busco los últimos avances científicos para ponerlos a disposición de toda mujer que los necesite