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Accelerated Skin Aging and The Sun

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  • - LYDIA OUCHENE
  • - M.D.C.M CANDIDATE
  • - MCGILL UNIVERSITY

ACCELERATED SKIN AGING AND THE SUN

Why does this man's face look asymmetrical? Indeed, the left side of his face is different from his right side. Surely, it looks older. No, this image is not photoshopped! So, what could explain his look? This man was a truck driver for 28 years. How is it related to his skin? In fact, on sun-exposed skin, up to 90% of skin aging is due to ultraviolet rays emitted by the sun. This man had his left side directly facing the sunlight while he was driving all this time. Notice how ultraviolet rays (UVR), especially ultraviolet A, can penetrate through window glass and directly affect the skin! When the skin is exposed to UVR, it looses its elasticity causing wrinkles. In contrast, the other side of his face was not facing the sun and was therefore protected from UV rays! Following the publication of this case in the New England Journal of Medicine similar studies were done in Australia confirming that there aging is accelerated on the right side of the face of the drivers. This photo really illustrates how neglecting sun protection can impact your appearance!

img I often joke with patients saying, ‘If you want prominent deep seated wrinkles on your face mixed with photoaging spots – go ahead and soak in all the sun you can. This will age your in in a hurry – explains Dr. Ivan Litvinov, Director of Dermatology Research at McGill University. img

Dr. Ivan Litvinov

img Sun protection is key for a younger-looking skin”, says Dr. Netchiporouk, a certified dermatologist at McGill University. img

Dr. Netchiporouk
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If you were to guess, you would probably think that these two photos are of the same women at different ages - the right one being probably the most recent. Yet, these women are exactly the same age: they are identical twins!! Why is the skin of the woman on the right looking much older and more damaged than the left ?

This is because she has more wrinkles, frown lines, liver/age spots and skin discoloration than her twin sister! How is it possible that two twins have such a different look despite having the same genetic background? In fact, the sisters have lived in different areas and the one at the right was more exposed to sun during her life.

The sister on the left reported that she always avoided the sun, whereas the sister on the right was used to sunbathing. Over time, repeated sun exposure has caused permanent skin damage such as brown spots, wrinkles and skin thinning. This premature skin aging is often called "photoaging". While the natural aging process is dependent on time and genetics; photoaging can be avoided with good habits, sun avoidance and sun protection. How do I know if my skin on the face is sun damaged or just aged? “The answer is very simple”, explains Dr. Litvinov. “Simply compare the coloration, wrinkles and texture of your skin on the belly near the umbilicus (or for women under the breasts) to the skin on your face. This quick test works well for most of my patients. Our belly and skin under the breasts are often well protected from the sun in most cases. It is still subject to gravity and other aging forces. Most difference between this sun protected skin and the skin on the face will be due to sun exposure,” adds Dr. Litvinov.