THE QUESTION Lathering on sunscreen before beach outings, golf games and other outdoor activities has become second nature to most people as a way of fending off sunburn and skin cancer. But might applying sunscreen every day also keep the skin from aging prematurely?
THIS STUDY randomly assigned 903 adults, 24 to 55 years old, to use sunscreen (SPF 15+) every day or to use it whenever they wanted. Participants in the daily-use group applied sunscreen every morning to their head, neck, arms and hands and reapplied it after heavy sweating or bathing and whenever they spent more than a few hours outside. Skin examinations at the start of the study and 41 / 2 years later revealed 24 percent less visible aging — based on such criteria as skin coarseness, wrinkling and patchy pigmentation — among those who used sunscreen daily compared with the others, regardless of age.
WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? Adults who spend any time outdoors. Although skin ages naturally as people grow older, those effects generally are not visible till after age 55. The sun’s ultraviolet rays affect the skin in similar ways, but the effects — called photoaging — show up earlier in life.
CAVEATS Ross Cosmetics, an Australian company that makes the sunscreen used in the study, contributed to its funding.
FIND THIS STUDY June 4 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine
The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.