Asian woman with long hair wearing a lime green shirt, smiling under the sun.

Sunscreen is integral to any skincare regimen and is known for its protective function against ultraviolet rays. Dermatologists recommend it to everybody, from babies to the elderly. Beauty enthusiasts even deem it the fountain of youth – the only true anti-aging product that works. But if it keeps you from developing wrinkles, what are the benefits of sunscreen to those who already show signs of aging? Here’s what the experts have to say.

What Are the Characteristics of Aging Skin?

According to experts from the Unilever R&D team, there are two types of skin aging: intrinsic or chronological aging and extrinsic or photoaging. Intrinsic aging is a function of time and nature. It’s an inevitable physiological process. On the surface, it results in fine lines, wrinkles, dry skin, sagging from loss of fat and muscle, thinning of the epidermis, and reduced skin elasticity.

Meanwhile, extrinsic aging is a product of environmental factors and lifestyle. These include air pollution, poor nutrition, and unhealthy habits such as smoking. One type of extrinsic aging is photoaging – when long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays prematurely ages the skin.

A 2018 in the Cell Transplantation Journal notes that areas of the body can age differently. Your inner arm can have intrinsic aging, but exposed areas, such as the tops of your hands, can have extrinsic aging. While the former is inevitable, you can slow it down using effective anti-aging products. The latter, on the other hand, can be avoided by – you guessed it – using sunscreen.

What Is the Role of Sunscreen in Preventing Skin Aging?

The study above notes that exposure to ultraviolet radiation accounts for 80% of facial aging. Chronic exposure to the sun’s UV rays can make your skin rough, wrinkled, and pigmented. Instead of thinning like intrinsically aged skin, the epidermis thickens and becomes dull and leathery.

, which have a longer wavelength and penetrate deeper into the dermis, are the primary cause of photoaging. A 2021 in the Americal Journal of Clinical Dermatology states that although they are lower in energy than UVB rays, “UVA is approximately 20 times more prevalent in the atmosphere and is not blocked by glass.” prevent these unwanted skin changes by absorbing or blocking UV rays.

The benefits of an SPF 50 (or higher) sunscreen include preventing photoaging or extrinsic aging caused by cumulative sun exposure. Wondering how to apply sunscreen? According to Unilever, you need two fingers' length of sunscreen with broad-range UVA and UVB filters each time you apply (ideally every two hours).

Can Sunscreen Reverse Aging?

This is what every skincare enthusiast dreams of. While some show how sunscreen can help visibly reverse existing photodamage, they are few and far between. Moreover, certain products contain additives such as antioxidants and photolyases (enzymes that repair UV-damaged DNA). These can help reverse signs of photoaging; however, the topic remains controversial and requires further experimentation.

Sunscreens are preventive and generally do not reverse skin aging. However, do not stop using it once you see a few lines on your forehead. By preventing UV rays from reaching the skin, they can slow the process down and keep your skin as smooth as it is now. Women of all skin types and ages can reap the benefits of sunscreen with daily use.

POND'S UV Bright Sunscreen is an example of a sunscreen product with added benefits. It’s broad-spectrum, so it protects you from UVA and UVB rays. At SPF 50, it offers effective coverage and prevents dullness and uneven skin tone.

Together with products that target general signs of aging, you may be able to remove pigmentation, increase plumpness, and rehydrate your skin. It’s a combination of the benefits of sunscreen, a consistent skincare routine, and a healthy lifestyle. Be patient and keep at it!