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Ask the Doctor: What can I do to help minimize my wrinkles?

Q. I love to soak in the sun and get a nice tan, which makes me look healthier. However, over the years I’ve acquired a few wrinkles, which I’m not so crazy about. Is there anything I can do to minimize them?

A. As you know, prolonged exposure to the sun can result in premature wrinkles. In addition, age, sex, skin type, geographic location, skin pigmentation, genetics, and total duration of sun exposure throughout life all play a role in how our skin ages. Studies have shown sun exposure induces skin aging in up to 80% to 90% of Europeans and North Americans.

There is one prescription medication—tretinoin (Retin-A, Renova)—that has been scientifically tested and shown to reduce wrinkles. A double-blind clinical trial suggested that 0.1% tretinoin cream applied every night can improve skin damage from sun exposure. Laser resurfacing and chemical peels performed by skin care physicians are other, more expensive, approaches.

Although we all want to avoid wrinkles, age spots, and other cosmetic signs of aging, avoiding sun exposure is even more important for women with fair complexions, who are not only more vulnerable to sun- induced skin aging, but are also at greater risk for sun- induced skin cancer. The best answer to sun-induced skin damage is prevention—protecting your skin from the sun—which includes avoiding too much sun exposure, applying sunscreen diligently, and wearing appropriate protective clothing. The sun’s most harmful rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.—an important fact to keep in mind when you step out into the sun.

— Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Posted by: Dr.Health

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