Sunscreen: Man’s Life-Saving Beauty Cream

Sunscreen: Man’s Life-Saving Beauty Cream

We all know that sunscreen wards against melanomas, but it can also slow down the ageing process. An Australian scientific study has discovered that people who slip-slop-slap have 24 per cent less skin ageing than people who only use sunscreen occasionally.

Sunscreen picture from Shutterstock

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) studied the effects of sun exposure on 900 young and middle-aged men and women over four and a half years.

Half of the participants regularly used SPF15+ sunscreen on their face, arms and hands while the other half used sunscreen as they would normally (including not at all). Silicone moulds were taken from the backs of all participants’ hands to grade the damage over the course of the study.

The researchers found that people who applied broad spectrum sunscreen daily had no detectable ageing of the skin. Meanwhile, those who only used sunscreen occasionally showed 24 per cent more skin ageing (based on visible deterioration in skin texture).

“This has been one of those beauty tips you often hear quoted, but for the first time we can back it with science: protecting yourself from skin cancer by using sunscreen regularly has the added bonus of keeping you looking younger,” the research team’s leader Professor Adele Green said.

“The study also shows that up to middle age, it’s not too late to make a difference.”

The study concludes that regular sunscreen use by young and middle-aged adults younger than 55 years can retard skin aging, which health bodies would be wise to capitalise on.

“These results have important clinical implications. A reduction in the highly prevalent aging changes among middle aged adults by regular application of sunscreen will therefore be associated with cosmetic benefit (prevention of visible aging changes and hence more youthful appearance) and reduced risk for skin cancer.”

Sunscreen and Prevention of Skin Aging: A Randomized Trial [Annals of Internal Medicine]


  • * Though further studies show inconclusive evidence as to whether the nanoparticles generally used in strong sunblocks can enter the body through the skin or as to what the potential effects of that may be.

    • Let me shut down your ignorance comprehensively. As you have very professionally quoted an unrelated statement which is very out of date; I will help to correct you.

      Concerns about nano-sunscreens were first raised when a 2008 BlueScope Steel report stated that metal oxide nanoparticles in some sunscreens were capable of bleaching painted surfaces of coated steel. But this is a completely different type of exposure to nano sunscreen, which is formulated to remain on the skin’s surface.

      Many scientific studies have shown that nanoparticles don’t readily penetrate human skin. A landmark 2010 Australian study showed that there was little difference between nano or bulk zinc oxide sunscreens because of the negligible amount absorbed into the body (less than 0.01% of the applied dose).

      Nano zinc oxide (ZnO) in sunscreen has been extensively and repeatedly assessed for safety by regulatory authorities around the world, and is widely accepted as being safe to use in sunscreens.

      In September 2012, the European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety, “concluded on the basis of available evidence that the use of ZnO nanoparticles … at a concentration up to 25% as a UV-filter in sunscreens, can be considered not to pose a risk of adverse effects in humans after dermal application.”

      The committee also said that using lipstick or other lip products didn’t pose a risk, but that nano zinc oxide sunscreens shouldn’t be used in spray-on form because of the potential risk of inhalation.

      So in summary, unless you’re trying to eat your spray on sunscreen; you will be fine.

  • [ Er sorry, forgot to hit reply – @PaulWright ]
    For your record, ignorance means “Lack of knowledge or information”, not “adding additional potentially (read on) relevant information to the state of research”..

    For reference:

    To quote (I have bolded the most relevant parts for you, so as to ensure you see my point)
    To date, our assessment, drawing on the best available evidence, is that nanoparticles used in sunscreens do not pose a risk. However, we continue to monitor research and welcome any new research that sheds more light on this topic.

    They go on to back up their assertion with:
    The potential for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens to cause adverse effects depends primarily upon the ability of the nanoparticles to reach viable skin cells; and
    To date, the current weight of evidence suggests that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells

    However, they then add the addendum:
    In the manufacturing process used to produce microfine particles, some particles can inadvertently be ground smaller, ending up being classified as nano-sized. Manufacturers advise this is a small percentage of the total, generally less than one per cent

    .. To which my reply would be, “how many does it take to be a risk over a persons lifetime, given there’s research that suggests that such particles may NEVER leave the body”. To which the CSIRO would presumably correctly reply “While research is ongoing and long term effects may not be known, current evidence suggests that average use of these products will not have a significant effect during the average lifespan” or something to that effect.

    To conclude:
    1. I don’t necessarily disagree with you.

    2. Adding theories based on a section of what is (in terms of generational research) a very new research issue (consumer nano particles), can not really by definition be ignorant. In such situations (especially in medicine/health, where major theories flip flop fairly regularly and where effects can be hard to observe and really need long term statistical analysis to quantify effectively, it can actually be quite ignorant to read one point of view and consider that the ‘correct’ research. It may be, or it may not.

    3. You think you are doing science. But you’re actually hurting progress by speaking in absolutes when in reality the absolute is, as the CSIRO rather aptly put it, merely the current “weight of evidence”. Do science a favour, and keep an open mind – even if you think people are wrong.

  • Let me start by saying that your argument is well reasoned; and that I should like to retract my assumption of your ignorance, your depth of understanding is far greater than your initial comment suggested.

    Firstly I would dissagree that this is in any way a ‘new research issue’. The existence and manipulation of nanoparticles in the human body is a well studied area, with many detection tests for metastatic carenoma employing use of this technology (for lack of a better word)

    I would like to address first your assertion that these nano particle may never leave the body:
    There is little evidence that these particles stay in your body forever, even less for the idea that they cause long term harm; and the body of knowlegde on which that fact stands is far, far weaker than that of the other side.

    Recently a research team has investigated the worst-case scenario by examining what human skin and immune cells would do if they happened to directly encounter inorganic sunscreen nanoparticles. They found that zinc oxide nanoparticles are as well tolerated as zinc ions and conventional organic chemical sunscreens in human cell test systems.

    They published a scientific paper identifying the zinc-containing nanoparticles that form immediately when dissolved zinc ions are added to cell culture media and pure serum. Their work suggests that these nanoparticles may actually play a part in natural zinc transport within the body.

    Not all nanoparticles behave in the same way biologically, nor are all of them potentially hazardous. Indeed, many engineered nanoparticles are designed with both function and safety in mind. The substance that the nanoparticle is made from is of vital importance in any hazard assessment. And nano zinc oxide has been thoroughly assessed for safety when used in sunscreens and in lip products.

    It seems that you fail to understand the essential process that scientific work undergoes; and what indeed ‘facts’ really are. What we consider ‘truths’ are only true as long as we have evidence to support them- it is the evidence that determines the truth.
    I speak of absolutes because these facts are proven correct so many times that we can consider them to be true. The current weight of evidence shows that there is no danger to the individual from these nanoparticles; and you are right, even with all the evidence behind it – it is possible to be wrong.

    But you cannot ignore such a massive wealth of scientific evidence; and spread fear where there need be none.
    Let me quote that CSIRO page you refer to:

    “To date, our assessment, drawing on the best available evidence, is that nanoparticles used in sunscreens do not pose a risk”

    “To date, the current weight of evidence suggests that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells; rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin that is composed of non-viable cells.”

    “To date, the current weight of evidence suggests that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells; rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin that is composed of non-viable cells.”

    “There is no credible evidence that sunscreens containing nanoparticles pose a health risk.”

    A simple search through any university database of journal articles will produce hundreds of reports confirming the same. Primarily because this is exactly where the cancer council gets its research; aside from those it does itself; from the wider scientific community.

    The reason I have such a problem with you bringing up this idea of the danger of nanoparticles is not that you are (legitimately) curious about the scientific debate; but I take issue with your implication that your point is somehow equally as valid as the entirety of the scientific communities research.

    Sunscreen is THE most effective method of prevention of the most common cancer in the Australia, one that kills many people; and costs families hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat.

    To attempt to diminish its benefits and to suggest that it is harmful; when every piece of scientific literature says the otherwise; I consider very dangerous and reckless.

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