It's a no brainer: All-in-one wrinkle and cancer prevention

It's a no brainer: All-in-one wrinkle and cancer prevention
Vanity is a strong motivator of sunscreen use

For years, you have been told to use sunscreen regularly to prevent aging. Now there's research to back that up. The Wall Street Journal describes a study in the June 2013 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, demonstrating that people instructed to apply sunscreen every day showed 24 percent less skin aging, as measured by lines and coarseness of the skin, than those told to use the cream as they usually do.

The designers of the study had a hidden agenda: they expected that the results might appeal to your vanity, but their real goal is to prevent skin cancer. Though we have known for a long time that sunscreen might prevent skin aging, this study provides the first hard evidence. Large, randomized trials have not been done before simply because they're difficult to arrange and expensive.

The study, funded by the Australian government in anti-cancer initiative, included 903 adults younger than 55 living in Nambour, Australia, which is near the country's Sunshine Coast. Participants under 55 were chosen to guarantee that results didn't reflect the natural aging process. All study participants were given sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15+. Half were randomly to be instructed to apply the sunscreen daily to exposed areas, reapplying after water immersion, heavy sweating or several hours spent outdoors, while half were told to use it as they normally would.

By the end of the study 77 percent of those told to use sunscreen daily were using it at least three to four days a week, compared with 33 percent of the control group.

Here's how they did it
Researchers took silicone impressions of the backs of participants' hands at the beginning of the study and after 4.5 years. Evaluators then graded the patterns of lines and skin coarseness on the hand impressions on a scale of one to six. The damage seen on the surface of the skin reflects the tissue damage underneath the skin. Reduced skin damage from UV rays also translates to a lower risk of skin cancer.

What you need to know
• If you're young, your sunburn may put you at risk for skin cancer decades later.
• Buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen, protecting against both UVA and UVB ray that has an SPF of 30 or higher to reduce the risk of early skin aging and skin cancer. 
• Products claiming water resistance must say how long you can expect to get that protection while swimming or sweating, either 40 minutes or 80 minutes.
• Sunscreens can no longer be called "sunblocks" or be labeled as "waterproof" or "sweatproof."
• Finally, slather it on heavily.