The Aging effects of the sun

Age Me Fan, Emily James tells discusses how Age Me can be used in Educating people about the effects of the sun.


Everyone looks forward to the summertime. Bathing in the warmth of the sun after months of cold weather is one of the pleasures of life – and best of all, it’s absolutely free. The vitamin D in sunlight is even good for us in small doses – it is sometimes claimed that nature intended us to soak up the rays, since 90 percent of our vitamin D comes from sunlight. However, sunlight can also be extremely damaging to our health if we are exposed for an excessive amount of time. It is vitally important to understand the risks of sun exposure.

Sun exposure prematurely ages skin. UV rays damage the elastin in skin, causing it to sag and wrinkle, losing its elasticity. The skin of the neck and face, which are the most exposed, feel the full effect of sun exposure, becoming wrinkled, leathery and blotched. This effect cannot be seen immediately, but will certainly make itself known within 10 or 20 years. Excessive sun exposure, even as a teenager or young adult, has a negative effect in later life.

Another common visual effect of excessive sun exposure is discoloration of the skin. Liver spots or age spots, darkened blemishes which appear on the skin as we age, are caused by sun damage. This is caused by the same enzyme which repairs the collagen in skin. In excessive quantities – which are produced when skin is exposed to sunlight for a long period of time – it actually damages the collagen in skin and causes skin to age more rapidly. Age spots are especially prevalent in fair-skinned people, who are more susceptible to visual signs of premature aging.

Some ill-effects of sunlight are more well-known than others; extreme sunlight exposure increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. Sunburn, UV exposure and excessive sun exposure during childhood all increase the likelihood of a person developing skin cancer. Sun exposure also increases the chances of cataracts and can even lead to blindness – a risk which can be reduced or prevented by wearing UV-protected contacts or sunglasses.

Some of these visual signs of skin damage are considered to be a normal part of growing old. In fact, up to 90 percent of what is considered as ‘natural aging’ is actually caused by sun damage. With due caution and protection such as the use of sunscreen and by wearing clothes which cover the skin, a large proportion of visible aging can be delayed or prevented.

Since much of this damage can only be seen once it is too late (although people who have been excessively exposed to sunlight may start showing signs of aging in their 20s) it is sometimes hard to comprehend the dangers. Software such as Age Me can be a useful tool to demonstrate the effects of sun damage.

Here on this site, Age Me is product from AprilAge which allows people to upload a photograph and see what their faces will look like in 10, 20 or 30 years. The software allows people to see how sun damage will accelerate the aging process, comparing an aged face without sun damage to a face of the same age with sun damage. This demonstrates how much sun damage affects the skin, causing premature wrinkling, leathery texture and appearance, discoloration and age spots.

Age Me is often used as an educational tool to warn people about the risks they are creating for themselves by spending too much time in the sun unprotected. It enables people to look at their future selves and appreciate how much unseen damage they are doing to their skin. This potentially encourages people to limit their exposure to sunlight and take necessary precautions when out in the sun.