"Photoaging or the changes induced by chronic UV exposure is responsible for accelerating the skin's aging process," said Marian Northington, M.D, director of UAB Cosmetic Dermatology.

"The No. 1 way people can prevent photoaging is wearing a 30-plus SPF sunscreen, one that contains zinc oxide, every day," Northington said. If it is too late, and the sun has already done its damage, or for people who are older, there are ways to diminish the signs of aging.

"Using an over-the-counter cream with retinol, which is a vitamin A derivative, can decrease the risk of skin cancer and improve skin pigmentation and abnormalities. It will also increase collagen content to help with lines and wrinkles," Northington said.

Northington said studies have shown some dermatologic skin-improvement methods have benefits beyond an improved appearance. Josh Klapow, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Public Health and a psychologist, echoes this notion.

"Outward appearance can have a significant impact on a person's self-esteem, so 'looking better' both in one's own eyes and in the eyes of others can add to self-esteem," Klapow said.


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