In the UK, the summer is a time to be cherished. For a fleeting few weeks every year, the clouds part and the sun is there for all to see. After the long, dark winters, and disappointingly damp springs, it’s hardly surprising that we head out in our droves to soak up the sun’s rays while we can. And, while all this UV light might be incredibly good for the soul, it’s not quite so good for your skin or collagen levels.
The skin is much more than just a protective barrier. It’s an organ with a surface area of between 16 and 22 square feet, which regulates temperature and the excretion of metabolic waste, and has receptors for pain, tactile sensation and pressure. One of the essential parts of the skin and the area just below it is collagen, which for healthy skin is essential.
Skin is also central to the social and aesthetic experience. The appearance of the skin reflects the lifestyle and health of an individual, as well as the health of other organs. In addition to being a reflection of internal health, the skin is also affected by external influences, such as smoke, pollution and exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The result of overexposure to any of these influences is the deterioration of the skin’s appearance and function.
What damage can UV radiation do?
Ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB are responsible for 90 percent of the symptoms of premature skin aging. Many of the skin changes we once attributed to aging, such as wrinkling, dryness, blotchiness and easy bruising are largely the result of exposure to UV radiation, yet despite this, more than a third of adults still choose to sunbathe.
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation damages fibres in the skin called elastin. As these fibres are broken down, the skin loses its ability to snap back into shape after stretching, causing sagging and leading to the formation of wrinkles.
The sun’s effect on collagen
Collagen is central to the elasticity of the skin. Along with elastic fibres and hyaluronic acid, collagen provides the very foundation our skin is built on. Sunlight damages the collagen fibres in the skin causing it to breakdown at a faster rate. A study into the collagen alterations in sun-damaged skin found the total collagen content of sun-damaged skin was 20 percent less than skin which had not been damaged by the sun.
Sunlight causes the accumulation of abnormal elastin, which in turn results in the production of large quantities of metalloproteinases. Normally, metalloproteinases aid the recovery of sun-damaged skin by producing and reforming collagen. However, the production of large quantities of metalloproteinases can reduce their effectiveness and cause collagen to be broken down. The result of the repetition of this imperfect rebuilding process is the development of wrinkles.
Many consumers are focusing on collagen
At the age of around 30, the rate at which the body produces collagen and elastin starts to slow. As we continue to grow older, the body’s ability to produce collagen continues to decline. When these naturally falling collagen levels combine with skin that has already been damaged by the skin, the result is the loss of moisture, the development of fine wrinkles and reduced elasticity.