We know the drill: slip, slop, slap; avoid sun exposure between 10am and 2pm; reapply as necessary.
But no matter how religious we think we are about sun protection, it would appear it isn’t enough: a new study by dermatologists at Monash University has found that Australian women appear to be ageing as much as two decades faster than women in Europe and the US.
The study, shared with smh.com.au, found that “high UV levels put Australians at particular risk of photoageing, especially when combined with Australians’ traditional outdoor, sun-seeking lifestyle and a predominantly fair-skinned population.”
And because we’re lucky enough to be able to spend time outside all year around, unlike our freezing cold Northern Hemisphere counterparts, our cumulative sun exposure is far greater.
But now for the good news: while the study, which compared the faces of 1472 Caucasian and Asian women from Australia, Canada, the UK and US, found sun exposure to be the main cause of ageing, alcohol wasn’t found to have any major impact.
Thank you, science.
Smoking, on the other hand, was found to have a huge effect.
But back to the sun. “The most significant part of this study for me was that, compared to the US, we seem to be losing weight in our face volume and face – which is a surrogate for ageing – much quicker than they are,” the study’s lead author, Associate Professor Greg Goodman, told smh.com.au.
“It was scary that the average Australian was at least 10 years, and in some cases, 20 years worse off volumetrically.”
He attributes this as a sign that, while we may be vigilant with sunscreen, we tend to over-stay our welcome outdoors. Don’t assume that following the slip, slop, slap rule gives you a free pass to bake all day - even if we’re not getting burnt, we’re still exposed to ageing UVA rays, which are at dangerous levels all day long and can penetrate glass.
The take-home message? “The most important thing to think of is what we’re not doing – things like shade and clothing and keeping out of the sun,” says Goodman.
This article previously appeared on marie claire.