If you won’t go outside without SPF 50, long sleeves, an umbrella, and a sun hat, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back: The American Academy of Dermatology has officially decreed that women who avoid the sun can look up to 20 years younger than their sun bunny counterparts.
Harvard University, in partnership with Olay, surveyed the lifestyles of more than 200 women of all ages, taking into account their water consumption, sleeping and exercise habits, and how much time they spent in the sun. Of those variables, the study found that only keeping out of the sun (and wearing sunscreen when that wasn’t possible) made a difference. So all those times models have told us that staying hydrated is their key to eternal youth? Nope.
But there’s a catch. Just guarding yourself against the sun’s “high-intensity” rays by not, say, lying out in the summer or foolishly going on a three-hour bike ride in June sans protection (been there, done that), isn’t going to cut it. In fact, it’s the constant low-level exposure we incur on the day-to-day that’s actually more detrimental to the skin. If you disregard sunscreen unless you’re hitting the beach, your daily walk to the subway or your coveted seat next to the window in your office is actually the very factor that’s going to do you in.
So there you have it: Wear sunscreen every day, and drink as much water as your body needs, not how much you think you need based on how much Victoria’s Secret models say you need. Dr. Alexa Kimball, professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, says that the simple tweak of including a solid level of UV protection in your daily skin-care routine can turn you into an “exceptional skin ager.” If only everything could be so simple.