This is my face in five years time if I stopped using SPF

Sun damage ageing
Lucia visited Dr Haus to predict what her skin would look like in three to five years without SPF - Geoff Pugh for the Telegraph

You would think that as a health and beauty journalist I now know that applying SPF 50 every day all over your face and neck is the single most effective thing you can do in terms of skin health. As well as the potential bonus of reducing wrinkles most importantly it also protects your from skin cancers. But shockingly only 22 per cent of people in the UK apply it every day. Unfortunately, I used to be one of those 78 per cent of people who aren’t as vigilant.

In a bid to hammer home the message that putting on sun cream is a crucial step in our daily skincare regime, I had a consultation with Dr Haus Dermatology in Harley Street to have my skin analysed using the latest Opatra skin imaging system. This analyses the subsurface of my 52-year-old skin and, combined with AI technology, predicts exactly what my skin could look like in the next three to five years if I don’t use SPF or any corrective skincare.

My first reaction to my predicted image was that I looked exactly like my late grandmother. My eyes in particular looked really wrinkly. And the marionette lines (running from mouth to chin) were very pronounced. On the plus side, I’ve always suffered from redness and a bit of rosacea which didn’t look as bad as I thought it may look.

I took the results to Dr Ophelia Veraitch, a consultant dermatologist, to assess the five-years-hence predicted images and explain where I’ve gone wrong in terms of skincare, what lies ahead and what, if anything, can be done to repair the damage.

“The most noticeable thing is you’re probably not wearing enough SPF on your eyelids,” is Dr Veraitch’s first comment, “and do you wear sunglasses every day?” She’s right. Despite having worn SPF every day for quite a few years, I realise that I don’t apply much – if any – to my eyelids as I don’t want it to make my contact lenses greasy. As for wearing sunglasses when it’s not sunny, that’s something I never do. “UVA rays are present every day of the year, even on a cloudy day in the city, so protecting your skin and eyes is crucial and something we should always be doing when outside, even when driving, as the UV rays penetrate through car windows,” says Dr Veraitch.

I also admit I probably don’t top-up my SPF as often as I should throughout the day, which she says is more crucial during the summer months when the burning UVB rays are present as well as the ageing UVA rays.

Skin damage
Lucia and Dr Haus examine her imaging results - Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph

Some of the dark areas of pigmentation under the eyes and on my nose on my predicted images are a result of sun damage over the years (I was a sunbed user in my teens) and most of my summers have been spent in Italy. Pigmentation patches can also be hormonal, and mine increased after both my pregnancies. Dr Veraitch goes on to say that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can make pigmentation worse for some people, but I have not noticed this since I began using Oestrogel (oestrogen hormone gel) two years ago.

The predicted redness on my cheeks and chin is likely to be a result of sun damage, but it is also very common in midlife to develop rosacea or just have increased skin sensitivity and I have noticed that you can suddenly become intolerant to a skin brand you’ve used for years.

So what can I do in terms of repairing this damage and help prevent future damage to my skin, both from the sun and the ageing process?


“The good news,” says Dr Veraitch, “is that applying SPF 50 every day all over your face and neck is the single most effective thing you can do in terms of skin health and preventing future wrinkles and all forms of skin ageing.”

Amy Ford, the owner of the SPF brand Hello Sunday, is campaigning to have the VAT removed on sunscreen. “The aim is to make high-quality sunscreen accessible to all. And with 16,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer each year in the UK, it seems a fitting time to do this.”

“Lines and wrinkles can be treated in a clinic with different injectables, depending on your area of concern,” Dr Veraitch explains. “Botox works well for forehead lines, and skin boosters such as Profhilo work well to plump out thinner, crepey skin on the neck, for example. But your skincare is a good place to start in order to get the skin into its best possible condition. Retinol remains one of the few clinically proven ingredients for treating lines and wrinkles, so look for brands that specialise in retinoids.”

Retinol is a type of retinoid, a catch-all for an array of vitamin A-based products used on skin. Brands such as Medik 8 and Invity have very good retinoid products which are tolerated well. And the new brand Alastin is getting excellent reviews for its collagen-boosting wrinkle-smoothing serums.

Redness and rosacea

“Certain lasers and IPL treatments can help get rid of redness or broken capillaries caused by rosacea,”says Dr Veraitch, “and recent studies from Harvard University show that use of a Fraxel laser can also lessen your risk of developing skin cancer by 55 per cent.”

One of the most effective anti-redness skincare products I’ve used is the Meder Beauty Red Apax range, from £18. New Polish brand Proxn is excellent for de-reddening sensitive skins, and also gives a noticeable radiant complexion boost and is wrinkle- smoothing too.


“Pigmentation patches can respond well to IPL treatments,” Dr Veraitch explains, “but there are many other options, such as in-clinic chemical peels or taking tranexamic acid orally as well as applying it topically. Ingredients to look for in skincare products which can work well are kojic acid, niacinamide, retinol and vitamin C.’

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic, £165, is pricey but is one of the most effective vitamin C products for helping fade and prevent pigment patches. Medik 8 C-tetra, £39 is also very good.

Hollowing at the temples

“As we age, we lose volume  at the sides of our forehead,” explains Dr Veraitch, and this can age the face. “Dermal filler is a quick and effective way to treat this issue if it bothers you. If done well, dermal filler injected into this area can provide a framework for the rest of the face, help with skin laxity and give the cheekbones a subtle lift.”

Under-eye darkness

“One of the most effective in-clinic treatments for treating darkness and lines around the eye area is injections of tiny amounts of polynucleotides,” says Dr Veraitch. “Polynucleotides are not fillers. They are injectable bio-stimulators, made from fragments of fish DNA which mirror human DNA to kickstart our cells to produce more of our own elastin and collagen. They are popular as patients say they naturally enhance skin quality as opposed to changing your appearance, which some fillers can do.”

Skin laxity

“Skin laxity – in other words, sagging skin – particularly around the midface and jawline, can respond well to radio frequency treatments,” says Dr Veraitch. “Radio frequency works by heating up the lower layers of the skin, and the existing collagen contracts. This makes the skin think it is injured so it starts producing growth factors and new collagen to heal the perceived wounds. In due course, this collagen will show up on the surface of the skin as smoother, firmer and tighter skin. While not cheap, Thermage FLX is one of the most intense radiofrequency treatments available. Patients say it has a ‘shrink-wrapping’ effect on the lower face.”

I tried Thermage FLX a few months ago and I think the results are impressive. The skin around my jawline and mid face looked tighter and more lifted. Results last up to two years. If my predicted image of sun damage does indeed play out in real life, this is a treatment I’ll book again.

As regards everything else, it’s good to know what options are available. My instant response has been to up my SPF 50 application every day as that will help with all concerns. And I’ve started to use a topical vitamin C product daily to help with the pigmentation.  I now also use a separate eye SPF, Hello Sunday SPF 50 The One for your Eyes mineral eye cream, £18. Brilliantly, it doesn’t make my contact lens greasy at all. And when I remember, I put on sunglasses even if it does make me feel a bit Mariah Carey when I’m out on a dog walk.