A new sunscreen study finds that it can reverse signs of aging

This is not a drill. If you found out that one of the most versatile and effective anti-aging formulas out there was something already sitting in your bathroom cabinet, you probably wouldn't believe it. And who could blame you? But a new study in the journal, Dermatologic Surgery, shows that sunscreen—yes, sunscreen—can not only protect your skin, but it can also reverse common signs of photo-aging, like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

We know you're probably all like, "Sunscreen really?" This is like finding out that your nice, totally dependable, but otherwise very boring colleague happens to be a vigilante superhero in her spare time. The study, sponsored by the Johnson & Johnson's Skin Research Center and led by dermatologists Steven Wang and James Leyden, showed improvements in the many signs of aging caused by the sun, such as texture, overall tone, and fine lines. With just a daily application of moisturizer with SPF 30, participants saw improvements of 52 percent in mottled pigmentation (a.k.a. sun spots), 40 percent in skin texture, and 41 percent in skin clarity after a year of use.

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This is huge, in part because the daily moisturizer in question provided only hydration and sun protection—and zero anti-aging ingredients. How, exactly, such a straightforward formula (compared to other, active-packed anti-agers out there) can give these results is still hypothetical, but Wang has his guesses. "The most plausible answer has to do with skin's innate regenerative properties," he explains. "We know that skin turns over every 28 days. By preventing the continual accumulation of more and more damage, we allow the skin to heal on its own." The SPF gives your skin a chance to indulge in some R&R instead of constantly defending itself from UV exposure and repairing damage.

Related: Learn how to prepare your skin for winter.

As long as it's a photostable, broad-spectrum formula, the type of sunscreen you use—that is, chemical filters, like avobenzone and oxtinoxate, or physical blockers, including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—shouldn't theoretically make a difference, notes Wang, although chemical filters were the ones used for this particular study.

If you're already getting your SPF 30 on the daily, you're ahead of the game. But the key word is daily: Participants used the moisturizer with SPF every single day for a year, showing that both compliance and consistency are essential to results like this. The upside? It was applied just once a day. So, if you don't happen to reapply your sunscreen at your desk (though you should do so for maximum sun protection) you'll still reap its anti-aging benefits. Consider this additional proof that sunscreen is the real MVP of your skin-care routine.

More from Allure:
Here's Exactly How to Take Care of Your Skin in Your 40s
6 Sneaky Signs That Your Skin Is Aging Poorly, According to Top Dermatologists
How to Layer Your Skin-Care Products if You Have Dry Skin
The 10 Best Mascaras Under $20

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