Who doesn’t love sunshine? You will hardly find anyone who doesn’t like to bask in the warm rays of the sun. But, too much of it can damage your skin in ways beyond your imagination. About 80% of the visible signs of aging – including wrinkles, scaling, roughness, and dryness – are a result of UV exposure. Sun rays can also cause pigmentation issues and cancer (1)! That’s a major concern. Sun damage cannot be completely reversed but can be managed and reduced. In this article, you will learn everything about sun-damaged skin and ways to treat it. Read on.
Exposure to solar UV radiations damages your skin. This damage can accumulate over your lifetime, only to show up later. In other words, the skin damage that you see today is a long-term effect of sun exposure.
Sunlight is comprised of:
UV rays can be further broken down into three types:
People who have fairer skin are more susceptible to sun damage as their skin contains less melanin. However, this does not mean people with dark and olive complexions are safe. Their skin may be less sensitive to the sun, but unprotected UV exposure can take a toll on them as well. In the next section, we will discuss the problems caused by sun exposure.
The most common types of sun damage include:
Sunburn is a painful skin condition caused by overexposure to UV radiation. It is a type of radiation burn that affects your skin cells. Sunburn is your body’s inflammatory response when the UV rays cause DNA damage. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVB rays cause sunburn and change the molecular structure of your DNA (2), (3).
The last four are symptoms of severe sunburn.
Your skin becomes dry when it lacks moisture. UV rays can dry out your skin and cause scaling and irritation.
Overexposure to the UV rays can deactivate the carotenoids in your skin that protect it from oxidation. However, when the carotenoids are deactivated, the dermal collagen and elastin that keep your skin tight and smooth are degraded (1). As a result, you get wrinkles and fine lines.
Consult a dermatologist to devise skincare plan to combat fine lines and wrinkles. The dermatologist may suggest anti-wrinkle treatments, such as:
Also known as solar lentiginosis or solar lentigo, these are dark patches on the skin caused by overexposure to UV rays, which makes the melanin clump in your keratinocytes (skin cells).
Flat and oval dark spots and pigments that:
The dermatologist may prescribe:
Melasma is a condition characterized by dark brown or gray patches on your skin. The exact cause of melasma is not yet known, but sun exposure can trigger melanin production that creates these spots on the skin. However, there are other factors that may cause overproduction of melanin and result in melasma.
Dark patches that often appear on:
The dermatologist may prescribe:
This condition is also known as Solar Keratosis. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it is a crusty and scaly growth caused by UV ray exposure. It is the most common type of precancerous lesion and, if not treated, can develop into skin cancer (4).
The dermatologist may prescribe:
Prevention is the key to avoiding sun damage. However, if your skin does get damaged, keep in mind that the effects are often long-term. While it is not possible to completely reverse the damage caused by UV exposure, you can reduce it to a certain extent. In the next section, find out how to prevent and mitigate the adverse effects of sun exposure.
Sun damage can be easily avoided. You need to practice proper sun protection throughout the year to prevent the negative effects of sun exposure. Here is what you can do to prevent and reverse the effects:
This is a thumb rule you should never forget. Remember that the UV rays reach the earth’s surface even on cloudy and rainy days. So, cover up with sunscreen. Always use a sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Dead skin cells accumulate on the outmost layer of your skin, making it rough, blotchy, and uneven. Moreover, remnants of the makeup and skin care products you put on your face make it look dull and dirty. Exfoliation gets rid of all the dead skin cells and traces of makeup, making your skin appear brighter.
Bleaching helps lighten dark spots and pigmentation. Before trying out OTC bleaching agents, it is best to consult a dermatologist and use products recommended by them. The dermatologist may recommend products containing retinol, kojic acid, and hydroquinone. These ingredients help lighten stubborn discoloration and patches.
Excessive exposure to sun rays, salt water, and chlorine (in swimming pools) can dehydrate your skin. To prevent that, use good quality body, hand, and foot creams. Use products that contain hyaluronic acid. It replenishes your skin and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Continued moisturization may also boost collagen production and improve your skin texture.
LED therapy uses lights of different wavelengths – including red and blue lights – reduce fine lines and wrinkles and boost collagen production. Talk to a dermatologist before buying any LED light therapy device and using it on your skin. You can also visit a dermatologist and get it done under professional supervision.
Some medicines and skin care products may increase your sun sensitivity and the risk of UV damage. They include prescription medication (antibiotics such as tetracyclines and antidepressants) and skin care ingredients, such as AHAs and BHAs, retinol, and essential oils. If you are using any such medication or skin care products, consult a doctor to find out the special precautions you need to take to avoid sun damage.
Potent skin care ingredients, such as niacinamide, retinol, retinoids, azelaic acid, AHAs, BHAs, and vitamin C, can help reduce and improve the effects of sun damage. These ingredients can reduce hyperpigmentation, fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles to enhance the appearance of your skin. However, the concentration of the ingredients depends on the extent of damage and the tolerance level of your skin. So, talk to a doctor to determine the type and concentration of ingredients your skin needs.
“Prevention is better than cure” sounds like an overused phrase. But when it comes to sun damage, prevention is easier than reversal. Preventing sun damage is not an arduous task. You need to ensure that you:
Make these simple tips a habit before your sun damage become unmanageable. If you have any more questions about this skin problem, drop them in the comments section below, and we will get back to you.
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