The sun's energy reaches the earth in the form of visible light rays that we see, and in the form of infrared and ultraviolet (UV) rays that we do not see.
These UV rays can be divided into three categories: UVA, UVB and UVC, which vary in length.
UVA and UVB are the only rays that can reach our skin; UVB can cause much deeper damage than UVA, putting us at greater risk of skin cancer. And although UVA rays are less harmful than UVB, UVA rays cause a number of skin care problems, such as loss of skin elasticity, more wrinkles and faster aging.
The melanin in our skin normally fights UV exposure. But when sun-damaged skin burns, the melanin cannot fight it off at all and the skin burns in reaction to sun damage.
Every time we go outside or get sun through car or home windows, if our skin is not covered by clothing or sunscreen, it is damaged by UV rays.
Over time, those scars from burning the skin accumulate, to the point where age spots, sun spots, wrinkles and other signs of photo-aging damage begin to appear.
Types of sun-damaged skin
Excessive sun exposure can result in these signs and symptoms:
- Rougher skin texture
- Flabbier skin
- "Sun spots," or pigment changes such as age spots or freckles
- Spider veins
How to prevent sun-damaged skin
Since most sun-damaged skin is irreversible, the best defense is a good offense:
Avoid solariums, seek shade when possible, apply water-resistant sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher at least every two hours when outdoors, and wear sun-protective clothing when you think you'll be spending a lot of time in the sun, such as when mountaineering or surfing.
"Always use sunscreen" sounds like easy advice, but it's actually difficult to do correctly.
To use sunscreen safely:
- Make sure the sunscreen you use is broad-spectrum, meaning it filters out both UVA and UVB rays.
- Cover all areas that are going to be exposed, such as the nose, back of the neck and ears.
- Apply the cream 30 minutes before going outside.
- Each time you reapply, use enough to fill a standard-size shot glass to cover unprotected skin from head to toe.
- Do a little research on the difference between SPFs. The ones with higher numbers offer a little more protection than the lower ones; and this absolutely depends on the tolerance your skin has, fine white skin is not the same as tanned skin.
How to repair skin from the sun
Once the skin is damaged by the sun there is little you can do, although there are some treatments:
You can remove sun spots and fill in wrinkles with products and procedures such as fillers, lasers, chemical peels, microdermabrasion or ultrasound. However, these treatment options for removing sun spots on the face can be quite invasive and expensive, so many dermatologists recommend at-home options such as exfoliation, nighttime wrinkle creams and other serums as a first step.
From skin spot removal to botox to facelifts, the dermatologist-formulated anti-wrinkle box is an excellent plan of attack with multiple benefits for your skin.
Even if you visibly repair the effects of the sun on your skin, this doesn't mean you don't have to worry about it anymore, frequent and thorough skin self-checks are a must, as are annual check-ups at the doctor. These are vital for the possible detection of cancer.
Protect your skin from the sun
When it comes to skin and sun damage, you have to be very careful: once they appear (and believe us when we say they will happen), they don't go away.
Luckily, preventing sun damage is pretty simple with a little care and tact.
Things like consistently using a broad-spectrum sunscreen, wearing appropriate clothing for each situation, and keeping your skin healthy and clean.
Good skin care habits make all the difference.