Lounging under the sun may seem like a very relaxing way of soothing the mind and body but we rarely think about the damage the sun inflicts on our skin. Excessive exposure to sun yields diverse and harmful results in the form of sun damage, resulting in wrinkles, age spots and often sun burn in some cases.
The damage is so severe at times that cosmetic treatment is necessary to reverse the effects. The harmful effects are usually not apparent when you’re young, but as you get older the damaged skin gradually get worse and may even grow benign tumors and cancers.
Causes of Sun Damage
Sunrays consist of UV-A and UV-B light that act as a form of radiation on the skin. Of the two, UV-A rays cause more serious damage to skin. UV rays damage the skin’s DNA and causes skin cells to die. The skin becomes thinner and less elastic because it cannot always replaced the dead skin cells. With enough exposure to the sun, the skin begins to form wrinkles, age spots, and freckles.
A common misconception among people is that sun rays are not harmful in winter, which is incorrect. It is just as important to take proper precautions and wear a good sunscreen in the winter as it is in any other season to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Those with fair complexions need to especially be careful since they are more prone to sun damage because they have less melanin (the brown color pigment produced by melanocytes in darker skin tones) to protect against the sun.
Symptoms of Sun Damaged
Over exposure to sunrays damages the skin DNA, the basic structure that forms the skin. Once damaged it is hard to repair it completely. Cosmetic treatments can aid temporarily but they cannot completely reverse all damage. Symptoms include:
- Uneven pigmentation and freckles: This occurs especially in fair-skinned people. By producing extra melanin the skin tries to protect itself from the harsh sunrays. In extreme cases this can also cause permanent stretching of blood vessels which are evidenced as red blotches on the skin.
- Sunburn, age spots or brown colored lesions. A sunburn actually burns off the first layer of the skin, resulting in painful red colored splotches on the exposed body parts.
- Wrinkles and fine lines. These occur when UV rays damage the skin’s connective tissues, thus loosening the skin structure and causing it to sag and form creases near the eyes, mouth and nose.
It is important to consult a skin specialist or dermatologist in case of severe symptoms to diagnose treatment in accordance to your condition and age.
Sun Damage Treatment
Some cosmetic treatment options for sun damaged skin include:
- Retin-A: Retin-A (tretinoin), is a form of vitamin A used to treat various skin conditions including fine lines and wrinkles caused by sun damage.
- Chemical Peel: A chemical peel removes the damaged skin in favor of the newer, younger skin underneath.
- Laser Therapy: Laser skin treatments use specific laser beams to remove the damaged skin or promote fresh collagen growth to treat wrinkles, spots etc.
- Light-Based Treatments: Light-based treatments, such as an IPL Photofacial use high-intensity pulses of light to penetrate the skin and heat the sub-surface layers to reduce the appearance of sun damaged skin.
- At-Home Remedies: Treatments include aloe vera, milk or yogurt masks with oatmeal, OTC beauty creams and fruit rubs.
To prevent further sun damage, it is vital that you use an effective sunscreen when you go out and reapply it diligently since the sunscreen does not last indefinitely.