Skin Care Problems Sun Damaged

Being exposed to the sun for as little as 15 minutes can cause sun damage to your skin. While the amount of time it takes the sun to harm your skin depends on your skin color (lighter skins are more easily and quickly damaged in the sun), no one is immune to the damaging effects of the sun.

How the Sun Causes Skin Problems

The sun emits two different types of ultraviolet (UV) rays that damage our skin:

  • UVA rays: Nearly 99 percent of the UV rays that enter our atmosphere are UVA rays. Although these rays are the least harmful type that come from the sun, they do still cause damage to our skin over time.In the short term, UVA rays are responsible for making us tan. However, prolonged exposure to UVA rays damages our DNA, causing premature aging of the skin and, in some cases, skin cancer.
  • UVB: Although the ozone is effective at blocking out a large portion of the sun’s UVB rays, some still penetrate through and, consequently, can cause use skin damage. While UVB rays cause sunburns in the short run, long-term exposure to UVB radiation will sun spots and skin cancer.

The sun does emit a third type of UV ray, known as the UVC ray. However, because the ozone is effective at blocking UVC rays, these types of UV rays don’t penetrate our atmosphere and, therefore, aren’t responsible for causing sun damage.

Signs and Symptoms of Sun Damage

The following are symptoms that reveal the skin has suffered from sun damage:

  • dry, flaky skin
  • fine lines
  • freckling
  • scaly skin
  • sun spots
  • sunburns
  • wrinkles.

Preventing Sun Damage

Although nearly everyone will suffer some degree of sun damage at some point in life, the good news is that we can take measures to prevent sun damage and its associated health problems. Here are some tips for preventing sun damage:

  • Apply sunscreen or sunblock whenever you plan on being outdoors for more than 15 minutes. Make sure that the sunscreen has an SPF of at least 15 so that it is effective. Reapply every two hours, after having contact with water or after sweating.
  • Avoid tanning salons, as they damage the skin just as badly as the sun can. Instead, opt for sunless tanning to get the temporary tan appearance you are after.
  • Avoid the sun when it’s at its strongest. In the summer, this period of time extends from 10am to 4pm.
  • Wear protective gear, such as hats, sunglasses and clothing that offers more coverage.

Treating Sun Damage

The appropriate sun damage treatment for you will depend on:

  • the severity of your sun damage
  • the type of sun damage you have (i.e. sun spots, dry skin, wrinkles or skin cancer)
  • your current state of health.

Here are some of the most common treatments for sun damage. Your doctor can recommend which treatment is best for you. Sun damage treatments include:

  • cosmetic procedures, such as microdermabrasion, to reduce fine lines and neutralize discolored skin
  • laser treatments to eliminate sun spots
  • surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments to combat skin cancer
  • topical creams and moisturizers to treat dry skin and reduce wrinkles.

Resources

Appleman, Michael (n.d.). Sun Damage: Preventing