Sun damage of the skin, also known as photo damage can be either acute, as in a sunburn or chronic, seen as gradual changes in the skin caused by an accumulation of sun exposure throughout one’s life. Chronic photo damage results in either a cosmetic change in the skin’s appearance called photo aging, or changes that is of medical and health concerns such as pre-cancerous lesions and skin cancers. The evidence is very strong that ultra-violet light (UV) accounts for 90% of the changes that we consider to be associated with aging of the skin. One in six people will develop skin cancer, and 90% of these cancers are due to UV exposure from the sun.
The sunrays are your skins worst enemy. Two types of sunrays that it is important to protect your skin from are ultraviolet-B and ultraviolet-A. UVB rays have shorter wavelengths and are mostly responsible for sunburns. It is the most intense between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm when the sunlight is brightest. UVA rays are longer wavelength rays that can damage the skin’s collagen and lead to premature aging and wrinkles appearance. It penetrates deeper into the skin and works more efficiently.
Fine and coarse wrinkles are seen on sun-damaged skin. There is a roughness to the skin and a laxity or looseness in advanced damage, patchy or mottled darker patches of increased pigmentation are seen also. Chronic sun exposure produces a thickened layer in the skin, which gives a yellowish chicken skin look.
UV radiation causes the walls of blood vessels to become thinner leading to bruising with only minor trauma in sun-exposed areas. For example, most of the bruising that occurs on sun-damaged skin occurs on the backs of the hands and forearms. The sun also causes the appearance of telangiectasias, tiny blood vessels, in the skin especially on the face. The most noticeable sun-induced pigment change is a freckle or solar lentigo. Large freckles, also known as Lentigens or age spots, can be seen on the backs of the hands, chest, shoulders, arms, and upper back. UV exposure can also cause white spots especially on the legs, but also on the backs of the hands and arms, as melanocytes are destroyed.
UV radiation causes an increased number of moles and precancerous or cancerous lesions in sun-exposed areas especially on the face, ears, and backs of the hands.
The best way to avoid sun damage is to protect your skin against its hazards. Protection from UV rays is just as important in the winter months, as in the summer months. Wearing Sun Block cream with an SPF of 30 or higher is recommended and the sunblock should be applied at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure then every 2 hours. You should re-apply the product after exercise or swimming. Try to find a sunblock that is alcohol-free and that contain the ingredient Titanium Dioxide. Titanium Dioxide is a natural, chemical-free sunblock that is less irritating to a sensitive area such as the face.