We all need our time in the sun in a poetic, philosophical manner. But we have to be very careful when we encounter the brilliant light of our closest star. Ultraviolet (UV) light damages your skin every time you go outdoors without sun protection or use a tanning bed. This damage builds up with time and you see changes to your skin, which can make you look years older than you naturally would. Sunlight damage changes to skin can include wrinkles,age spots, loose skin, spider veins and a blotchy or ruddy complexion.
For these changes “Photoaging” is the medical term although you may also hear the terms “premature aging” or “sun-damaged skin.” As the damage builds, You may see deep lines or dry, scaly patches called actinic keratoses (AKs). Be aware that an AK is a pre-cancerous skin growth, as sun damage can also lead to skin cancer. In some cases an AK turns into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. With the effects of excessive sunlight, while much of the damage is permanent treatment can reduce some signs of sun damage that are making you look older.
A great barrier against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be provided by clothing. Protective clothing's protection is consistent over time and does not wear off like sunscreen does. High-tech protection and breathability are offered by many new fabrics. High neck, long sleeves, and pants work best as the more skin you cover the better, Also keep in mind that a hat with a wide brim all the way around at least three inches or more is best because it helps shade your neck, eyes, ears, and face. You should as well always wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes and the skin around them.
During the hours of 10 am to 4 pm the sun is strongest and during this time it is best to minimize sun exposure. It would be best to plan your outdoor activities for the early morning or late afternoon. While it can certainly feel good to spend time in the sunshine it can take a toll on your skin because the sun gives off ultraviolet (UV) light that damages your skin and causes sunburn. You can add years to your looks over time as these rays can lead to wrinkles, dark spots, and other problem areas. UV exposure is the reason behind 80% of your skin’s aging, research shows.
Invisible rays of ultraviolet light are given off by the sun. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are short, high-energy wavelengths that are absorbed by the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. The skin responds to UVB rays by producing chemicals called inflammatory mediators when you burn and these seep down into the dermis, the skin's middle layer. The dermis is irritated as these chemicals distress the tiny blood vessels in the dermis. These small vessels then swell and create the surface redness we see in a sunburn.
Be aware that the UVB rays affect the genetic material of the epidermis and this causes the damage that may lead to skin cancer. The immune system can be affected and other UVB rays can interfere with the skin's ability to repair itself. Furthermore UVB radiation attacks the skin's melanocytes, which are the pigment cells. The reaction of the melanocytes is to step up production of melanin and send melanasomes to the skin's surface to act as a filter against the sun's rays and this can actually damage the DNA of the pigment cells. Genetic damage of this sort can cause both freckling and the mottled brown of age spots. Unfortunately it also contributes to the development of melanoma and other skin cancers.
Sun damaged skin in some cases can be repaired with laser treatments, including Q-switched, Photorejuvenation, and Fraxel. Fraxel tackles both the brown spots and fine wrinkles associated with excessive sun exposure and is an excellent treatment for sun damaged skin. Redness and brown spots on the face caused by skin sun damage can be tackled with little or no downtime by Photorejuvenation treatments. This non-invasive procedure that makes your face look more youthful by removing and reversing signs of rosacea, sun damage, and reducing pores or acne spots is also called Photofacial, Fotofacial or IPL. It remains one of the most popular treatments due to its low downtime and effective results.
Ben Treen, M.D. and Amber Starling APRN-C make up OFMC’s Dermatology team! They specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin diseases and cancers. Our in-house pathology lab is also located at the Dermatology, Aesthetics & Women's Health Center.