Skin Sun Damage, How Bad Is It?
The answer is that the sun is really quite awful for the skin and is one of the biggest contributing factors to premature aging. Even if you have a few wrinkles here and there, the sun deepens wrinkles and sun spots are very pronounced making you look much older than you really are. When we age our collagen decreases but also fibers start to cross-link one another often due to UV light. In older skin, cross linked insoluble collagen is found and in young healthy firm skin, soluble collagen is found. Therefore, protecting skin from the sun is regarded as the number 1 must by scientists and dermatologists. We might love the sun, the sun-kissed glow and lounging on the beach all day- but the sun is not your beach pal when it comes to your skin and aging.
The process is called Photoaging when your skin ages due to the light from the sun. The thing is, the sun, time and again has proved to make people age prematurely. As a response to strong ultraviolet light, the epidermis hyperproliferates (cells divide at a high rate) and as a result the epidermis gets thicker. The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin thus you can see how important it is and how much we do not want to harm it. These UV rays alter the skin’s structure, the skin tries to repair the cells but they often die or are not repaired correctly, this is when mutations can occur. This results in aging prematurely, formations of actinic keratoses and even skin cancer. Actinic keratoses is a rough patch of skin usually appearing on your face, lips, ears, scalp and some other areas. These lesions are symptom-less but over time they can eventually turn into skin cancer. These are all products of a sun-damaged epidermis that has not been protected by the sun’s harmful rays.
Solar elastosis is down to excessive sun exposure over a long period of time. The connective tissues which are made out of collagen and elastin fibers are broken down by the UV rays and therefore skin loses strength, as a result it starts to sag. Abnormal elastin (elastic tissues) are acquired in the dermis part of the skin. It appears on the skin as deep wrinkles, deep verticle lines and skin discoloration (yellowish). The skin is furrowed and very thick. It can be very hard to eradicate. Vitamin A (Retinol) and hyaluronic acid can be used to treat this. The damage the sun causes effect the elasticity of the skin, elasticity is a major factor in young healthy skin. Kligman examined elastic fibers and found that less collagen was found in sun exposed skin (people of all different ages were tested). 80% of the Caucasian 20-year-old participants showed thickening of elastic fibers and hyperplasia. By the age of 50 most participants had marked thickening of elastic fibers and declination of skin structure. Sun damage causes loss of collagen and elastin fibers which give structure to the skin and if it is damaged the skin loses all its suppleness, springiness and strength- all of which related to youthful skin.
So what does this mean? Photo-damage appears on the skin in the form of wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation, it also decreases immunity and can lead to skin cancer.
As we are concerned with the skin, here is something to remember:
1. Low exposure: trigger premature wrinkles
2.Long-term exposure repeated throughout life: all the signs of aging skin, including basal cell and squamous cell cancers.
3. Intense exposure in early life: melanoma and threatening skin cancers.
This might all sound very disheartening if you love relaxing in the sun. However, the sun is not something you should fear, instead you should be prepared and protected from the sun. Using a good sun cream makes all the difference or a foundation with SPF in it. 30 SPF is the best- it protects but you can also tan. Stay in the shade when the really harsh sun comes out around 11 pm to 3 pm but this varies from country to country, even the 6 pm sun can be harmful in some places. Sun is good in small doses in the early morning and late afternoon and is a great source of vitamin D. Above all, sun beds are to be avoided at any cost because you will age prematurely and irreversibly- it’s a big no no in the science world, the dermatology world and any other world you can think of. If you want a tan, go for a spray tan or use moisturizers that give you a natural glow without your precious skin.