Melanoma UK’s contrasting image is aimed at preventing skin cancer and at the same time, makes another key point. More than any other element we face in life, the sun is responsible for damaging and ageing our skin.
Try looking at an area of your body which doesn’t see the sun at any time and compare this to skin which is constantly exposed. The ultraviolet radiation visible skin receives causes unwanted DNA changes.
UVA rays reach the skin at all levels, from the epidermis, to the deeper dermis. The collagen, or elastin fibres which keep our skin taut and naturally elastic are affected, along with epidermal cells and small blood vessels.
UVB radiation focuses on the outer layer of the skin and is a more potent cause of DNA damage than UVA. The main reason for surface photoaging, along with cancerous and precancerous conditions, such as actinic keratosis.
The Ageing Effect
Lighter skin is more susceptible to photoaging but all skin tones can be affected. Darker skin often develops uneven patches, although this can happen on lighter skin, part of symptoms which include:
- Wrinkling and loss of skin tone (decreased elasticity).
- Rough, uneven skin texture, with redness, or blotchiness.
- Broken capillaries (spider veins), in visible places.
- Pigmentation changes, such as age spots, or liver spots.
Liver spots are a type of solar lentigines, patches of darkened skin which can develop in different forms around the body, even on your lip. This hyperpigmentation can appear as raised, or flat lesions.
Preventing Sun Damage
Sun damage is wide ranging, although prevention is more straightforward. A broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more will shield your skin from UVA and UVB rays, as will suitable clothing and a wide brimmed hat.
The hat may help to mask your face but sunglasses are still important, to protect your vulnerable eyes and lids. Staying in the shade during the peak of the sun can do the same for your whole body.
Don’t use the fact you already have sun damage to not bother about more. Severe symptoms such as yellowed, thickening skin, or deep wrinkles come from prolonged exposure, which could also make current issues less treatable.
Treating Sun Damage
The sun exposure you have had and the symptoms will be unique to your skin. Signs of ageing may be able to be treated topically, perhaps with prescription retinoid creams, or other dedicated medication.
Physical intervention including chemical peels, or microdermabrasion can be helpful. Photorejuvenation with intense pulsed light is often a valuable treatment, or specialist lasers which deliver highly focused, microscopic beams.
You are welcome to read more on sun damage treatment, which will always include careful consideration on medical factors. Conditions ranging from melasma, to rosacea can be exacerbated by the rays of the sun.
Treatment can be remarkably successful and is in a way protection from ageing, although the best form of protection is prevention. Please take care in the sun, you will feel and look better for doing so.