Our bodies need vitamin D. It’s an important factor in promoting healthy bone formation and in boosting the immune system. While Vitamin D is most commonly generated within the body after exposure to the sun, it’s important to remember that too much sun exposure isn’t safe and could end up making you look older than your real age.
Think about all of the time your skin is exposed to the sun during the day. Walking to or from your car, running errands, taking a walk outside during your lunch break – these can all add up to more sun exposure than you may have realized during the course of an entire day. When you combine your normal daily sun exposure with those weekends at the beach or floating in the pool, the amount of time spent in the sun can be surprising.
Wrinkles and Age Spots Are Sun Byproducts
It may be common knowledge that spending time in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, but there are other consequences as well. For example, ultraviolet (UV) exposure can break down the connective tissue in the skin, which causes the skin to lose its strength and elasticity. Known as solar elastosis, this may cause deep wrinkles, vertical creases or loose skin.
Another possible effect is uneven skin tone. Skin produces extra melanin to protect itself from the sun, which results in a tan, but after severe burns or years of sun exposure, the skin will oftentimes no longer tan evenly. The sun may also permanently damage small blood vessels, which may give skin a reddish, mottled appearance. A common result of long-term sun exposure is the development of “solar lentingines,” also known as age spots or liver spots. These are flat spots of increased pigmentation. They can increase in number with age and repeated sun exposure. They are different from freckles in that they appear later in life and will tend to lighten during longer periods when you’re not in the sun.
Finally, sun damage can cause larger areas of skin damage resulting in hyperpigmentation. These flat, irregular shaped areas are formed as your body increases melanin in an effort to protect the skin. Hyperpigmentation can be difficult to treat and affects all skin types.
Sunscreen Helps Prevent UV Damage
Sunscreen combines organic and inorganic material to help protect you from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Ingredients in sunscreen help to reflect and scatter UV radiation and also help to absorb the UV radiation and dissipate it as heat. This means that your skin isn’t absorbing as much of the harmful rays of the sun.
Your doctors at Kelsey-Seybold recommend purchasing a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or greater, putting sunscreen on at least 20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplying every couple of hours.
Remember that regardless of how much sunscreen you use, continual exposure to the sun is still damaging. Try to limit the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight, especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm.
Keep in mind that the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate clouds easily, so just because the day is overcast doesn’t mean that you’re safe from sun exposure.
Apply sunscreen on any part of you that will be exposed to the sun before you leave the house for the day – the extra two minutes in the morning it takes to do so could save you from skin cancer or potentially costly procedures later in life. While the sun isn’t the enemy, you should only expose your skin to it in moderation.
Do you have any questions about sun damage or sunscreen? Don’t be shy! Post a comment!
Alisa Baker, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant to plastic surgeon Jamal Bullocks, M.D., F.A.C.S. She administers Botox®, collagen filler (Juvederm®) and chemicals peels, performs minor surgical procedures and assists Dr. Bullocks in the operating room.