We have a lot to thank the sun for. It makes life on Earth possible, after all! The sun is also responsible for warm summer days, ample Vitamin D, and good times. The sun isn’t very kind when it comes to your skin, however. At its mildest, the sun can burn us. At its most menacing, it can trigger a deadly form of skin cancer. In between, the sun can trigger premature aging and pigmentation changes. So how does it cause so many different skin problems? What happens when sunlight makes contact with your skin?
Ultraviolet Rays & Their Effects
The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays, which attack skin cells, causing them to become damaged or destroyed. The skin produces more melanin in defense. Melanin is a brown pigment that protects the sun to some degree. That explains why we get tan when we’re out in the sun. Some people tend to burn rather than tan, or get a sunburn that then turns into a tan. However, many skin cells often die during this process, resulting in peeling and harm to the skin.
Over time, the effects of ultraviolet rays can be quite devastating. Many people who spend a lot of time in the sun with their skin unprotected experience early aging or even skin cancer. UV rays can damage the DNA in skin, making it difficult for cells to replicate properly. This can lead to cancerous lesions. The sun also weakens skin’s elasticity and causes it to prematurely wrinkle and sag. Brown spots, unlike freckles (which are often temporary), add to the aged appearance. This is particularly true in skin that has taken on a dull, rough, or “leathery” texture due to sun damage. To make matters worse, sun damage is cumulative and the effects of the damage sometimes do not appear until later in life, even if you have been diligent with sun protection during your adult years. This is why it is so important to always protect your skin from the sun.
Genetics, Sunscreen, and Tanning Beds
People with more natural melanin (darker skin and hair) have more protection from the sun naturally and do not burn as easily. However, this does not mean that they cannot develop skin cancer or experience early aging from sun damage. Everyone needs to be diligent about protecting themselves from harmful UV rays with sunscreen and protective clothing. Yet, many people don’t pay enough attention to the potential danger of sun damage. Many people don’t apply (or reapply) sunscreen enough, and some visit tanning beds for a golden-brown glow. Contrary to what some believe, the UV rays in tanning beds are just as dangerous as those produced by the sun. Tanning indoors can have all the same negative consequences as spending time outdoors.
Preventing and Reversing Sun Damaging
The best way to prevent sun damage is to be diligent about sun protection. Using sunscreen when spending time outdoors or near a window for long periods is the first line of defense. Hats, sunglasses, and other protective accessories and articles of clothing are another important preventative measure. When using sunscreen, it’s important to reapply often, especially when swimming or perspiring. One coat can only protect the skin for so long.
Though prevention is important, the skin will almost always experience sun damage, and it’s important to know your options for improving or even reversing this damage. Medical-grade products and skin treatments with a board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist are great tools in keeping aging at bay. Laser skin resurfacing, microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and skin-tightening treatments can all be used on their own or in combination with one another for more youthful skin. These treatments are mostly minimally-invasive, well-tolerated, and fit into busy lifestyles.
Partner with the Right Skin Expert
Even if you’ve been exposed to a lot of sun damage throughout your life, it’s not too late to get healthier skin with a youthful glow. There are so many options for improving the look and feel of your skin, even if you have a large number of brown spots and wrinkles. You just need to find the right skin expert to help you design a treatment plan. If you’re young and you have beautiful skin, you can still benefit from partnering with an expert. You’ll have the opportunity to prevent early aging and maintain beautiful skin long term.
If you’re not sure where to go for reliable advice, go straight to an expert who has dedicated her career to helping patients maintain beautiful skin—naturally. Dr. Ruth Hillelson is the mind behind Iridesse skincare, a revolutionary line of products that uses natural ingredients to help create glowing, youthful skin. Dr. Hillelson is also a board certified plastic surgeon, renowned for her skill with Thermage and other anti-aging treatments. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call American Self in Richmond, VA at 804.290.0060 today!