We know that sunshine is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing – it elevates mood, improves sleep, boosts the immune system and supports bone health amongst other things – but how much is too much, and are there ways to reverse, or at least repair, the signs of sun damage on our skin?
When we are younger, we’re far more concerned about soaking up the summer rays and enjoying those long, blissful sunny days than the long-term effects of too much unregulated or unmanaged sun exposure. And often, by the time we learn about the importance of sun protection and taking the all-important preventative measures, the damage has already been done.
While we like to place blame on getting another year older, the main culprit is photoaging — damage to the skin caused by exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) light. Responsible for 90% of visible changes to the skin, photoaging is a direct result of cumulative sun damage you’ve been exposed to throughout your life.
So what, if anything, can be done to replenish our skin, reviving and restoring it to its former glory?
What is Sun Damage?
The sun’s heat dries out areas of unprotected skin and depletes the skin’s supply of natural lubricating oils. Not only do the hot temperatures and humidity dry out your pores, but sweat can clog them and constant UV exposure from the sun can cause burning, long-term changes in the skin’s structure, and early signs of aging.
Sun-damaged skin shows the following symptoms:
Dry skin — The skin appears dry, flaky and slightly more wrinkled than skin on other parts of your body that have not been exposed to the sun. Dry skin is also one of the most common causes of itching.
Sunburn — Mild sunburn causes pain and redness on sun-exposed skin. In most cases, there are clear boundary lines where the skin has been protected from the sun by shirt sleeves, shorts, a bathing suit or other clothing. More severe cases of sunburn produce painful blisters, sometimes together with nausea and dizziness.
Actinic keratosis — Actinic keratosis appears as a small bump that feels like sandpaper or a persistent patch of scaly (peeling) skin that may have a jagged or even sharp surface and that has a pink, yellow, red or brownish tint. At first, an actinic keratosis may be the size of a pimple. Rarely, an actinic keratosis may itch or be slightly tender.
Long-term changes in the skin’s collagen — Symptoms of collagen changes include fine lines, deeper wrinkles, a thickened skin texture and easy bruising on sun-exposed areas, especially the back of the hands and forearms.
What Does Sun Damage Look Like?
Sun damage can appear in a variety of ways, including:
- Hyperpigmentation and hypopigmentation (sunspots)
- Irregular or uneven skin tone
- Melasma (irregular patches of brown skin)
- Collagen breakdown; laxity
Prevention Is The Best Form Of Protection
Taking sun-safety measures not only protects your skin from sun damage and signs of aging, but also greatly reduces the risks of skin cancer. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, so to ensure you protect yourself as well as your family, try to incorporate these safety tips into your daily routine:
- Use sunscreen every day, even if it’s cloudy.
- Apply at least one ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Also, use a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
- Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Make sure it is water-resistant and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Other sunscreens may help keep you from getting sunburned, but they won’t protect against skin cancer.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Reapply every hour if you are swimming or sweating.
- Be extra careful around water and sand. These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of getting a sunburn.
- Keep babies younger than 6 months old completely covered and in the shade.
- Limit the amount of time you’re in the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM. This is when the sun’s rays are the most intense. Practice the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and you should find shade.
- If possible, wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Dark clothing with tightly woven fabric blocks more sun than white or loosely woven fabrics. For additional protection, look for clothes made with special sun-protective materials.
- Accessorize with a hat that shades your face, neck, and ears and a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses with lenses that have 99% to 100% UV absorption provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.
- Be even more cautious if you are taking medications that may make you more sensitive to the sun. These include specific types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antifungals, blood pressure medications, and chemotherapies.
Treatments For Sun Damaged Skin
While prevention is crucial, there are cosmetic dermatological treatments that can rejuvenate your sun-damaged skin, giving it the post-summer detox it craves and needs. Although most sun damage is accumulated by the age of 18, it’s never too late to repair and prevent the effects of UV exposure.
As DermaNuva, we always take a holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of your skin, and will start with a consultation to further understand your skin’s history and individual needs. Our skin specialist will help you find the best treatment plan for your skin type and the extent of your sun damage.
Treatments available at DermaNuva include:
Advanced Skin Analysis
This unique method not only analyzes the surface of the visible skin, but also shows what lies beneath; revealing color, tone, texture, and sun damage. This state-of-the-art technology is combined with a customised skincare programme proven to repair the skin barrier & re-programme your skin function. Our strategy for great skin is based on
the 3 R’s of Corneotherapy: Repair, Replenish, and Regenerate. Learn More >
Laser peels correct sun damage issues like lines, wrinkles, and discolouration by tightening and polishing the skin, promoting healthy cell growth and smoothing tone and texture. This treatment uses high-energy light to remove the top, damaged layer of skin – it effectively resurfaces and retextures the skin, removing superficial lines and wrinkles and promoting collagen production. Learn More >
Chemical peels are one of the most effective ways to reverse accumulated sun damage. At DermaNuva, we offer the Jessner Peel which is designed to improve the overall appearance and health of the skin and can help not only with sun damage, but also pigmentation, acne, dehydration and signs of aging. Learn More >
This is a widely popular skin-transforming treatment for optimal skin health that works wonderfully to minimize the impact of sun damage. Treatments use a specialized exfoliation method to remove damaged and dead skin cells, as well as correct common skin concerns. Microdermabrasion helps to support blood supply and circulation, as well as lymphatic drainage for enhanced serum absorption within the skin. This rejuvenating solution can have your skin looking and feeling its best. Learn More >
Daily Advanced Skincare
A healthy skincare regime is crucial not only to treating sun damage, but simply for taking good care of your skin. Chronic UV exposure (which we’re all subject to) speeds up your skin’s aging, but exfoliating, using antioxidants, and hydrating your skin with an effective skincare regimen will revitalize your skin. Dermaviduals® skincare line is based on the science of restoring and maintaining healthy skin, a concept called Corneotherapy. This is a customized dermatological skincare solution, designed to optimally maintain the natural skin barrier and prevent premature aging. Learn More >