If you’ve ever gotten a sunburn, you’ve exposed your skin to sun damage. Not only that, but unprotected sun exposure from everyday activity causes even damage to the skin. Over time, that damage accumulates and causes a host of skin issues, including:
- Uneven pigmentation and age spots
- Dilated blood vessels, resulting in a mottled red appearance
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Skin cancer
Sun damage is the biggest external factor that contributes to visible signs of aging skin. Many people don’t realize this until their skin has already been subjected to years of UV radiation. However, it’s never too late or too early to start taking preventative measures to stave off further damage.
This article will discuss:
- What are UV rays?
- What happens when you are exposed to sunlight?
- How do UV rays damage the skin?
- How to protect yourself
UV, or ultraviolet, rays come from the sun. There are three types of UV rays:
- UVA: Of the three wavelengths, this wavelength is not absorbed by the ozone layer and penetrates deepest into the skin. UVA rays are responsible for the formation of free radicals and the breakdown of collagen, two factors that accelerate signs of aging.
- UVB: These rays are responsible for sunburns and are only partially blocked by the ozone layer. The SPF of sunscreen measures the level of protection against UVB rays.
- UVC: The ozone layer absorbs all UVC rays, so the only way to come in contact with these rays is by exposure to an artificial radiation source.
UVA and UVB rays are responsible for the damaging effects sun can have on skin, including sunburn and skin cancer. The sunscreen you use should protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Most manufacturers now include both in their sunscreens and note on the label that UVA-blocking ingredients are included.
Sunlight is good for you in small doses because it provides the body with vitamin D. However, just being outside during a week’s worth of getting the mail and walking from your car to the office gives most people their recommended doses of vitamin D.
As well as getting vitamin D, your skin undergoes damaging changes that contribute to skin aging when it is exposed to the sun. What are these changes?
First, the upper layers of skin thicken, helping to block UV rays from penetrating deeper into the skin. Then, pigment producing cells (melanocytes) make more melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. Melanin absorbs the energy from UV light to prevent it from damaging any deeper cells. People with darker skin or with a recent tan have more melanin, while fair skinned people have little. Albinos have no melanin, making them very susceptible to sun damage.
Any amount of sun exposure ages the skin, but overexposure accelerates the process. Sun damage occurs with prolonged or unprotected exposure. Overexposure allows the sun to take a greater toll on the skin, causing the skin to break down faster. Prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun is the biggest factor contributing to premature aging and skin damage.
Most everyone has gotten sunburned at some point in life. Sunburn is literally a burn on the skin caused by UV rays. It can range from mild redness to a severe burn with blistering and skin peeling after several days. However, you don’t have to have a visible sunburn to get sun damage. Exposing your unprotected skin to the sun causes the same damage as a sunburn, just on a smaller scale.
Sun exposure causes free radical damage. A free radical is a molecule that is missing an electron. This unstable molecule takes electrons from other molecules to become stable again. However, when substances like collagen lose an electron, they break. Broken strands of collagen accumulate, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin.
The skin isn’t the only thing that can be damaged by sun exposure. The eyes are also sensitive to sunlight. Sun damage to eyes can cause cataracts later in life, which is why wearing sunglasses is important. Many sunglasses are now made specifically to block harmful UV rays.
It’s important to note that about 60%-80% of UV rays can get through cloud cover. UV rays can also penetrate into a foot of water. This is why it’s you need to wear sunscreen every day, no matter how long you plan to be outside or the weather conditions. Tight-woven clothing and wide-brimmed hats are also good ways to protect yourself. A simple white cotton shirt only has only about an SPF 7, find a tighter weave of fabric or layer with sunscreen for additional protection.
Clothing that covers the body, wide hats, and sunglasses are good ways to protect yourself. Using sunscreen is also important. Sunscreen should be SPF 15 or higher and should protect against UVA and UVB rays. One easy way to remember to wear sunscreen every day is to use skin care products that include it. Many moisturizers and lotions include at least an SPF 15. Using these products ensures that your face is protected from the sun’s harmful rays even if you don’t normally apply separate sunscreen.
For example, Dr. Perricone‘s Active Tinted Moisturizer includes SPF 15, giving your face the first layer of protection it needs to combat sun damage. Active Tinted Moisturizer doubles as a moisturizer and a very light foundation, making it a good option for streamlining your morning skincare routine. Finding a moisturizer like this one, which contains sunscreen, is a great way to guarantee that sunscreen is a part of your daily skin care routine. And to make sure you don’t burn a hole in your pocket, use a Perricone code to help lower the costs.