Dermatologists have always known that sun damage is very hard on the skin, but a recent study breaks down just how much.
UV exposure seems to be responsible for 80% of visible facial aging signs.” – US National Library of Medicine
According to the study a face can be aged an extra three years in appearance by just a two percent increase in sun damage. These differences become more evident over time, as the effects of sun damage start to add up and become more apparent.
Appearance is not the only concern with sun damage. The sun can cause a host of different problems, including skin cancer, pigmentation issues and reduction of skin elasticity.
Dangers of Unprotected Skin Exposure
The list of potential problems from unprotected skin exposure is long, and that’s why we suggest using a high quality 30 SPF+ susncreen every day. Here’s some of the potential problems that can arise as a result of too much unprotected sun expsoure:
Solar lentigines- age spots or dark spots on chronically sun exposed areas.
Labial lentigo- generally a dark spot on lower lip.
Solar elastosis-loss of elasticity and collagen causing deep wrinkles and saggy skin.
Melasma- also referred to as a pregnancy mask. Melasma manifests as dark patches on cheeks, forehead, or upper lip in women. It can be triggered by pregnancy or taking oral contraceptives. It is usually made worse by sun exposure.
Poikiloderma- red and brown pigmentation usually found on the neck and chest.
Suntan- this is damage to the top layer of your skin.
First-degree burn- when your skin turns red from a sunburn this is a first degree burn.
Second degree burn- sunburn with swelling or blisters. This is generally more painful and sensitive than a first degree burn and damages more layers of skin.
Wrinkles- over time elastin and collagen are depleted by sun exposure, causing the skin to sag, stretch, and have wrinkles.
Actinic Keratoses- patches of rough, scaly skin generally found in areas consistently exposed to sunlight. These are precancerous and can turn into squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) if left untreated.
Actinic Chelitis (Farmer’s Lip)- often accompanied with dryness, cracking and/or swelling and scaly patches. Actinic chelitis is a precancerous stage and can turn into squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) if left untreated.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (skin cancer)- usually a firm red bump or scaly sore that doesn’t heal. These generally appear in areas of the body that get lots of sun exposure.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (most common type of skin cancer)- usually a white or pink bump or flat scaly pink patch.
Lentigo Maligna- dark spot from continual sun exposure that progressively gets darker and larger with uneven pigmentation. This term is used for melanoma (skin cancer) in the most superficial layers of sun damaged skin.
Melanoma (most deadly type of skin cancer)- a change in the appearance of a mole is a warning sign.
Prevention is the Best Medicine for Sun Damage
While it is not impossible to undo sun damage after it has been done, it is much harder than preventing it in the first place. If you don’t already have a daily skin care regimen make sure to start one. Here are the most important things for a daily skin care regimen:
- Use a good quality sunscreen
- Use a quality moisturizer
- Use a retinol nightly
While there are more ways you can improve your skin care routine, those will give you a solid foundation.
Is it Too Late if I already have Skin Damage?
If you already have noticeable skin damage that also means your skin is damaged underneath the top layers of skin. It is still possible to start turning things around and making your skin better. If you have sun damage you want to get treated you should schedule an appointment with a board certified dermatologist so they can evaluate what the best treatment will be for your skin type, sun damage and goals.
Possibilities of treatments for sun damage can include:
- Silkpeel Microdermabrasion
- Pico Genesis Laser treatment for skin pigmentation
- Laser Genesis treatment for mild redness and fine lines
- Excel V laser treatments for more severe redness
- Chemical peels (will link once service page is posted)
- Micro-needling for deeper wrinkles
- Botox or fillers for maintenance of fine lines and deeper folds
An appointment with a board certified dermatologist at Dermatology Center of Acadiana can help you find out what the best options for treating your skin for sun damage would be for your skin type and specific situation.