How To Prevent Skin Sun Damage
Enjoying the sunny days? Taking in all the sunshine you can to save up for the gloomy winter months? The sun provides us with its light and warmth which is important for our survival, for both our emotional and physical well-being. Additionally, sun exposure is necessary in order to obtain enough vitamin D which is essential for proper bone development. However, the sun can have various damaging effects on the skin which we need to be aware of. Though some are just cosmetic in nature, other more damaging effects of the sun on the skin can ultimately result in a more serious outcome such as skin cancer.
A most visible effect on how to prevent skin sun damage is tanning and sun burns. Tanning occurs when there is an increase in production of melanin (which is the pigmentation present in the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin). This increase in production which makes our skin a darker, browner color, is in essence protecting the deeper layers of the skin from being harmed. On occasion, the melanin does not produce evenly across an area of skin which leaves a person with irregular coloring or pigmentation. A sun burn occurs when the outer layers of skin release chemicals which cause swelling of the blood vessels and a leak of fluid. This is what causes the skin to turn red in addition to being painful. After a sun burn, the outer layers of skin start to peel in order to get rid of the damaged cells. The skin will return to normal, but underlying damage may have been done.
Included in the negative cosmetic effects of the sun’s rays are signs of premature aging of the skin. This would present as wrinkles, skin creases, and loose or sagging skin. This is due to the sun’s UV rays which break down the skin’s connective tissue which in turn causes the skin to lose its elasticity and strength. Another aspect of premature skin aging is the formation of solar lentigines, commonly referred to as aging spots, which appear as flat spots that are usually brown, black, or gray due to increased pigmentation. Increased sun exposure can also cause changes in skin texture and thinning of the skin making it more susceptible to tears and blistering.
Another more cosmetic effect that the sun has on our skin is what is usually known as, sun spots, or solar keratoses. These are rough, scaly raised lesions that range in color from flesh-colored/pink to red or dark brown. They are found primarily on the areas that are most exposed to the sun (face, ears, neck, and hands). These sun spots are for the most part not harmful though may be unattractive or uncomfortable. However, there is a chance that these solar keratoses can result in squamous cell carcinoma. A person with multiple sun spots should be regularly checked by a dermatologist to keep on top of the situation. As such, people often opt to have sun spots removed both for cosmetic and medical reasons.
The final and most serious damage to our skin caused by the sun’s UV rays is skin cancer. Skin cancer results primarily from a sun burn that occurred in childhood and overall too much sun exposure. When the unprotected skin is exposed too often to the sun’s strong rays, the structure of skin cells is changed and ultimately damaged, leading to loss of function of our skin’s immune system. This results in formation of cancerous skin cells. The most common types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, listed from least to most severe in nature. Treatment for skin cancer varies per individual and severity of the disease. Common treatment for non-melanoma cancers (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma) includes various surgeries that remove the cancerous cells directly or freezing the cancer cells to remove them. Treatment for melanoma includes wide surgical excision, drugs (such as chemotherapy), and radiation among other interventions.
So next time you’re considering enjoying those sunny days, make sure to stay safe and keep your skin protected. Even if the sun doesn’t seem to be beating down, its UV rays are usually still present, penetrating your skin. So apply sunscreen that offers protection of at least 30 SPF, half an hour prior to going out and reapply every 2 hours if swimming or sweating. Additionally, wearing a wide brim hat can protect your face and neck. Try to avoid the sun at the peak of its strength which is between 10 AM and 2 PM. A final recommendation is to be aware of your skin and note any changes, whether new lesions or changes to pre-existing ones, (in color or size) and go discuss with your doctor.
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Surgical Warning: Every form of surgery has a possibility of a complication and these are given to you in detail by Dr Lanzer. It is a good idea to understand your surgical procedure well, and to obtain further advice from another Specialist Cosmetic surgeon such as a Dermatologist like Dr Lanzer.
All photographs represent one person’s experience, and results may vary for each patient. All photographs are of actual patients of Dr Lanzer. The visible change in these photographs has occurred as a result of the procedure/s undertaken.