Look at the healthy skin of any young child – the texture of the skin on the top of the arm is the same as the texture on the underside of the arm. Now look at your own arm and compare the texture of the skin on the top vs. the texture on the underside where the sun seldom reaches – a simple test to prove that if we did a more thorough job of protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays, it would have a fine, undamaged, youthful texture.
Signs of Sunburn
It does not take long for the skin to burn from the sun. Depeding on your skin type, this could happen sooner that you think. Symptoms of sunburn appear one to twenty-four hours after exposure, and will peak at seventy-two hours, unless burning is severe.
- The skin will become mildly tender or you can have severe pain and swelling.
- Blisters may appear – when these open, they will peel away the outer layer of skin. Secondary infections may follow once the skin has peeled away. The new skin may be very sensitive to touch and sensitive to sunlight for several weeks.
- Sunburn on the lower extremities is usually more painful and takes longer to heal.
- If large areas of the skin are affected, systemic symptoms may occur such as chills, fever, weakness and shock.
Other signs of sun damaged skin
Sunburn or suntan – the first sign of sun damage to the skin is the darkening and reddening for the skin. A suntan is the result of injury to the epidermis (the top layer of the skin). A tan develops when UV rays accelerates the production of melanin – dark pigment in the skin.
Enlarged pores – over time sun exposure causes the outermost layer of skin to thicken. The loss of collagen, elastin and water from the skin causes the underlying layers of the skin to shrink – leading to enlarged pores.
Aging Skin – it is natural for our skin ages over time and loses its youthful appearance – this is referred to an intrinsic aging. Sun damage, however, also ages the skin before its time – this is called extrinsic aging or aging caused by environmental factors such as sun exposure. Extrinsic aging accelerates the skin aging, making you appear older than you are.
Winkles – over time, the sun’s ultraviolet rays damage the fibers in the skin called elastin. When the elastin breaks down, the skin loses its ability to snap back after stretching, and wrinkles are formed.
Dry skin – sun damaged skin gradually loses its moisture and essential oils, making it appear dry, flaky and prematurely wrinkled.
Liver spots – also called age spots, or large freckles, these have nothing to do with the liver. They are flat, grey, brown or black spots caused by years of sun exposure and can appear on the face, hands, arms and shoulders. They are often accompanied by other signs of sun damaged skin such as thin skin, dry rough skin, wrinkles and find red veins on the cheeks or nose.
Actinic Keratosis – also called solar keratosis, these are small rough spots on the skin that have been exposed to the sun. They can be white, pink or flesh colored, brown or dark brown patches. They are most commonly found on the face, ears, lower arms and hands. These are often pre-cancerous.
Protect yourself with Sunscreen – apply a broad spectrum UVA and UVB sun protection product with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher every time you venture outdoors. Selecting a sun screen with a moisturizer is the best selection for defending against incidental UV exposure.
Sunscreen should be applied to the face, ears, lips, neck and all exposed skin – don’t forget the scalp if you skin is exposed. Sunscreens should be applied 20 minutes before going out. For extended or intentional exposure to the sun, working, exercising, relaxing outdoors, sunscreens should be applied every 2-3 hours on all exposed skin.
Almost 60% of men, ages 20 – 55, do not use sunscreen even though they know their skin will be damaged later on in life.
Take cover – to help avoid damage from the sun, wear a hat, use sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV rays. Wear sub protective clothing. Many manufacturers make clothing that provides protection from damaging UV rays, including, hats, and bathing suits.
Tanning beds – NEVER use tanning beds. Recent studies provide evidence linking indoor tanning bed use to melanoma and reinforce the declaration by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that indoor tanning devices are carcinogenic to humans.
Medicines – often overlooked, certain medicines can cause hypersensitivity to the sun resulting in severe sun burns. Consult your physician before sun exposure if you are taking any medicine or using medically prescribed topical treatments.
Your eyes also absorb UVA rays, however, unlike the skin, the eyes cannot shed damaged cells. Protect your eyes from sun damage with a good pair of sunglasses that block 99% – 100% of all UV light.
- Sun Protection Products Get a New Look(healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Sunscreen: New Guidelines this Summer(healthyskinsolutions.com)
- Sunscreens (healthyskinsolutions.com)
Dermascope: Volume 36, No. 4. April 2011
Skin Cancer Foundation: Repair (Even Reverse) Signs of Sun Damage. Website.