Sun damage

What are the signs of long-term sun damage?
Wrinkles and sagging skin
Sun spots and pigmentation
Prominent blood vessels and redness
Pre-cancerous spots and skin cancer

How can I prevent further sun damage?
Check the UV index and avoid being outdoors when it is high
SPF 50+ sunscreen daily
Antioxidants
Protective clothing, hat, sunglasses

What treatments are available?
Fine lines and wrinkles: topical retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids
Pigmentation: antioxidants such as vitamin C, retinoids, kojic acid, ascorbic acid, IPL, laser
Prominent blood vessels and redness: IPL and laser
Sagging skin and deep wrinkles: dermal fillers, ultrasound, radiofrequency, laser, surgery
Pre-cancerous spots and skin cancers: medicated creams, cryotherapy, photodynamic therapy, surgery

Even though these days we’re much more aware of the harm the sun can do to the skin, many of us still develop some sun damage. Here you’ll learn more about what exactly the sun does to our skin, how we can prevent further damage, and what can be done about the damage already done.

What does sun exposure do to the skin?

When we’re in the sun, we are exposing our skin to ultraviolet radiation. In the short term, this can cause sunburn, which presents as redness, swelling, and sometimes blistering. Often, tanning of the skin will also occur, as ultraviolet exposure stimulates melanin (pigment) production, by our skin cells. 

Longer term, sun exposure can cause damage to our DNA and increase the risk of skin cancer, as well as pre-cancerous spots such as actinic keratoses. Chronic sun exposure alters our collagen and elastin, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin. Pigment production is increased, which can cause sun spots, darkening of freckles and uneven pigmentation, and blood vessels can be damaged, leading to dilated blood vessels and redness

How can I prevent further sun damage?

The best ways to prevent further sun damage are to avoid being outdoors when the UV index is high, wearing an adequate amount of an SPF 50+ sunscreen daily and reapplying when needed, and wearing a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing. Many apps are available which tell you what the UV index is each day, which can give you a guide as to when are safe times to be outdoors. Sun protection is always recommended when the UV index is 3 or above, but it is safest to sun protect all the time. Applying an antioxidant each morning underneath sunscreen and makeup can help protect against sun damage, but does not act as a sunscreen. 

How can my sun damage be treated?

The different elements of sun damage need to be treated differently. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr-Julia-Rhodes

Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…