So you’ve got a holiday coming up and you can’t wait to get a healthy tan. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you might want to re-think getting that sun-kissed skin. Find out everything you need to know about the dangers of sun exposure and the skin problems that can arise because of it.
What makes sun exposure so problematic?
Sun exposure induces chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation is a destructive process that leads to abnormal cellular function and weakens skin’s immunity, specifically the immunity that helps skin repair itself. Very simple, sun exposure weakens your skin’s ability to repair damaged DNA and with repeated exposure, more damaged DNA-mutated cells appear. These are initially pre-cancerous cells that will eventually mutate into skin cancer. So, in the short term, you may think that holiday glow makes you look healthy, but in the long-run, it’s actually extremely dangerous for your skin.
Sun exposure also disturbs many cellular functions and normal skin texture, resulting in:
- Dryness and roughness.
- Sensitivity and redness.
- Damaged skin collagen and elastin, which will lead to a leathery skin texture and accelerated skin ageing (earlier and deeper wrinkles and folds), later in life.
Sun Exposure Before Age 20
Think you’re safe from sun damage before the age 20? Think again.
The skin is rich with vitality due to proper and active cellular function and repair, but this doesn’t mean your skin is damage-proof. The earliest sun-damaging effect seen in this age group is the appearance of freckles in light-skinned individuals. This freckling is an indicator of early photosensitivity and susceptibility to severe sun damage later in life. This can affect skin texture and lead to a high possibility of skin cancer. So, unfortunately, you may think your freckles look ‘cute’, but they’re actually an indicator of sun damage.
Those who tan well may have less chance of skin cancer in the future as tanning represents the presence of strong natural resistance (due to stable, real melanin, also known as eumelanin). However, they will suffer from severe textural damage, resulting in skin with a leathery feel and solar elastosis. So, no one escapes sun damage if the skin is not protected at an early age. Even in individuals who tan well, as tanned skin is essentially the skin screaming “help.”
Sun Exposure After Age 20
After age 20, sun damage is manifested by skin dullness, discoloration and roughness. In your 30s and 40s, it is characterised by the appearance of actinic keratosis and lentigines. During your 50s, full-blown textural damage and precancerous lesions are evident, as is the appearance of skin cancer in some.
Those with fair skin will experience more damage than darker skin. Similarly, for those with thin skin, you will find that you show earlier sun damage signs compared to thick skin.
What’s more, if you suffer from other skin problems such as acne or rosacea, these skin diseases can increase susceptibility to sun damage. Equally, certain diseases and genetic disorders (i.e. lupus, xeroderma pigmentosum) can increase photosensitivity, accelerate the appearance of sun damage and result in skin cancer.
Keep note that sun-damaging effects are stronger near water, snow or at high altitudes.