Your skin can become damaged by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun – causing premature skin ageing and putting your health at risk. This is why it’s really important to take steps to protect your skin from UV radiation. However, it must also be said that some amount of sun exposure is necessary for vitamin D production.
Risks of Sun Damaged Skin
Sunburn isn’t just painful, it’s actually very damaging to the cells in your skin. Repeated sunburn can make your skin dry, and give it a wrinkled, leathery appearance. Dryness compromises the skin’s barrier function, which may lead to an increased risk of allergen sensitisation and skin infection.
Photo-ageing – so called extrinsic ageing – is a result of chronic or intense intermittent sun exposure producing recurrent damage by the sun’s UV radiation. It usually ccurs in sun-exposed skin (e.g., on the face and arms). Photo-aged skin is marred by discolouration, freckling, diffuse wrinkles and deep lines. Extrinsic ageing of the skin can be exacerbated by poor diet, smoking and alcohol.
One of the most serious risks of spending too much time in the sun is the risk of skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation can cause direct or indirect DNA damage to the cells of the skin. Ultraviolet radiation also suppresses the body’s immune response to these abnormal cells. Thus, photo‐aged skin can be associated with cancerous lesions. Excessive alcohol intake can further increase this risk, by decreasing the absorption of important anti‐oxidants (e.g., vitamin A).
Preventing Sun Damage
You can prevent your skin from becoming sun damaged by following a few simple tips:
- Stay out of the sun when it’s at its hottest. The sun is hottest between 10am and 3pm, so try to stay indoors, or in the shade during these times.
- Wear sun protective clothing, and make sure you wear a hat.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is extremely important for your skin. It becomes even more important if you’re out in the sun. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated.
- Use the right sunscreen and make sure you re-apply throughout the day.
There are many different types of sunscreen available, and it can become very confusing to try to figure out which is the right one for you.
The first thing you should look for is a broad spectrum sunscreen, offering protection against both UVA and UVB radiation, as both can be harmful for your skin.
The next thing you need to look at it is the SPF, or sun protection factor. The SPF shows the strength of the sun screen. For example, SPF 15 blocks out around 93% of the sun’s rays, while SPF 50 blocks out around 98% of the sun’s rays. However, protection is also dependent on proper application techniques, and, as a general rule, you’ll need to reapply every two hours.
The last thing you need to look for is water resistance. No sunscreen is water-proof, but some are water-resistant.
If You Do Get Sunburned…
Make sure you treat it appropriately. Mild cases can be treated by taking cool showers or baths, and moisturizing your skin with a soothing moisturizer. You can use one with aloe vera, or try an after-sun product. Do try to avoid products that may irritate your skin and avoid tight, harsh clothing.