Sun damage occurs over time after repeated or extended exposure to the sun. It accelerates the normal aging process as the sun’s ultraviolet light breaks down and damages the elastins in our skin. When this happens, our skin begins to lose its ability to go back into place after stretching and it begins to sag.
Anyone can be affected by sun damage, although it is much more common in people with light skin. Other risk factors include previous incidents of skin cancer or a family history of it; mole, freckles and light skin/eyes; living or working in tropical climate and spending a great deal of time outdoors, or having certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.
Symptoms of sun damage can include dry skin, sunburn, long-term changes in the skin, such as deep wrinkles and thickening of the skin’s texture. It may also be indicated by easy bruising on the back of the hands and forearms.
Actinic keratosis, a small bump that feels like sandpaper or a persistent patch of scaly (peeling) skin with a jagged surface is another indicator of sun damage.
The type of treatment will depend upon the form of sun damage, and may include using a moisturizer and also avoiding hot baths and showers. Sunburns can be treated with cool compresses and a light topical treatment of aloe vera gel. Long-term sun damage that causes collagen changes cannot be reversed, but your doctor can provide you with options to inmprove the appearance of your skin. These may include chemical peels, cryosurgery, laser resurfacing or dermabrasion, which allows new skin to grow in place of the old, sun-damaged skin.
If your skin has been damaged by the sun, the doctors at U.S. Dermatology Partners can evaluate what types of treatments will best help your skin’s recovery.
To prevent sun damage to your skin, limit the amount of time spent outdoors at the peak times of sun (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). Always wear sunscreen and sunglasses, and if possible wear long pants, shirts with long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat to block the sun.
*Results may vary by individual