How to Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage

How to Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage
October 08 14:06 2018 Print This Article

Sunlight is our main source of Vitamin D, which helps us take in calcium to support bone growth. However, too much sunlight can lead to skin damage, including premature wrinkling and hyperpigmentation. While both conditions can be treated with skincare creams and non-surgical procedures such as laser skin resurfacing, be warned that excessive sun exposure can also lead to the development of life-threatening diseases.

Different types of skin cancer can develop due to excessive sun exposure. These include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. But the most dangerous one that’s caused by unprotected sun exposure is melanoma, which kills over 9,000 people in the United States annually, according to data compiled by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

How the Sun Damages Skin

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the primary reason why the skin gets damaged when overexposed to sunlight. The UV rays responsible for sun damage are UVA and UVB.

In order to produce Vitamin D, UVB rays are needed. They ignite the melanin production in your body, which is also why the skin becomes tan. However, these rays get absorbed by DNA and can lead to skin cancer and other diseases. Even though they only affect the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin), UVB rays can lead to noticeable damage, like sunburn.

UVA rays, on the other hand, can pierce through the dermis (the deeper skin layer). Moreover, free radicals are produced by UVA rays, which can potentially damage DNA in the long run. These, along with UVB rays, may also cause hyperpigmentation.

Negative Effects of Sun Exposure on the Skin

Premature Aging (or Wrinkles)

While it’s normal to start getting wrinkles as you get older, the premature development of wrinkles is mainly caused by overexposure to UV radiation. UVB rays can cause the epidermis to thicken, while elastin and collagen (which help maintain the skin’s elasticity and firmness) are broken down by UVA rays. When the skin loses elastin and collagen, it begins to wrinkle and sag. These rays also dry up the skin, making it rough and prickly.


When certain areas of your skin become more discolored than the skin around it, this is called hyperpigmentation. This happens when melanin (the substance that creates the skin’s color) is overproduced. The condition usually manifests as dark spots that vary in size and shape. The different types of hyperpigmentation include freckles, age spots, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), and melasma.

Skin Cancer

Because the skin is the largest organ of the body, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the most common type of cancer is the one developed in the skin. When UVB rays damage DNA, this can lead to either basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, or melanoma skin cancers.

The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinomas. These are small, red lumps or scaly areas that have no identifiable precursor. They usually appear on the face, hands, ears, shoulders, and back. Their growth is slow and metastasis is rare, but to treat them you’ll need to undergo surgery.

Squamous cell carcinomas are also a common form of skin cancer but are more dangerous than basal cell carcinomas. These are thick, red or pink scaly spots that are mainly found in UV-radiation-exposed areas of the body such as the face, neck, lips, hands, arms, and legs. While they’re slow to grow and can be removed by surgery, they’re considered more harmful than basal cell carcinomas because they metastasize.

The most serious and rarest type of skin cancer is melanoma. Like the two other cancers, it can usually be found in sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, neck, hands, lips, and arms. Melanomas often appear as a new mole or as an old one with a changed color, size, or texture. This skin cancer, in its early stages, can be treated but if left neglected, it can metastasize and become fatal.

How to Prevent Sun Damage

Consider the Time Before Going Out

Limiting sun exposure is the best way to prevent sun damage. So before going outdoors, always consider the time when the sunlight is most intense. UV rays are strongest between 10 AM to 4 PM, so take note that it’s best to stay indoors during these hours. A quick way to know if the rays are still too strong is to check the length of your shadow (if it’s shorter than you are, then the rays are still intense).

Apply Sunscreen

Use sunscreen every day, no matter what the season is or what the weather is like. An average person’s life is spent approximately 80 percent under the sun. So wear sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside. It would also help to learn the value of sun protection factor (SPF) in sunscreens.

SPF numbers indicate how much protection you have from UVB rays. So the higher the SPF value, the more shielded you are from the sun’s burning rays. What’s recommended for everyone is a sunscreen with an SPF of 30. But if you’ve ever had some form of skin cancer, it’s advisable to wear one with an even higher value.

Wear a Hat

The ideal hats for sun protection have at least a two- to three-inch brim. These shield areas that are prone to sun exposure, such as the eyes, forehead, nose, ears, and scalp. If you don’t want UV rays from water surfaces hitting your face, get hats with non-reflective undersides. Another good option is a shade cap that protects the neck with a draped-down fabric, which should be approximately seven-inches long.

Wear Sunglasses

During sunny days, sunglasses make it easier for us to see. But the right pair can also protect you from UV rays. So for this one, settle only for sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV-protection. These shield the skin around your eyes, which are usually the first areas that reveal the signs of aging. Choose oversized glasses as well, since these provide more coverage and decrease sun damage around the eyes and adjacent areas.

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About Article Author

Jena Wryth
Jena Wryth

Jena Wryth is a blogger that is currently writing about cosmetics and plastic surgery, she writes to inspire other people to look at the positive side of things. She is a freelance writer in California and cares for dogs.

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