Sun Damage: The Effect of Sun Exposure on Skin

By |September 20th, 2016|Skin Care|

sun damage skinWe’ve grown up in a culture where a tan was considered healthy-looking and beautiful, without explaining the ugly side of sun exposure. No, not just skin cancer, but the cosmetic damage sun can do to your skin. We don’t really think about this kind of damage until it’s already surfaced.

So, what exactly is a tan? Let’s start with the basics…

Your skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin, which provides a barrier to the outside environment as well as providing our skin tone. The dermis is just below the epidermis and houses hair follicles, sweat glands and tough connective tissue. The innermost layer is the hypodermis which is primarily fat and connective tissue.

The cells of the epidermis contain a pigment called melanin. This pigment protects the skin from UV rays to a certain extent and the production of this pigment is what we associate with a tan. If the skin is exposed to too much sun, the UV rays penetrate the outer layers of the skin and can damage the DNA of the cells. This can result in skin cancer.

But what about the sun exposure that doesn’t result in skin cancer? Are there any long-term effects of frequent, unprotected sun exposure? YES! Many of the patients we see come to us with skin concerns that have resulted from years of sun exposure. While these skin issues are not necessarily life-threatening, they can be aesthetically unpleasing.

Here are some of the top skin concerns caused by sun exposure:

Uneven Pigmentation:

When your skin gets sun-tanned, that’s your skin producing more of it’s brown pigment (melanin) to protect itself. When it produces unevenly, you’ll notice uneven coloring in your skin. Sun exposure can also cause unsightly pink and red blotches, tiny broken capillaries.

Elastosis:

The breakdown of the skin’s connective tissue (collagen and elastin fibers), which causes wrinkles, sagging skin, and easy bruising.

Melasma:

Dark patches on the skin on the face caused by a combination of factors such as sun exposure and hormones.

Solar lentigines:

Also called age spots or liver spots, solar lentigines are flat hyper pigmented areas of the skin and are most common in older individuals.

Actinic keratoses:

Also known as ‘pre-cancers,’ these rough, raised patches are most common in lighter-skinned individuals.

Our dermatologists are leaders in the field of cosmetic dermatology and treat the effects of sun damage on a daily basis. They can help identify your skin concerns and suggest appropriate treatment options. For more information, please call us at (305) 443-6606 to set up a consultation.

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