How the Sun Affects your Skin
Feeling the warmth of the sun on our backs generally makes us feel good about the world. We also need sunlight to produce Vitamin D, which is essential for strong bones and our general health. However, there is an obvious downside to too much sun. The sun damages our dermis (where all the vital structures of our skin live) and this is not just caused by sun baking or using a solarium. All the signs of ageing, including pigmentation, can occur anytime you are outdoors or exposed to the sun – at work, when walking, gardening or playing sport.
The areas of our skin that are exposed to sunlight (UV radiation) are then disposed to photo-ageing. UV light is absorbed by the skin, which produces oxidation and results in long-term cellular damage with the creation of free radicals. Cell walls are then weakened, inhibiting healthy functioning. The cell may die or its makeup may be changed, for example it may change into what you see as a pigmentation spot. There are many cellular changes made at this deep level, even before we actually see these brown areas on the surface of our skin. Once a cell has changed, it is very difficult to recreate its healthy state, as damaged cells have changed DNA. Although there is dermal cell turnover every 28 days, the new cells are also damaged.
An increase in cell death causes the dermis to be thinned and decreases the amounts of collagen and elastin holding everything together. This then leads to a decrease in the water-holding capacity, both in and around the cells, so your skin becomes:
- Thinner at first, then appears thicker with more sun damage. This is the leathery look from the buildup of the keratin layer as the body tries to protect itself from more damage.
- Coarse, dry, loose and saggy as the collagen layer thins
- Pigmented with uneven tone and darkened areas as increased amounts of melanin are produced when the cells try to naturally protect themselves
- Wrinkly, as damage causes cell renewal to slow even more than with the natural ageing process
- Lined with visible capillaries as the smallest blood vessels become deformed and are more visible from the thinning of the skin
- More likely to develop skin cancers of all varieties
It’s not all bad news! Did you know that having healthy skin on the inside slows the visible signs of ageing on the outside?
How to Slow Sun Damage, Pigmentation and the Visible Signs of Ageing
Avoid exposure – whatever the season and the weather:
- Slip, slop, slap
- Avoid outside activities during the middle of the day
- Choose to use sunblocks rather than sunscreens. Sunblocks act like a barrier to the sun’s rays. They adhere to the skin’s surface and reflect the rays away from the skin rather than absorbing them. They are more water-resistant, less allergenic and won’t clog pores. Just a note on SPF: SPF is determined by a mathematical equation relating to the time taken for a chemical sunscreen to absorb UV light in the skin, so sunblocks cannot be given an SPF. Their equivalent is SPF 30+. Sunblocks usually contain some or all of these ingredients:
- titanium dioxide
- zinc oxide
- zirconium oxide
- Wear good quality mineral make-up. Plus, see our makeup recommendations specifically for creating an even skin tone.
- Avoid chemical sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV light within the skin and carry the chemicals in the bloodstream – they have been found up to 72 hours after application in the liver! Chemical sunscreens may contain any of these ingredients:
- para-aminobenzoic Acid (PABA)
- octyl methoxycinnamate
- butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane
What to do if you Already Have Pigmentation and Sun Damage
It’s never too late to start…
- Cover up your skin
- Eat well and drink plenty of water
- Avoid smoking
- Use a skin care regime that includes safe, nourishing, transdermal (able to penetrate) serums and creams that are based on topical stabilised antioxidants (including Vitamin A) that are of medical strength
- Avoid skin products and make-up that contain toxic chemicals
- Have regular skin treatments, such as DermaFrac and Vitamin A infusions.
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