Sun Damage Explained

Did you know that unprotected sun exposure is the No. 1 cause of premature skin ageing. In this article, find out what sun damage is, learn how it affects the skin and discover ways to prevent and reduce it.

UVA and UVB

UV radiation is part of the light spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun. It has wavelengths shorter than visible light, which are classified as UVA and UVB rays. Both types of radiation damage the skin in different ways. Ultraviolet B (shortwave) rays are responsible for burnt, red skin, while ultraviolet A (long-wave) rays can penetrate deeper into the skin and cause DNA damage.

Consequences of Sun Damage

Sun damage has short and long-term consequences. An immediately visible sign of sun damage is sunburn. In a mild form, this appears as red, burnt skin. In more severe cases, it is accompanied by blisters, as well as nausea and dizziness.

The more long-term consequences of unprotected sun exposure are dry, dull and uneven skin tone. The sun can dry out skin and deplete its levels of essential fatty acids, leaving skin looking and feeling dry, flaky and wrinkled, over time. Sun damage slows down the rate skin cell renewal, causing a build-up of old, dead skin cells that result in dull, congested skin. It can also cause stubborn pigmentation marks or brown spots.

Sun damage can destroy the collagen and elastin in your skin too. Collagen is a protein that retains the firmness of your skin and elastin is the support fibre that allows skin to bounce back. Collagen and elastin degradation in the deeper skin layers can result in premature signs of skin ageing, such as wrinkles and fine lines, because your skin loses its elasticity and firmness.

While the effects of sun damage are mainly cosmetic, it can become a serious threat to your health when it causes skin cancer. Repeated sunburn and unprotected sun exposure increase the chance of various forms of skin cancer, which is why sun protection is so important.

Protect Yourself

Prevention is better than cure, so make sure you protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun every day. It’s never too early (or too late) to start using an SPF. In fact, the older you get, the harder it is for your skin to repair the effects of sun damage, so the sooner you start the better. On an average day, your SPF should last without the need for re-application. But if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time or sweating a lot, you will need to re-apply your SPF regularly to ensure you are getting full protection. Also be mindful that some medication can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Lips can get sun-damaged too. Don’t forget to protect them with a lip balm containing SPF 30 or greater. Re-apply it regularly because eating, drinking and talking will ensure it wears off quite fast.

Reduce Visible Sun Damage

Although skin ageing due to sun damage is irreversible, there are products that can help reduce the appearance of sun damage.

  • AHA exfoliant: Exfoliates the skin surface, helping to fade pigment spots and reduce dry skin. Your skin tone will look more even with a healthy glow.
  • Retinol: Stimulates the natural cell renewal process and reduces wrinkles and skin discolourations caused by the harmful effects of the sun.
  • Vitamin C: Reduces brown spots, helps brighten skin and protects against damage caused by environmental pollution.
  • Antioxidant serums: The powerful antioxidants in these serums protect skin against environmental damage and boost the efficiency of your SPF product for sun protection.

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