When I was younger, there were two areas on my face that would often turn red and burn- my forehead and my nose. As mentioned, in my previous blogs, I did not know or understand the benefits of sunscreen when I was a kid. As I got older, I started noticing the visible signs of sun damage such as the brown sun spots on my nose. Now, I am cautious to always protect my skin to prevent any further damage.
Today, I would like to discuss three ways the sun can damage your skin and what you can do to prevent this:
Sun or Age Spots
The top layer of our skin (epidermis) produces a substance called melanin which gives your skin its normal color. The more melanin in the skin, the darker the skin appears and the more protection it has against sun damage. Thus, certain ethnic groups such as south asians, latin americans, middle-easterns tend to have more melanin in their skin. Though people with medium or dark complexions naturally have more protection than do people with lighter complexions, they can still experience sun damage.
The normal production of melanin is increased in response to sun exposure to actually protect your skin against harmful Ultraviolet radiation. The more melanin is produced, the darker your skin gets. Since it is not always evenly produced, there are certain areas of the face that will get more pigment and eventually turn to sun or age spots as you get older. The areas most commonly exposed to the sun are your face, hands, arms, ears, upper back, and upper chest.
Thus the reason it is imperative to always use sunscreen of at least SPF 30 when going out into the sun. Read my recent blog on how to protect your skin in the summer.
Increased Wrinkles and Sagging Skin
Upon exposure to the sun, the harmful UV rays damage the existing collagen and elastin in your dermis (deeper layer of your skin) which gives your skin elasticity and support. The less collagen and elastin you have, the more likely you are to produce wrinkles and develop sagging skin.
Thus, again important to protect your skin with sunscreen and use things to help boost your collagen production such as TNS Serum mentioned in my previous blog about my top five anti-aging products. If you already have sagging skin or wrinkles, Botox or Ultherapy can help with this.
Each time your skin is exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays, changes take place in the structure of you skin’s cells. Continuous exposure causes the skin to become permanently damaged, and also affects the immune systems ability to identify and get rid of any abnormal or cancerous skin cells. Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the U.S. UV radiation from the sun is the number-one cause of skin cancer, but UV light from tanning beds is just as harmful. In addition, exposure to sunlight during the winter months also puts you at risk.
There are there main types of skin cancers:
-Basal Cell Carcinoma
-Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Melanoma-made up of abnormal skin pigment cells called melanocytes which produce melanin, the substance we spoke of earlier, is the most serious from of skin cancer and causes 75% of skin cancer deaths. Severe sunburns, usually before the age of 18, can cause melanoma later in life so it is crucial to start protecting your kids early on.
Again, I would like to emphasize using sunscreen and also doing an annual skin check just like you do an annual physical especially if you already have several sun or age spots.
I love being out in the sun just as much as anyone, but we do have to remain conscious of the harmful effects of the sun. Let’s let go of the idea that the sun gives us a “healthy glow” as it really is not “healthy”, and protect our skin against harmful UV rays so we can have healthy, youthful skin for years to come!!!
About the Author:Dr. Sunanda Chugh is the Founder and Medical Director of Anand Medical Spa and has been practicing in NYC since 2004. She is a graduate of Cornell University and has completed her training at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital/Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Chugh has worked and trained with top Plastic Surgeons and Dermatologists in NYC. Her special interest on the effect of the aging process on the face and body inspired her to specialize in Aesthetic Medicine.