The sun brings us light and heat and is essential for the growth of much of our food as well as healthy living.
We get about 90% of our Vitamin D from the sun which is a requirement for developing strong, healthy bones aiding in the absorption of Calcium, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes type 2 and can aid in mood disorders by boosting the production of serotonin which is our natural happy hormone.
However, too much exposure to sunlight can lead to skin damage. This is related solely to the sun’s ultraviolet rays which are harmful.
Everyone is exposed to these rays which put us at risk of skin damages and overexposure to the UV rays can eventually lead to pre-cancers like actinic keratosis and eventually, cancer.
Here’s a cool experiment showcasing how actually the sun sees us:
In order to protect itself, the body produces melanin when the skin is exposed to the radiation to try and absorb and spread it in an attempt to cool the skin. The increased production of melanin leads to the darkening of the skin, our tanned look.
Overindulgence in the sun, however, tends to overwhelm our defenses and ends in the redness and pain of sunburn.
Types of sun damage to the skin
Rosacea is caused when the sun does permanent damage to the tiny blood vessels under the skin of your cheeks.
They are there to help cool and often dilate when you’re embarrassed (blush) or when you are hot and you become flushed. When the sun does damage it causes the blood vessels to no longer constrict making it appear like you are always blushing.
Wrinkles have always been a sign of aging but they are also a sign of sun exposure that causes the fibers that maintain firmness to fray. You can’t avoid wrinkles forever but the sun speeds up the process and may make you look much older much sooner.
Sun damage is responsible for 90% of the signs of aging and wrinkle formation.
3. Age Spots
Age spots, also called liver spots, tend to look like extra large freckles. They will often get darker and show up more as you age.
There may or may not be any link to the sun causing these but the sun can cause them to become darker in summer. If the appearance of them changes you need to see the doctor. We’ve also put together a series of sun safety tips for the summer, so make sure to check it out.
4. Actinic Keratosis
Actinic keratosis is represented by spots that are scaly, thick and rough like the texture of sandpaper. They can be pink, yellow, red, brown or darker or the color of the skin.
These spots develop as a result of repeated exposure of the skin to UV radiation. Unlike your suntan that fades as summer does these spots require a medical procedure to be treated.
These spots are considered precancerous and can develop into squamous cell carcinoma, one type of skin cancer if left untreated which carries about a 20% chance.
5. Actinic cheilitis
Actinic cheilitis is basically just actinic keratosis that occurs on the lips. It appears as a white, scaly spot on the bottom of the lip.
While there are ways to stop and, possibly, reverse sun-damaged skin you can never completely reverse the cellular changes caused by exposure because the treatment of mutation is still in experimental stages.
You can, however, heal the skin to stop or reverse the damages made by the sun and even eliminate precancerous cells before they develop into cancer cells.
10 Tips to Stop and Reverse Sun-Damaged Skin
1. Use Sunscreen
Using sunscreen is the first step in reversing the damage by protecting it against further damages.
Sunscreen protects the skin from the harmful effects of the sun, especially the UVB radiation. It does this by absorbing the radiation preventing the rays from reaching the deeper layers of the skin.
Not only does sunscreen use prevent further damage but it also provides the time the skin needs to heal.
Unfortunately, sunscreen cannot block all of the sun’s ultraviolet rays as there are too many of them so minimizing your skin exposure is still recommended.
2. Include Antioxidants in Your Diet
Antioxidants have the ability to penetrate and repair the skin which is imperative when dealing with sun damaged skin.
It was also found that a diet high in antioxidants, as well as some of the components in cosmetic cream, can slow down cell damage caused by UV radiation and the rate of aging.
Antioxidants, like Resveratrol, like the one found in red wine, protects the skin against 20% of the UVA radiation and the laboratory antioxidant NAC(N-acetyl-L-cysteine) protects about 8%.
There is another option called Tiron that is still being tested but could offer 100% protection against the UVA rays.
3. Moisturize the Skin
Too much exposure to the sun leads to dry skin especially in combination with chlorine and salt water. This is obviously noted by the dry, flaky appearance of the skin and sometimes it even appears slightly wrinkled.
Try to keep the skin hydrated with an effective hand and body cream, something that will actually moisturize it not just makes it smell nice.
A moisturizer with hyaluronic acid helps plump up dry skin around the eyes making it appear less wrinkled. Continuing to use this product can also stimulate the production of new collagen which aids in improving the skin’s texture and appearance.
4. Take in Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a vitamin that keeps the body tissues and the immune system strong and healthy. Often we hear people take it when they feel a cold coming on in winter.
This vitamin encourages the production of collagen and acts as an antioxidant on the inside to stop the oxidation that is occurring due to sun exposure.
It is recommended that women take in at least 75 mg a day and men take in 90 mg a day for this to be effective. So check the label on your orange juice bottle and add supplements where they are needed.
There are also face serums available with vitamin C in them that may be quite effective.
The skin on the human body regenerates approximately every 27 days. That means a lot of dead skin cells. The buildup of these can make the skin appear blotchy, flawed and uneven.
There is a variety of options available now to help you exfoliate every day including loofah sponges that have a rough surface as well as the poufs that are made from a mesh also giving a roughened surface to grab hold of those dead cells.
You can also use alpha hydroxy acid cleansers as well as microdermabrasion kits.
No matter what you use to remove the dry, flaky cells your skin will look smoother.
Just remember to rinse those sponges really well so what you just removed doesn’t build up!
6. Bleach the Brown Spots
Despite the name of it, bleaching doesn’t actually make the skin lighter or whiter. It just helps to lighten the unwanted color.
These products are available over the counter but you want to make sure they contain kojic acid and hydroquinone, Retin-A and a mild steroid cream in order to aid in those stubborn brown spots or discolored areas.
7. Laser Options or Light-emitting diodes (LED)
Laser options are usually very expensive therefore not an option for everyone. This option uses the same UV light that can lead to skin cancer to cure cancerous growths.
Laser treatments can also be used to reverse some of the sun damage such as evening out some of the pigmented areas.
Cosmetic laser procedures can also trigger the increased production of collagen, improve acne and, in turn, improve healing across the surface of the skin.
The red-light-emitting devices, such as Tanda, helps promote the production of collagen which, in turn, reduces fine lines and wrinkles and, it too, can improve acne.
Like most things, these devices are becoming available for home use decreasing the cost over time of going to get treatments done.
8. Visit a Dermatologist
If you have identified areas of your skin that may be a problem then your best option is to see your doctor followed by a dermatologist who is trained in identifying spots that could already be pre-cancerous or cancerous and those that are okay now but have the potential to become dangerous.
They are also trained in removing these spots with little damage to the surrounding tissue or using professional laser treatments.
9. Wear Protective Clothing
Of course, the easiest way to protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays is to cover up.
Lightweight clothing, as well as sunglasses designed to block the UV rays and a wide-brimmed hat, will keep the skin healthy.
10. Take A Milk Bath
Cleopatra was envied for her famous, smooth skin and it was determined that she used milk and honey baths to keep it looking the way it did.
Though there is little to no scientific proof of healing it has been found to make the skin feel soft and smooth.
Giving your skin some care and helping to reverse the damage caused by years in the sun gives your skin the chance to be renewed and if that reduces or eliminates the chance of cancer then that’s an extra win!