Damage From The Sun To Your Skin
Everyone likes to go outside to enjoy a beautiful sunny day and blue skies once in a while. Most people think that the sun can only harm your skin if you go out without protection on sunny days. However, the fact is that the sun’s rays can cause damage to your skin regardless of whether it is a sunny day or a cloudy day.
Most people are unaware that nearly 80 percent(1) of all visible aging on your skin happens due to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, and not by actual aging, or stress, or lack of sleep, or even by drinking one too many glasses of wine. The fine lines, wrinkles, and also the age spots we observe on our skin is likely due to damage from the sun.
So if you are not protecting your skin against the sun, then you are fighting a losing battle.
It is necessary to protect yourself from the aging rays of the sun and to understand that it is possible to reverse the effects of sun damage from your face.
First Step First – Preventing Sun Damage
Regardless of what your age is or what weather it is outside, it is essential that you follow some basic rules to protect yourself from the effects of sun damage.
Here are some of these basic rules that you should be following:
- Out of the total UV solar radiation that reaches the earth, nearly 95 percent of it is all UV A rays and just five percent is UV B radiation. It is recommended that you wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day of the year, all year round. This will ensure that your skin is protected against both types of radiation throughout the year.
- The sun can worsen acne hyperpigmentation, and this is why protecting your skin makes it possible to avoid any darker marks being left behind by any acne blemishes.
- Be careful of what product you are using on your face for helping dark spots. Certain ingredients can make your skin even more sensitive to sun damage so be extra careful with what sun protection and other products you are using.
- Damage caused by the sun goes beyond sunburns. Damage to your skin by the sun rays happens below the surface of the skin. It is cumulative damage, and it can prove to be lethal. Artificial tanning is known to be cancer-causing(2) and similarly, sunbathing habits (3) are known to be just as deadly.
How to Prevent and Reverse Sun Damaged Skin?
Step 1: Use Sunscreen Every Day
Nearly 95 percent (4) of all the rays of the sun that reach the Earth’s surface and your skin is of UV A rays or UVA. Often people believe that they are safe inside or when the skies are cloudy. However, the fact is that UVA rays are undeterred by such factors and can easily pass through the glass as well. So, avoiding the outdoors is not really going to help prevent sun damage. The only thing that will help is wearing sunscreen whenever you step outside.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is recommended that you should limit your exposure to the sun, especially between 10 in the morning to 2 in the afternoon. The sun’s rays are the most intense at this time, so covering up with hats, full sleeve clothing, and sunglasses is recommended, along with wearing sunscreen.(5)
Fact is that you are, in all probability, not using enough sunscreen to prevent the signs of aging. In fact, if you are worried about fading spots, then you have to be all the more careful and vigilant. Many scar-fading treatments and acne treatments, regardless of whether you use over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription products, make your skin even more sensitive to sun damage.
Experts from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)(6) recommend that you should be using at least 30 SPF in sunscreen and you should be applying at least 1/4 teaspoon on your face to make sure that you are getting the required protection from the sun.
Ratings of SPF are typically based on an application of approximately 2 milligrams per square centimeter of your skin.(7) This comes to around an average of a 1/4 teaspoon of your face. This is actually significantly more than what most people think they need. (8) If you are using less than 1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen on your face every day, then you should be measuring out how much sunscreen you need to be using.
At the same time, if you are worried about not getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D without being exposed to the sunlight, then you should discuss what options you have with your doctor.(9) It is possible to also get vitamin D from vitamin supplements and foods.
Step 2: Reversing Sun Damage
While prevention is easier and better than reversing the damage, there are, nevertheless, many options that can help reverse sun damage, especially the visible signs of aging as a result of sun damage. Signs of aging due to sun damage is often referred to as photoaging.
However, before you start using sun protection, you need to commit to yourself that you will stick to the process; otherwise, you will only be doing more harm to your skin than good.
Now before you begin any type of anti-aging treatments for taking care of the rough texture, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation, you need to ensure that you are doing the following:
- Avoiding peak sun hours
- Covering up any exposed skin when going outside by wearing long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses
- Regularly using a high-SPF and broad-spectrum sunscreen daily
If you have been doing all these, then you need to move on to the next step of reversing sun damage with the below-discussed treatment formulas:
Niacinamide helps reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots. Research has shown that niacinamide can help in the following ways:
- Helps decrease the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
- Acts as an antioxidant
- Helps improve the functioning of the epidermal barrier
- Helps reduce skin hyperpigmentation
- Helps reduce blemishes and redness on the skin
- Helps reduce skin yellowing
- Improves skin elasticity
Niacinamide works by blocking the skin’s pigment from surfacing to the outer layer of your skin, and it also helps reduce pigment production.
Niacinamide can be found readily in many moisturizers and serums, making it easy to add to your daily skincare routine.
Azelaic acid helps decrease marks left on the skin by acne. This ingredient has been approved by the FDA, and the ingredient is known to work by lightening the dark spots that have are typically left by sun exposure or acne inflammation. It slows down the production of melanin in the body and also blocks the abnormal melanocytes, which are the pigment-producing cells in the body that mutate or go haywire.
Azelaic acid is known to be excellent for anti-aging and anti-acne, but it is yet to become as well-known as its counterparts like retinoids and hydroxy acids. Azelaic acid has powerful anti-oxidant properties, causes less irritation to your skin as compared to tretinoin(10), and it has such strong anti-inflammatory capabilities that it is also frequently used for treating rosacea.(11)
Retinoids and Topical Retinols
Retinoids and retinol are some of the most popular ingredients in cosmetic products today. These are vitamin A derivatives that work towards decreasing hyperpigmentation by boosting the turnover of epidermal cells along with other mechanisms. These are available as either OTC products (an example being retinol) or as prescription-only products, such as tretinoin.
Research over many years has confirmed that tretinoin is perhaps the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to topical treatment of clogged pores and fighting against acne. It also works effectively to remove fine lines and any unwanted pigmentation as well as improves overall skin texture.
Sun damage goes deeper than just the visible age spots, marks, and other signs of aging. The sun’s rays are known to be carcinogenic, and they can also suppress many activities of our immune system, which also plays a vital role in the development of cancers such as skin cancer.
This is why more than reversing sun damage, protecting your skin from sun damage is even more critical. By taking some small-small steps, you will be able to protect your skin from sun damage and also decrease your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Amaro-Ortiz, A., Yan, B. and D’Orazio, J., 2014. Ultraviolet radiation, aging and the skin: prevention of damage by topical cAMP manipulation. Molecules, 19(5), pp.6202-6219.
- World Health Organization. (2019). Cancer prevention. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/en/ [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- World Health Organization. (2019). The known health effects of UV. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index2.html [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- Skincancer.org. (2019). UVA & UVB – SkinCancer.org. [online] Available at: https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun. [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/understanding-over-counter-medicines/sunscreen-how-help-protect-your-skin-sun [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- Aad.org. (2019). Sunscreen FAQs | American Academy of Dermatology. [online] Available at: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2019). Labeling and Effectiveness Testing: Sunscreen Drug Products for Over-T. [online] Available at: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/guidancecomplianceregulatoryinformation/guidances/ucm330694.htm [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- Onlinelibrary.wiley.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/phpp.12099 [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- Aad.org. (2019). Vitamin D and UV exposure | American Academy of Dermatology. [online] Available at: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/vitamin-d-and-uv-exposure [Accessed 2 Aug. 2019].
- Katsambas, A., Graupe, K. and Stratigos, J., 1989. Clinical studies of 20% azelaic acid cream in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Comparison with vehicle and topical tretinoin. Acta dermato-venereologica. Supplementum, 143, pp.35-39.
- Jones, D.A., 2009. Rosacea, reactive oxygen species, and azelaic acid. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2(1), p.26.