Long-term and repeated exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet light, can cause a variety of cosmetic and medical problems related to the skin, commonly referred to as sun damage. Sun damage can affect any area of the skin as a result of excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Sun damage most commonly occurs on the face, hands, and arms, and may lead to sunspots, age spots, rough skin, and wrinkles. Years of sun exposure can also lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Some individuals may notice skin lesions that are a form of actinic keratosis, which is a precancerous skin condition that develops from years of sun exposure.
One is a precursor to the other. As discussed above, every sunburn you have accumulates the UVA and UVB radiation you’ve received, and this creates long-term sun damage. It simply accumulates, as if on a ledger. Eventually, if you get too much sun exposure and damage, the bill will come due in the form of wrinkly, beat-up skin, and possibly some type of skin cancer.
The best treatment against sun damage is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. It is important to wear sunscreen on a daily basis and avoid excessive exposure to the sun, especially during mid-day hours when the sun is strongest. Additional ways to prevent sun damage include:
Basically everyone, short of vampires, is probably going to need treatments to address sun-damaged skin. People over the age of 60 can blame the fact that there was little understanding of how the sun’s ultraviolet radiation affected skin in the time of their youth. Also, sunscreens had only been invented and weren’t very good. As for younger people getting sunburns and lots of sun exposure, you can blame that on the tendency of youth to feel invincible. But all that sun exposure in your younger days will come back as age spots, lines, creases, thinning skin, and potentially skin cancer in later years.If you’ve spent time out in the sun, you can benefit from our chemical peels, IPL Photofacials, microdermabrasion, and other treatments to remove sun-damaged skin and reveal healthier, younger skin beneath.
Although not treatments, per se, our injectable dermal fillers can mask issues due to sun damage, such as lines, creases, and sunken areas.
Sun damage is permanent. Does that mean the red skin and stinging pain of sunburn are permanent? Of course not. But the damage that has been done to the skin cells by overexposure is permanent. Much of what ages our skin is the damage created by sun exposure. Skin cancers are the result of accumulating sun exposure over time, especially for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. For those two types of skin cancer, sun exposure accumulates, and it can eventually lead to cell mutations in the basal cells or squamous cells of the skin. So, while your child’s painful sunburn will calm down and begin peeling in just a couple of days, the damage it has created can start a pattern of accumulated effects.
As for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, every peeling sunburn a person has doubled their odds of developing melanoma later in life.
Sun-damaged skin is permanently damaged. There isn’t any miracle method for reversing the damage. What are treatments work to do is help the body slough off the outermost damaged skin cells, revealing younger-looking cells beneath.
These are aesthetic treatments. They don’t reverse sun damage, so you shouldn’t think you can hammer your skin for years and then one day show up and be “treated” and reverse the damage. That’s not possible. Our aesthetic treatments simply help you cope with the sun damage cosmetically.
Not treating or addressing your sun damaged skin will simply make you look older and more tired.
Once sun damage has occurred, there are options available to cosmetically improve the damage that has already been suffered. Injectable fillers such as collagen help to fill out lines and wrinkles to give the skin a fuller, smoother look and feel. Phototherapy can reduce the appearance of uneven pigmentation and laser treatments may also be effective for these conditions. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion soften and rejuvenate the skin by removing old and dead layers of skin cells. This helps to promote new growth and enhanced the texture of the skin. resulting in a noticeable renewal of the skin. Individuals that notice any suspicious growths or skin patches should immediately consult with a doctor, as early detection is extremely important in treating many forms of skin cancer that may have developed as a result of sun damage.
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Our treatments at Dr. Ragi’s practice are not overly invasive. Intense pulsed light treatments may create some redness for a day or so after treatment, but there isn’t any recovery necessary. Microdermabrasion can leave your skin a little dry for a couple of days, but that is easily addressed with moisturizers. Our light and medium-depth chemical peels don’t create the recovery that follows a deep peel (we don’t perform deep phenol peels). There can be some slight crusting after a medium peel, but this is limited to a few days and it can be handled with moisturizer.
Tanning booths tan your skin in the same way that natural sunlight does, by basically creating sun damage. You have to remember that human skin tans as a defense mechanism against the sun. The melanocytes in our skin give our skin its color. People with darker skin tones simply have more melanocytes in their skin than people with fair skin. When skin receives UV radiation from the sun, the melanocytes are the protection mechanism. They darken with UV radiation to protect the skin from burning. That’s why some people with darker skin don’t seem to burn or have the degree of sun damage as fair-skinned people. Tanning beds emit the same UV radiation that the sun does, and this is how they create tanned skin on their users. This is no different than natural sun exposure. Want a second downside to tanning beds? Natural sunlight comes in two forms of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. UVB is the ultraviolet light that causes sunburns. UVA penetrates more deeply, creating more premature skin aging. UVB light has the side benefit of providing vitamin D, a critical vitamin needed for various functions in the body. Tanning beds, however, emit mostly UVA radiation, which is far less efficient at creating skin tanning, but ages the skin more readily. Plus, there isn’t any vitamin D in UVA radiation. That’s three strikes against tanning beds.
The sun’s UV radiation that we’ve discussed throughout this page damages the skin cells. This mainly occurs in the outer epidermis in a visible sense. Yes, UVA rays penetrate more deeply and create more long-term aging, but they don’t affect the skin’s appearance in the short term. Tattoo ink is placed more deeply into the skin so that the skin cells inked don’t slough off with the continual turnover of our outer skin layer. Because of their depth, tattoos are not affected by sun damage.
One thing to consider with tattoos and sun exposure, however, is how the accumulating sun damage combined with the natural loss of collagen in the skin will make your tattoo sag and distort with age. Sun damage only accentuates these changes in aging skin. That’s why the dragon you have today could look more like a platypus 30 years from now.
“The staff was extremely helpful and the doctor was very accommodating. Treatment was the best by far with quick diagnosis and recovery time. Would definitely recommend it to anyone with any skin conditions/cancers.”
– Evelyn U.