Skin care specialists often use the term, “sun damage” to describe the harm that sunshine can do to skin.  Sun damage is not just one thing, though. It can actually appear as any of a wide spectrum of changes that are caused mostly from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.

UV light from tanning booths has also been implicated in damage to skin.

The most obvious changes in your skin from exposure to UV light include sunburn, darker coloration, uneven patches and the appearance of various kinds of spots.

This article focuses on answering two questions:

  1. How does the sun damage your skin?
  2. What can you do about it?

Before addressing those two key questions, let’s take a look at the more common effects of sun damage to your skin.

What is Sun Damage?

The most obvious changes in the appearance of your skin from sun damage are:

  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Increased wrinkling
  • Appearance of broken blood vessels
  • Development of dark or scaly patches
  • Expansion of areas with thickened leather-like texture
  • Occurrence of so-called ‘age spots’ and ‘liver spots’

These effects are typically believed to be due to normal aging. However, sun damage accelerates these changes.

In other words, sunshine makes your skin look as though it is aging faster than it should. Dermatologists call this phenomenon photo-aging.

Photo-aging is blamed on UV light. Even though UV light is invisible to the naked eye, you know that you have had too much exposure to it when your skin starts looking ‘old’ before its time.

How the Sun Can Damage Skin

UV light that reaches the Earth is classified into two categories. They are UVA (‘near UV’) and UVB (‘far UV’). UVA is less energetic, which enables it to penetrate skin more deeply than the more highly energetic UVB.

UVA can pass through glass, clouds and certain other materials. UVB gets blocked out by those same materials. Although UVA rays are less intense, they are 30-50 times more prevalent at the Earth’s surface than UVB. These properties translate into a potentially greater exposure to UVA throughout the day. In contrast, UVB from overhead sunshine peaks between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.

The differences between UVA and UVB determine how each one can cause skin damage. Both types can cause damage to DNA. UVA simply goes deeper into the skin. Damaged DNA translates into genetic mutations. Although cells have the ability to repair fragmented DNA, extensive mutations can overwhelm the cells’ ability to fix broken genes.

The skin is constantly shedding old cells and replacing them with new ones. This process slows when genes malfunction. When that happens, old looking skin simply has a deficiency in new, more youthful cells.

UV light also inhibits enzymes that are responsible for forming the key proteins that make up your skin. The most abundant such proteins are collagen and elastin.

Collagen provides strength to skin. Elastin provides elasticity. Youthful, wrinkle-free skin depends on its strength from collagen and its flexibility from elastin.

What to Do About Sun Damage

The simplest and most widespread advice is to stay out of the sun. This advice is also short-sighted, since your good health depends on sunshine. UV light, for example, drives the formation of vitamin D in your skin.

The form of vitamin D that is made in your skin with UV light is crucial for your protection against cancer, for a stronger immune system, for better cardiovascular health, for optimal brain function and for healthy skin. It is not available in foods or supplements. You can only get it with the aid of UV light.

When considering sun damage, skin care, therefore, must allow for a healthful exposure to sunshine.

This means that the keys for healthy skin include the benefits of sunshine coupled with preventing any potential damage from it. In case you do suffer sun damaged skin, treatment options for reversing it are available.

The best natural skin-enhancing ingredients can address several underlying factors to make skin look young and healthy. Such skin care products can prevent and reverse sun damage on face, hands and arms – wherever sun exposure is greatest.

Look for products that can boost the synthesis of collagen and elastin to provide good skin structure, that can increase skin hydration to reduce wrinkling, and that can soften and condition your skin to give you the youthful glow that you desire.

A few of the ingredients to look for include:

  • Retinol (2016)
  • Vitamins C and E (2007)
  • Hyaluronic acid (2012)
  • Radish extract (2013)
  • Fermented rice (2007)

These are the core components for addressing photo-aging.

What About Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer may also be a worry. However, the cause and effect relationship between sunshine and skin cancer is doubtful (2009). In fact, recent research suggests that lack of UV light for making vitamin D in skin is a more likely cause for the an increasing incidence of melanoma (2009).

Indeed, youthful skin and many other aspects of good health depend on exposure to sunlight (2017).

Just be sure to prevent and reverse any potential sun damage with good natural treatments, in combination with sunlight itself.