If you remember anything from high school science class, it's probably that your skin is the largest organ in your body. There's plenty else that's amazing about your skin, including its ability to protect your body from outside dangers.
Since your skin already does so much work for you, it only makes sense to do your part to keep your skin healthy and young-looking against sun damage for years to come. Find out how below!
How the Sun Can Damage Your Skin
The sun presents us with something of a catch-22: on the one hand, we can't survive without its warm, life-giving rays, but on the other hand, too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can put our skin at risk for a whole host of problems.
While a lot of this sun damage occurs at the cell level, it often also leads to cosmetic results that are obvious to the naked eye.
For example, too much UV light exposure due to sunlight can increase your risk of skin cancer, age your skin prematurely (resulting in age spots, wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and more), and even discolor your skin! This phenomenon of UV radiation causing your skin to age prematurely is called "photoaging," which is a common skin condition that occurs as a result of photodamage.
Since photoaging is primarily caused by sun-based UV radiation, it most often appears on areas of skin that see frequent sun exposure. This includes your face, neck, appendages, and upper chest. Photoaging can also be caused by tanning beds, which rely on UV radiation to give users a nice skin tan.
Who Is Most at Risk of Sun Damage to the Skin?
Anyone who is ever exposed to the sun or uses a tanning bed is at risk for sun damage. However, certain lifestyles, genetic characteristics, and other factors may increase your chances of experiencing photoaging.
For example, people with light skin tones, freckles, numerous skin moles, blue or green eyes, or light-colored hair are at a greater risk of ending up with sun-damaged skin. Another genetic factor is a family history of skin cancer. Melanoma is especially a red flag in that regard.
Non-genetic risk factors include living or spending long amounts of time at higher altitudes (where the decreased atmosphere provides less protection against the sun's radiation), spending most of your time indoors followed by intense periods of sunlight exposure, and being outdoors or in a tanning bed for long periods of time.
Limit Sun Exposure
Perhaps the best way to protect your skin against sun damage is to keep your body's exposure to sunlight at a minimum. This doesn't mean avoiding the outdoors entirely (too much time indoors certainly raises ), but it does mean being strategic.
Suitably protective clothing is one of your biggest allies in the fight against photoaging. Long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, and long pants or skirts all help protect your skin against the sun's rays.
You should also be smart about what time of day you go outdoors. Pay attention to your local UV index and minimize going outside when the sun's rays are shining at their greatest intensity. That period is typically between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, though that window can be affected by cloud cover and other weather factors.
Finally, rely on multiple methods for keeping safe from the sun. Research by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has suggested that relying on only one sun protection strategy, such as wearing sunscreen or using an umbrella, is less effective than combining methods for limiting sun exposure.
Buy the Right Sunscreen!
When it comes to protecting your skin from premature aging thanks to sunlight, a high-quality sunscreen is an incredibly vital tool in your arsenal. However, not all sunscreens are created equal.
While the FDA's limit for a sunscreen's recommended sun protection factor (SPF) is only 15 (which means only about 1/15th of the sun's rays will penetrate the layer of ultraviolet protection to reach the skin), the American Academy of Dermatology recommends picking up a sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30.
It's also a good idea to purchase a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. "Broad-spectrum sunscreen" means that it protects your skin from the effects of both UVA rays (which are primarily responsible for photoaging) and UVB rays (which are primarily responsible for sunburns.
And regardless of which bottle of sunscreen you buy, always reapply it at least every two hours. If you're going for a swim or sweating heavily, you should reapply your preferred sunscreen even more frequently.
Stay Hydrated and Eat the Right Diet
Another way to take care of your skin and reduce the chances of premature aging is by avoiding dry skin and keeping your entire body hydrated through healthy skin habits. The old tip for drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day is a good rule of thumb, though aiming for between half an ounce to a full ounce of water per pound of body weight is even better.
If you want even further help to stay hydrated, try drinking a cup of green tea at breakfast. Not only will you kick-start your hydration, but you will also receive healthful antioxidants and caffeine for a healthy dose of early-morning energy.
Apart from drinking up, you can keep your skin hydrated by applying moisturizing creams and lotions (coconut oils and hyaluronic acids are great for this!), taking only short showers or baths and only in warm (not hot) water, and keeping a humidifier in your bedroom or work office.
Finally, a robust diet can also help you maintain healthy skin. Cut back on processed carbohydrates and trans fats, and eat more foods containing fish oil for healthier skin.
Use Gentle Skin Care Products
Just like sunscreen, not all skin care products are created equal. Watch out for exfoliating skin care products that can irritate your skin, and use only mild cleansers for your daily face wash. Chemical peels may or may not make your skin condition worse following sun damage. In some cases, a mild chemical peel may be tolerable for your skin.
Whenever you apply a skin care item, be sure to pat rather than rub the cream or lotion into your skin. Being too aggressive in rubbing in a topical product can chap your skin and leave it vulnerable to further irritants.
Similarly, pat your skin dry whenever you take a shower or bath. Doing so will avoid rubbing your skin raw and will also leave a bit of moisture on your damp skin, thereby helping to keep it hydrated.
Can Sun Damage Be Reversed?
Because UV radiation caused by sunlight affects your skin cells at the molecular level, it can't be reversed. With that being said, it is possible to treat and repair the damaged outermost layers of skin. The right skin care procedure, such as laser skin resurfacing, can improve many of the discolorations, wrinkles, or fine lines created by photoaging.
Similarly, the right treatment option can also encourage your body to produce more collagen, which helps with the production and formation of new, healthier-looking skin.
Contact Altaire Clinic Today to Schedule a Consult
Do you want to look and feel healthy and young after experiencing sun damage? If you want skin that stays healthy and young-looking for years to come, you need to talk to the team of dermatological and cosmetic treatment experts at Altaire Clinic.
Our skin care experts are happy to provide the skin and acne treatments you need for lifelong skin health and beauty. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with an experienced medical professional!