Nothing beats finding a nice quiet spot and the chance to soak up a little sun. Whether you’re lounging on the beach or enjoying a walk with the dog, the feel of the sun on your skin just makes you feel good. And it is good – in moderation, sunlight is extremely good for us.
But overexposure to sunlight can be very damaging to your skin, both on a surface and a cellular level.
Most of us know this. At the very least, we’re aware that we should wear sunscreen when sunbathing. But for a lot of people, the effects of the sun on our skin are a little fuzzy.
Burning is bad, but tanning is good, right? And the sun only has a negative effect in summer, when it’s super hot. It’s safe in the winter, right?
Well, not exactly.
To clear up the confusion we’re looking at exactly what effect the sun is having on your skin, and how you can minimise the damage…
5 Negative Effects Of Sunlight For Your Skin
Overexposure to the sun can be very damaging, not only to your skin but to your health in general. Here are five of the most common negative effects the sun is having on your skin.
By far the most common and easily understood effect of sunlight on the skin is sunburn.
Discolouration or ‘burning’ of the skin results in redness, soreness, peeling, blistering, itching, and an almost irradiated effect that causes your skin to emit heat for some time after it has burned. It’s not only painful and irritating, but it can also be very worrying and for good reason.
Sunburn is chiefly the result of the UVB rays in sunlight which penetrate more deeply into the skin than UVA. The sunburn may not appear immediately, it can be up to five hours after exposure that you begin to exhibit symptoms and realise you’ve burned, by then it’s far too late to prevent (or undo!) the damage.
#2 Premature Aging
While it’s completely natural for our skin to age as we advance in years, one effect of sunlight is to cause premature ageing. Essentially, too much exposure to the suns rays can speed up the skin’s natural ageing process, causing your skin to begin to age far more quickly than it would otherwise.
As much as 90% of premature ageing to the skin is believed to be caused by the sun in a process called photoaging. This is largely caused by UVA rays which penetrate deeper into the skin than UVB. They can reach into the dermis where they cause damage to elastin and collagen. Both of these proteins are vital for skin to be smooth and plump in appearance. As you lose elastin and collagen, the skin loses its elasticity and volume, resulting in a more wrinkled, sagging appearance.
Another side-effect of the sun on your skin is hyperpigmentation. This occurs when there is too much melanin produced in your skin. Melanin is the naturally occurring pigment that lends your skin its colour. The sun can trigger its overproduction, leading to sunspots and other forms of discolouration. Hyperpigmentation can also result in melasma, the formation of brown and greyish patches appearing, usually on the face.
#4 Sun Allergies
While the research indicates that the majority of sun allergies are a genetic condition, there is also evidence that 80% of sun allergy cases are triggered through exposure to UVA rays. If you have an underlying condition or are predisposed to sun allergies, overexposure to sunlight can cause your immune system to react to the presence of sunlight on your skin. The result of this is a rash that can vary in intensity from mild to debilitating and extremely painful.
#5 Skin Diseases
The worst effect the sun can have on your skin is to cause skin diseases, such as actinic keratosis (the appearance of patches of dry, brown or red patches of scales on the skin) and, of course, skin cancer. While actinic keratosis isn’t usually painful or harmful with proper treatment, skin cancer can be deadly. Both dermatologists and oncologists are increasingly warning about the direct correlation between overexposure to sunlight and skin cancer.
The most effective means of mitigating the harmful effects of sunlight is ensuring full body protection from sunlight when you’re outside, particularly if it’s very hot or bright. This doesn’t mean covering up from head to toe, it simply means having a sensible appreciation of the potential damage the sun can cause, and wearing appropriate clothing and skincare.
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