Many people look forward to summer and dream of getting a beautiful suntan as they lay by the pool. However, the less-glamorous reality is that excessive sun exposure can severely damage your skin, causing issues like discoloration, premature aging, and even cancer.
Although it’s not always realistic (if you work outdoors, participate in a lot of outdoor activities, or are on vacation), it’s best to stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10 AM and 2 PM, as those are the hours in which the sun is most powerful.
Let’s dive into the science behind what the sun is actually doing to your skin, and how you can use sunscreen to prevent UV damage.
The Science Behind Your Suntan and Sunburn
Your skin’s outermost layer (called the “epidermal” layer) consists of skin pigments called melanin, which protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays.
As you lay under the sun, your skin produces more melanin to protect the inner layers of your skin from being hit by the sun, and your skin darkens as a result.
But after you sit under the sun for too long without protection, the sun’s UV rays pass deeper into your skin and either damage or kill your skin cells, which results in a sunburn. Ouch!
As your suntan and sunburns fade, the dead skin cells move towards the top of your skin and flake off.
Long Term Effects of Sun Overexposure
Over time, overexposure in the sun will damage your skin and can cause both cosmetic and health issues.
As you get older, you may notice wrinkles, fine lines, and discolored spots appearing on your skin. And while many people blame this on just getting older, these skin changes are actually a result of photoaging—which is the damage caused to your skin by the sun’s UV rays. In fact, photoaging is the reason for “90 percent of visible changes to the skin.”
The middle layer of your skin (called the “dermis”) is made up of elements like collagen and elastin, which give your skin a smooth and youthful appearance. When the sun’s UV rays hit your skin and reach the dermis, it damages these elements and causes your skin to rebuild and revitalize itself incorrectly.
The result? Damaged, leathery, and dull-looking skin.
And even worse, excessive sun exposure can damage the DNA in your skin cells over time, causing your skin cells to rebuild uncontrollably and can cause skin cancer.
Wearing sunscreen is one of the best things you can do to protect your skin, and is one of the best ways to fight skin aging and skin cancer.
Sunscreen and Anti-Aging
One of the most powerful anti-aging solutions is to incorporate sunscreen into your skincare routine.
This is because sunscreen works by absorbing and deflecting the sun’s UV rays, which prevents skin cell damage and thus lessens signs of photoaging and risk of skin cancer.
Should I Wear Sunscreen Every Day?
A lot of people ask, “Do I need to wear sunscreen every day?” And the answer is a resounding YES.
The first mistake that most people make is only wearing sunscreen when they’re at the beach or by the pool. But, the sun isn’t only damaging your skin in the summer—it’s damaging it in everyday life too!
UV rays peek through the clouds and can penetrate through glass windows, so they can reach your skin and do damage even if you’re inside or if it’s cloudy outside.
Sun damage sounds really scary, but it’s actually extremely preventable if you are diligent enough to take the correct precautions.
If you remember to wear sunscreen every day, to stay out of the sun between 10 AM and 2 PM, and cover up with long sleeves, hats, and pants when you’re outdoors as much as possible, you’ll lessen your risk of premature aging and skin cancer.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.