Tanned skin makes people look healthier and younger - or so people thought. Whilst a glowing complexion may be seen by some as a sign of good health, often, tanned skin resulting from frequent sun exposure speeds up ageing.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), sun exposure is the leading factor for skin ageing. In fact, “up to 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to ageing may be caused by sun exposure”.
How the Sun Ages the Skin
The skin is made of several layers, which help to protect it from sun damage. But when it is exposed to dangerous UV rays over long periods of time, the sun is able to penetrate deep into the deeper levels of the skin, damaging the cells there.
When the skin is exposed to the sun constantly, it will wear down its defences. Over time, the natural texture of the skin begins to change, making it appear leathery. The sun alters the pigment of the skin and dries it out, causing wrinkles, folds, and dark spots.
But not only does the sun’s rays make people look older than they are — it can also increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
The Burning Question: How Much Sun Is Too Much?
The sun’s link to skin cancer isn’t a secret, but few people realise that it takes as little as ten minutes for a fair-skinned person to sustain lasting damage.
Reports show that 1 in 8 adults and 1 in 15 teenagers in Australia are sunburnt on an average summer weekend. Multiply those burns over a lifetime, and you can understand why many Australians are fighting the effects of sun damage. According to the European Code Against Cancer, there is no definitive way to know for sure how much sun your skin can handle before it begins to feel the adverse effects.
However, there are some factors that can influence how your skin reacts to UV exposure. They include the following:
- Skin tone and colour. The lighter the skin, the more apt it is to burn
- The intensity of the sun. The Australian sun reaches peak intensity during the summer months when the earth’s axis leans the region closer to the sun.
- The time of day you are exposed. UV rays are strongest from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
- How many sunburns and tans you get throughout your lifetime. The more burning your skin has bene forced to ensure, the better change of it aging early.
One thing is certain: if your skin has undergone tanning, it has been damaged as there is no such thing as a “healthy tan.” Anytime the colouring of the skin changes due to sun exposure, the cells beneath have been damaged. With enough damage, the skin will eventually sag, show more wrinkles, develop dark patches, and be more prone to skin cancer.
Is It Too Late to Save Your Skin?
Whether you are already noticing the tell-tale signs of sun-induced ageing, or you simply want to avoid looking older due to the sun damage you have inflicted on it, rest assured that it is never too late to save your skin.
Even if you have been a chronic sunbather your entire life, your skin is capable of reversing at least some of the damage. Over time, the skin has the remarkable ability to heal itself — if, of course, it is no longer under UV ray siege.
Follow the tips below to prevent further sun damage:
- Reduce your daily sun exposure as much as possible. Stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. This gives your skin the break it needs to allow the immune system to send out healing agents to work to reverse prior damage.
- Avoid direct sunlight. Wear hats, long sleeves, cover-ups, and sunglasses — even on cloudy days.
- Wear sunscreen daily. At least 30 SPF (but the higher the number the better).
- Use moisturiser. This helps to replenish some of the moisture that the sun leaches from the skin, which can cause wrinkles.
- Avoid tanning entirely. There is no such thing as a “safe tan”. Solariums, sunbeds, and sunlamps use UV radiation that’s harmful to the skin.
- Take a multivitamin daily. This may help to boost the immune system so it will be better prepared to heal any sun damage your skin has sustained.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. The right mix of vitamins and minerals will help strengthen the skin and keep it healthy.
Take Early Action
For people who have spent a great deal of time under the sun over the years, premature skin ageing is just one adverse effect to worry about. The more dangerous effect to overexposure to the sun’s UV rays is skin cancer.
In 2019 alone, there were more than 15,000 new cases of melanoma skin cancer in Australia, with nearly two thousand dying from the disease. Detecting the signs of skin cancer early is vital when it comes to melanoma survival.
Do you have many moles on your skin? Do regular self-examinations. Read this blog article to know the difference between a normal mole from a cancerous mole.
If you haven’t had a skin check in a while or if you have risk factors for melanoma, visit your GP or book an appointment with a melanoma detection and diagnosis provider like Molemap by Dermatologists. Remember, melanoma can be difficult to detect with an untrained eye but when caught early can be effectively treated. Find a Molemap clinic near you and book your appointment today.