What is Sun Damage: Causes and Symptoms of Sun Damaged Skin

What is Sun Damage: Causes and Symptoms of Sun Damaged Skin

Posted by Pevonia Marketing on 1st Jul 2022

How do you know if you have photodamage? Symptoms of sun damaged skin masquerade as other skin conditions and concerns, making it challenging to distinguish which is which. Understanding how sun damage develops and the telltale signs of sun damaged skin will give you the advantage over how best to treat it.

Causes & Effects of Sun Damage on the Skin
Chronic sun exposure and burning from ultraviolet (UV) rays inflict harmful effects in and on the skin. So, skip lounging by the pool or frolicking at the beach, and you will be fine, right? Wrong! All forms of UV light, or solar radiation, must be avoided. UVB rays, also known as burning rays, cause sunburn, sun damage, and some skin cancers. UVA rays, commonly referred to as aging rays, are long-wave rays that deeply penetrate the skin, damaging all skin layers. Invisible and insidious radiation emitted from UVA rays damages DNA, triggers photoaging and potentially causes melanoma, a fatal form of skin cancer, among others. UV rays conspire to damage collagen and elastin and reduce naturally-present hyaluronic acid, impairing the structure and health of the skin and dermal vessels. This occurs due to UV rays triggering production of an enzyme (metalloproteinase) that degrades collagen and hinders the skin’s normal repair process. It also causes free radical production, compromising DNA and the skin’s immunity. As a result, the skin’s structure is significantly impaired, instigating premature aging.

Symptoms of Sun Damaged Skin
The most immediate and blatant symptom of sun damage is the redness seen with sunburns, often accompanied by stinging and itching. Lines, wrinkles, sagging, uneven pigmentation, and a rough, uneven texture are the next most common indicators, albeit delayed. While many of these symptoms result from chronological aging, damage from ultraviolet light compounds those that occur due to genetics and time. The ensuing breakdown of the skin’s structural components gives way to deep wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and skin thickening, known as solar elastosis. A tanned appearance is another sign that UV rays have damaged the skin. When skin is exposed to the sun, it attempts to protect us by producing pigment (melanin). Although a glowing complexion may seem healthy, that coveted glow is deceptively not! This may appear blotchy, irregular and diffuse, or more concentrated in the form of freckles or darker solar lentigines, known as brown spots or age spots. While freckles may fade, solar lentigines are more permanent. Melasma, prominent dark patches affecting pregnant women, those on hormones and having naturally darker skin tones, is also exacerbated by sun exposure.

Fact: People with extra fair skin lack adequate protective melanin, leaving them even more vulnerable to UV damage.

Other signs of sun damaged skin may be harder to differentiate from top skincare concerns. For example, if your skin often feels dry and you weren’t born with dry skin, chances are that your symptoms are due to sun damage. Other typical manifestations include raised, scaly dark pink, tan or brown lesions, called actinic keratosis. Yet another indicator is darkening and reddening on the neck and chest, known as poikiloderma or actinic purpura. Persistent redness can also occur due to dilated capillaries, thin red veins that appear when UV rays break down the collagen that comprises capillary walls. Note: Dilated capillaries are also a symptom of rosacea, which, incidentally, is triggered by sun exposure, among other factors.

Dryness and dehydration are yet another symptom, as dry, damaged skin is unable to hold moisture as well as healthy skin. So, if you slather on skin care creams and your complexion still appears parched, switching to products that aim to overcome the effects of sun damage on the skin will better address your concerns.

Less common effects of sun overexposure include the following:
• Nodular alterations
• White to yellow (solar) comedones
• Precancerous discoloration around the mouth (actinic cheilitis)
• Eye and eyelid issues (pinguecula)
• Itchy red bumps on the chest, arms and neck due to a sun allergy

While you may not see any effects today, the damage to the deepest skin layer (dermis) may not surface for years. Instead of waiting for these signs of sun damaged skin to appear, start taking extra care of your skin now to help correct and prevent some symptoms from developing! Lastly, if you have any irregularities, such as changes in the shape and color of existing moles or brown patches, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to get checked out!