The Dark Side of Sun Exposure: How it Affects Skin Aging

Dark Side of Sun Exposure

Your body is constructed to make good use of the sun. The sunlight does a wonderful job in maintaining our sleeping patterns on track so we can stay awake by day and sleep peacefully at night. Meanwhile, during the winter months, we can get a small amount of sun, which can leave some people vulnerable to a form of depression called “seasonal affective disorder”.

Also having sun exposure helps our skin to produce Vitamin D, which is necessary for normal bone function and health. However, whether you are exposed to little or plenty of sunlight can also cause damage especially to our skin. There are lots of misinformation and myths about sun exposure so we are going to give the facts to set the record straight. Keep on reading if you want to know more!

Before you begin, let’s differentiate first UVA (Ultraviolet-A) between UVB (Ultraviolet-B). Basically, UVA rays penetrate into the skin’s deepest layer, or subcutaneous tissue causing severe harm while UVB rays cause damage to the outer layer of the skin that results in sunburns, and worst is skin cancer.

Misconception #1: I only tan and not burn, I won’t get skin cancer.

It doesn’t matter what your skin type is, all types can be harmed by UV radiation and can probably get skin cancer. This is why we are always reminded to use sun protection. Take note that if your skin gets brown from the sun, it’s already an indication that UV rays have already damaged your skin. Your tan is a hint of skin cells in trauma– not health.

Misconception #2: Getting a tan is healthy.

Like what was mentioned previously, a tan is a sign of skin damage. Your skin tans in reaction to sun damage to your skin. Once UVB (ultraviolet-B) rays hit DNA in melanocytes (melanocytes produce melanin, which is a pigment found in the skin, eyes, hair, nasal cavity, and inner ear), there will be a creation of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers. And these pyrimidine dimers are a kind of DNA damage that brings out the creation and release of melanin. This is the process of how you tan. It is just an indication that the cells and structures of your skin have been damaged, even if your skin didn’t show any peeling or redness. Just by gaining skin color at the expense of your health is already a sign.

Misconception #3: A little sun won’t hurt.

It doesn’t mean that if your skin doesn’t burn, it didn’t undergo any damage. This is just the same if your skin didn’t turn pink at all, because every second you are in the sun, it will still suffer damage, no matter how much amount of sun exposure you incurred.

Misconception #4: Darker skins are protected.

A natural pigment called melanin is what gives the skin its color, but it’s not a form of protection from the sun. A lot of people think that people with darker skin are very much safe from the sunlight. This is false. The darker your skin is, the harder it is to determine if you are burning.

People with darker skin makes it tougher to spot skin damage and to diagnose pre-cancerous or cancerous growths. Although they are less probable to develop skin cancer, in late stages, higher are the chances to get skin cancer (especially more fatal in people with darker skin). So whether you have lighter or darker skin, it is still the best idea to seek skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist.

Misconception #5: Sun exposure doesn’t attribute to aging.

A study from the World Health Organization that discussed the health risks of UV radiation and how to protect one’s self, included that aside from getting sunburns, skin cancer, eye inflammation, cataracts, and reducing the effectiveness of the immune system from sun exposure, they also briefly mentioned the aging effect of the sun.

Long-term overexposure to the sun can alter the texture and weaken the elasticity. Sun damage to the skin can cause premature wrinkling, sags, and bags, and easy bruising. Sun exposure can cause to 90% of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging.

A study conducted by Napa Valley Bioscience/ Sunsafe Rx found out that there was a strong correlation between sun exposure and apparent age across all age groups. Specifically, pigmentation disorder and wrinkles/lines are the factors that are greatly linked to ultraviolet (UV) exposure.

Here is what the researchers conclude: “Clinical signs of aging are essentially influenced by extrinsic factors, especially sun exposure. Indeed UV exposure seems to be responsible for 80% of visible facial aging signs.”

Misconception #6: Glass window blocks UVA rays.

Another study from the same source claimed that repeated UVA exposure through a glass window can cause photoaging. The premature aging of the skin caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) is known as Photoaging, primarily from the sun but also from artificial UV sources”, according to the Canadian Dermatology Association definition.

The analysis gave significant results as UVA rays penetrate glass while UVB rays do not. They studied individuals with photoaging differences between one side of their face and the other caused by the overexposure of one side of their face to the sun through a window. The researchers have observed that wrinkles, skin dryness, skin roughness, skin drooping between the side of the face that’s exposed to UVA rays through the glass are present. The study only implies that it is beneficial to have UVA protection during intentional exposure indoors as well as outside.

Misconception #7: Sun-exposure won’t give me serious wrinkles.

Well, you are wrong. With the same group of researchers mentioned previously, they gathered two populations of participants, one from low sun exposure and one from a high sun exposure environment to be examined. These two groups were analyzed for wrinkling and hyperpigmentation using high-resolution digital video imaging. And the results are pretty obvious as people from the environment with high sun exposure had darker skin, higher facial hyperpigmentation, and more facial wrinkles. Importantly, the study concluded that the number of wrinkles was highly associated with the total hours of life spent outside. Plus, non-melanoma skin cancer was strongly correlated to those with higher level exposure of UV.

Misconception #8: There is no sun, I don’t need to use sunscreen.

Everyone needs to wear one. Most probably every day if you will be outside. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “The sun emits harmful UV rays year-round. Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin.” And surprisingly, even if you are in snow, sand, and water, you need to still need to wear one as they reflect the sun’s rays.

How to Prevent

Any amount of sun exposure damages your skin, and every little bit adds up. As much as you can, try to avoid sun exposure by covering up, or wear a hat and sunglasses. Use sunscreen because this is very important if you want to stay young and age gracefully. Choose skin care products without toxic chemicals, preferably opt for the ones with zinc oxide and titanium oxide. It’s better to start young and early than to be late and sorry!

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