How To Avoid Sun-Damaged Skin

It is well known that the sun has numerous beneficial effects on our skin and overall health. These include improvements to our mood and well-being, the production of Vitamin D, as well as the regulation of our internal ‘body clock.’ However, the sun can also damage our skin, which is why individually we should take a proactive approach to protect our skin in order to avoid sun-damaged skin.

Why does the sun damage our skin?

-The harmful effects of the sun on our skin are due to ultraviolet radiation (UVR); a type of energy emitted from the sun that then hits our skin.

-There are three different types of UVR: UVA, UVB and UVC. However, UVC is blocked by the ozone layer so doesn’t reach our skin, whereas UVA and UVB do reach our skin and are the types of UVR from which we need to protect ourselves.

-Approximately five percent of UVR that reaches our skin is UVB and UVB contributes to the vast majority of skin cancer, as well as causing sunburn. UVA has more specific effects on the ageing of our skin. When selecting a sunscreen, it is important to identify one with both UVA and UVB protection.

-As UVA hits our skin it can have an impact on different cells within it. For instance, it can have an effect on the upper layer of the skin called the epidermis. Long-term sun exposure can cause thinning of this layer. Sun exposure can also affect the second layer of the skin which is called the dermis.

-UVA can also have an impact on the blood vessels and pigment, making cells in our skin which then contribute to a variety of different changes visualised on the skin surface.

-The above effects can lead to an overall saggy, less elastic, and wrinkly appearance that looks less ‘plump’.

How to avoid sun-damaged skin

There are several steps you can take in order to protect your skin from the sun:

-Apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 as well as high UVA protection. Ensure that this is applied generously and reapplied when out in the sun.

-Sunscreen should be reapplied after swimming or sweating or the use of a towel, even if the sunscreen is labelled as water resistant.

-Protect your skin with clothing which should include a broad rim hat as well as sunglasses.

-Avoid direct sunlight exposure between peak times of 11am-3pm.

-Regularly examine your skin once a month and report any new lesions or changes to your doctor.

-Download the world UV app. This was developed in conjunction with the British Association of Dermatologists and the Met Office to provide you with real-time information on the UV index (sun intensity) in your geographical location.

If you take the right precautions you can avoid sun damage and ensure your skin is protected from damaging UV rays. As we move into the summer months, it’s important to be aware of the negative impacts of the sun, as well as the benefits it can bring.

For more information about how you can protect your skin, contact one of our dermatologists at – or take our free online consultation. 

Dr Noha Elshimy
Dr Noha Elshimy
Dr Noha Elshimy graduated from the University of Birmingham with honours and two distinctions. She is currently undergoing her specialisation in dermatology in the UK. Through her training, she wholly appreciates both the physical and psychological impact that dermatological conditions can have on patients. She has a passion for teaching others and has been regularly involved with teaching medical students from the local university.
Originally published May 17 2018, updated April 18 2019

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