Do you have sun-damaged skin?
Every time you go outside without sun protection or use a tanning bed, the UV rays damage your skin. Over time, this damage builds up and you notice changes in your complexion, which may make you appear older than normal.
These include changes:
- Age spots
- Loose skin
- Spider veins
- Blotchy or ruddy complexion
If you use tanning beds, you will often notice these changes quickly within a few years. Some people who use tanning beds see signs within a year or even earlier. The medical term for these changes is “photoaging”. You may likewise hear the expressions “untimely maturing” or “sun-damaged skin.”
As the damage worsens, you may see deep streaks or dry, scaly patches called actinic keratoses (AKs). AK is a precancerous skin growth. Sun-damaged skin can also lead to skin cancer. Sometimes AK turns into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma.
Sun-damaged skin shows the following symptoms:
- Dry skin: The skin appears dry, scaly, and slightly more wrinkled than the skin on other parts of the body that have not been exposed to sunlight. Dry skin is also one of the most common causes of itching.
- Sunburn: Mild sunburn causes pain and redness on skin exposed to the sun. In most cases, there are clear dividing lines as the skin is protected from the sun’s rays by the sleeves of a shirt, shorts, swimwear, or other clothing. More severe cases of sunburn result in painful blisters, sometimes accompanied by nausea and dizziness.
- Actinic keratosis: Actinic keratosis appears as a small sandpaper-like bump or permanent patch of scaly (scaly) skin that may have a rough or even sharp surface and have a pink, yellow, red, or brown color. Initially, actinic keratosis maybe the size of a pimple. Rarely, an actinic keratosis may itch or feel slight pain.
- Long-term changes in skin collagen: Symptoms of collagen changes include fine lines, deep wrinkles, thickened skin texture, and easy bruising in sun-exposed areas, especially the back of the hands and forearms.
Sun-damaged skin diagnosis
In most cases, your doctor can confirm that your skin has experienced sun damage by simply examining the area. Often, a biopsy is performed to rule out melanoma in a spot of actinic keratosis. In a biopsy, a little bit of skin is taken out and inspected in a research center.
Treatment for sun-damaged skin
Nobody can stop the natural aging process, as the skin thins and lines and wrinkles appear. Moles, scars, and birthmarks also tend to change as we age. Plus, sun-damaged skin over the course of a lifetime worsens skin aging. Now and again progressed indications of maturing and sun-damaged skin require more obtrusive dermatological techniques, for example,
- Botulinum toxin type A. Injecting botulinum toxin into specific muscles blocks signals from nerves to muscles. The muscles that are being injected no longer contract. This prevents the muscles from forming wrinkles and furrows. Using botulinum will also soften existing wrinkles. But it will not prevent the signs of aging. It is often used for the forehead lines and lines between and around the eyes.
- Chemical peeling. Chemical peels are often used to reduce skin damage from sunlight, irregular skin color (pigment), and superficial scars. The top layer of the skin is removed with a chemical applied to the skin. By removing the top layer, new skin is regenerated. This often improves its appearance.
- Soft tissue enlargement or filler injection. Soft tissue filler is injected under the skin to replace the natural collagen that has been lost in the body. There are many different types of fillings available. Fillers are commonly used to treat wrinkles, scars, and facial lines. It also treats wrinkles caused by loss of volume and frequent muscle contraction. Fillers are also used to plump the lips and enhance facial features and cheekbones.
- My skin. This can be used to reduce small scars, minor skin surface abnormalities, surgical scars, and acne scars. This treatment removes the upper layers of the skin with an electrical device that scrapes the skin. When the skin heals from the procedure, the surface appears smoother and more supple. It can be used on the whole face or for certain areas or scars. Dermabrasion is sometimes used for aging. But it has generally been replaced by other methods. Dermabrasion is a gentler type of dermabrasion. It utilizes little particles went through a vacuum cylinder to eliminate maturing and invigorate new skin development. This methodology works best on gentle to direct skin harm. It may require several treatments.
- Laser skin peeling. Laser skin regeneration uses high-energy light to burn damaged skin. Laser peeling can be used to reduce fine wrinkles and scars. It is also used to reduce swollen sebaceous glands, lighten sun spots, and remove wart-like growths. A newer treatment option is called non-ablative resurfacing. This type of peeling also uses a laser and sometimes electrical energy. But it does not harm the upper layers of the skin.
- Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy. IPL therapy differs from laser therapy in that it delivers multiple wavelengths of light with each pulse (the laser offers only one wavelength). IPL is a type of non-ablative treatment. This means that it does not harm the upper layers of the skin.
- Tretinoin treatment. This skin cream, which is a form of vitamin A, can reduce wrinkles, rough skin, fine lines, and altered skin.
You can help prevent sun-damaged skin by following these steps:
- Apply sunscreen before going outdoors. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or more, with a broad spectrum of protection against both UV-A and UV-B rays. Be sure to reapply often to avoid sweating or wash off the sunscreen.
- Use sunblock on your lips. Choose a product specially formulated for lips with an SPF of 20 or more.
- Limit your time outside when the sun is at its zenith (from around 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in most parts of the continental United States).
- Wear sunglasses with UV protection.
- Wear long jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and a wide-overflowed cap.
- Be aware that some medications and skincare products can increase the risk of your skin being exposed to UV damage. These include some antibiotics, as well as some prescription medications that are used to treat mental illnesses, high blood pressure, heart failure, acne, and allergies. If you are on prescription medication and usually spend a lot of time outdoors, ask your health care professional whether you should take any special precautions to avoid exposure to the sun. Also, know that some over-the-counter skincare products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids can make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage.
To help detect actinic keratosis and other skin abnormalities in its early stages, thoroughly examine the entire surface of the skin every one to two months. Check for patches of discolored or scaly skin, moles, small pearly nodules, sores, and other skin abnormalities on all parts of the body, including the scalp and genitals. Use a mirror to check the hard-to-see areas of your back, shoulders, tops of your arms, your buttocks, and the soles of your feet. People with multiple actinic keratoses should have their skin checked by a doctor at least twice a year.