We have always been passionate about skin health here at Oxford & Leamington Facial Aesthetics and advise and treat people suffering from conditions like acne, scarring and pigmentation. Even those many people who visit our clinics for botox and dermal filler treatments, for example, recognise that the condition of their skin makes a big difference to their overall appearance and that even with fantastic aesthetic treatment results, if the skin is damaged and prematurely aged then this is likely to detract from the intended effects.
We advise daily use of sunscreen – for reasons of skin health as well as vanity! Don’t forget just how precious your skin is as your body’s biggest organ. Below we explore the relationship between skin damage and sun exposure and to end we give our 6 top tips for keeping your skin healthy and free of sun damage. If you're short on time, scroll down for some enlightening pictures!
How Does Sun Interact with the Skin?
There are two main types of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun that interact with the skin:
UVA – penetrates the skin’s dermis – the cause of ageing in the skin, though does not contribute to sunburn.
Think UVA – Think Ageing
UVB – causes reddening of the skin and most sunburn – the main contributor to skin cancer – it does not penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA
Think UVB – Think Burning
Sun and Premature Skin Ageing
Sun exposure is one of the number one causes of premature skin ageing (along with smoking) and of course skin cancer. It is widely accepted that UV exposure is the reason behind 80% of skin ageing and wrinkles.
The image of identical twins below (originally from the Department of Plastic Surgery, University Hospitals Case Medical Center) has been widely circulated online and in the press as well as by dermatologists to highlight the astonishing extent of skin damage and ageing caused by sun exposure.
The twin on the left has stayed out of the sun and protected her skin over the years, while the twin on the right has had a lot of sun exposure without protecting her skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. NB. the twin on the right had also been a regular smoker for a number of years before quitting, while her sister has never smoked.
We can see the effects of sun exposure and related skin ageing even more dramatically in another famous image below of a 69 year old truck-driver in the US (from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine). After many years of driving for a living with UV rays penetrating the window of his vehicle we can see the amount of damage that has been done to his skin.
On the left side of his face the skin is much more lax, drier and wrinkled; it has prematurely aged due to the sun damage (‘photo-ageing’) and this side of the face appears some 10-20 years older than the other.
What Lies Beneath
Often we are only concerned once something appears on our face that wasn’t there before like an area of pigmentation or perhaps we notice that over time our freckles seem to have become darker or larger and there are more of them.
While these developments are of concern; it is the damage we can’t see in the mirror but what is going on beneath the surface of the skin right down in the dermis, that should remain at the forefront of our minds when thinking about skin health and sun protection.
The image below (from a study by the University of Colarado) shows the skin as it appears to the naked eye, and then under an ultraviolet light showing the sun damage hiding beneath the surface. At first glance this woman appears to have very unblemished, clear skin but under the UV light the damage that is deep in the skin (at least some of which will come up to the surface in time) has already been done.
You can see some more eye-opening UV images here
And this video 'How the Sun Sees You' is definitely worth a watch here
Sun and Skin Cancer
It is a fact that overexposure to UV light (both UVA and UVB rays) from the sun and sunbeds is the number one main cause of skin cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, 86% of malignant melanoma cases in the UK are preventable since they are linked to sun exposure and therefore insufficient skin protection.
Remember that when we suffer from sunburn (which happens even when many of us protest that our skin is ‘only a bit pink’); the DNA in our skin cells has been damaged by too much UV radiation. This damage to cells can be permanent. Cancer Research UK advises that “getting painful sunburn, just once every 2 years, can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer”.
We will not go into more detail here as there is a host of excellent information out there but it is always worth being mindful of this strong connection between how well we look after our skin and the three types of skin cancer. For more information we recommend the Cancer Research website
Our 6 Top Tips to Protect Your Skin Against Sun Damage
1) Wear Sunscreen Every Day
2) Wear High Quality Sunscreen
3) There is No Such Thing as a ‘Safe Tan’
4) It’s Not Just About the Face
5) Take Advantage of Powerful Antioxidants
6) Apply Enough Sunscreen and Reapply Regularly
Posts by Catherine