The sun plays a huge role in the health of our skin – it can affect how the skin ages, bounces back from injury and reacts to products. UVA and UVB rays penetrate deep into the skin, causing DNA damage which has far-reaching effects. The term ‘sun damage’ refers to the cumulative exposure to UV radiation of unprotected skin on a daily basis, as well as over-exposed to the sun at any one time. It’s not just about sunburn, it’s about the long-term damage to the skin, which can result in premature ageing and skin cancer. Sun damage happens every time you are in the sun – even if it’s cloudy, even if you’re indoors, and even if you’re wearing sunscreen.

What are the signs of sun damage?

Aside from sunburn, sun damage can appear as lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, redness, broken capillaries, pigmentation, crepeyness and sagging due to damage to the skin’s collagen and elastin. Many people think sun damage is simply pigmentation or brown spots, that appear on the surface and fade with time or with the right products and treatments. But actually, it’s an accumulation of invisible damage over a long period, that results in DNA damage and collagen breakdown.

We know from studies that the sun damages all structures of the skin and can cause skin cancer even if you don’t burn. The inflammation caused by sun damage happens every day, and it starts the very minute you expose your skin to daylight without protection.

How can sun damage be prevented?

The best way to prevent sun damage is to apply the right amount of sunscreen every day and limit your sun exposure as much as possible. Cover up in the sun to prevent direct sun exposure, and wear sunglasses and a hat. Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30, or 50 in the summer months and top it up every two hours or after spending time in the water.

You can also help prevent sun damage by maintaining a healthy, antioxidant-rich diet that reduces oxidative stress, which helps fight ageing and pigmentation. Antioxidants protect the skin by reducing free radical damage. Try adding foods such as berries, melons, tomatoes, and broccoli into your diet.

The most effective ways to treat sun damage

Superficial damage is often quite simple to treat, but more serious damage may be harder to tackle and often, this may require a combination approach.

Chemical peels improve the appearance of sun damage by using a chemical solution to remove the outer layer of the skin, revealing a smoother surface beneath. Chemical peels are available in various strengths – medium-depth peels penetrate deeper and are an excellent choice for those with sun damage or pigmentation issues. Radiofrequency microneedling, ultrasound and lasers can significantly improve the effects of sun damage. They help to boost the production of collagen and resurface, repair, and restore the complexion.

In addition, injectable treatments are an option for improving the skin’s texture and sagging. Firstly, Botox can be used to relax lines and wrinkles in the dynamic parts of the face, delivering a fresher appearance. Then fillers can really help where you’ve got laxity or sagging, typically in the cheek area where changes in the skin’s tautness mean people can develop jowls and nasolabial creases. By supporting this area, the skin and facial structure can be lifted.

Can skincare help?

When it comes to skincare, many ingredients can help protect the skin and speed up the skin’s repair process. Look for vitamins A, B and C alongside broad-spectrum sun protection.

Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is the gold-standard anti-ageing ingredient which is excellent for reversing the signs of premature ageing such as lines, wrinkles, and discolouration. Vitamin B3, or niacinamide, will help minimise hyperpigmentation whilst improving barrier function. And Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which helps reverse the signs of ageing due to neutralising free radicals.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure, so take steps now to reduce sun damage – your skin will thank you for it in the years to come.

If you’re concerned about sun damage, click here to book a consultation with one of my friendly team.