The damaging effects of the sun
As the summer approaches, living right here at the beach makes it all the more easy and tempting to lounge in the sunshine. However, as the years roll by, too much time outdoors can put you at risk for wrinkles, age spots, scaly patches called actinic keratosis, and skin cancer. We’ll take a look at the damage the sun causes and what you can do to prevent and get relief from too much sun exposure.
Your tan may look nice, but that golden color is due to an injury to the top layer of your skin. When you soak up the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, it speeds up the aging of your skin and raises your risk of skin cancer. To prevent damage, be sure to use a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. Broad spectrum means one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
Ever had a sunburn? Most of us have and we all remember getting them. Your skin turns red, it feels hot to the touch, and you may have some mild pain. Sun Burn is really a first-degree burn since it affects only the outer layer of your skin. To get some relief from pain, take aspirin or ibuprofen. Try a cold compress, or apply some moisturizing cream or aloe.
A second-degree sunburn damages deep layers of your skin and nerve endings. It’s usually more painful and takes longer to heal. You may have redness and swelling. If blisters form, don’t break them. They might get infected.
Premature aging is also a side-effect of too much time in the sun. Ultraviolet light in daylight damages the fibers in your skin called elastin. When that happens, it begins to sag and stretch. Wearing sunscreen everyday — whether your laying out on the beach or riding a bike — is important to prevent damaged skin.
Too much sun causes some areas of your skin to appear darker, while others look lighter. It can also make permanent changes in small blood vessels, which gives you a reddish look in places.
Some of us were born with freckles, but you can also get these on areas of your body that are exposed to the sun. You’ll notice them more in the summer, especially if you’re fair-skinned or have light or red hair. Freckles aren’t bad for you. But some cancers in the earliest stages can look like one. See your doctor if the size, shape, or color of a spot changes, or if it itches or bleeds.
Melasma, also known as Pregnancy Mask, shows up as tan or brown patches on your cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. It’s common among women who are pregnant, but men can get it too. It may go away after your pregnancy ends, but you can also treat it with prescription creams and over-the-counter products. Use sunscreen at all times if you have melasma, because daylight can make it worse..
Age Spots, or Solar Lentigines, are pesky brown or gray areas that aren’t really caused by aging, though more of them show up on your body as you get older. You get them from being out in the daylight. They often appear on your face, hands, and chest. Bleaching creams, acid peels, Retin-A products, and light treatments can make them less obvious. They don’t harm your health, but check with your doctor to make sure they’re not something more serious, like skin cancer.
Actinic Cheilitis, also known as farmer’s Lip, usually appears on the lower lip, and you may have scaly patches, dryness and cracking, or swelling. The sharp border-line between your lip and skin may also disappear. Get this checked by your doctor. It may turn into squamous cell carcinoma if it’s not treated.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is type of skin cancer and may show up as a firm red bump, a scaly growth that bleeds or gets a crust, or a sore that doesn’t heal. It most often happens on your nose, forehead, ears, lower lip, hands, and other areas that get a lot of sun. Squamous cell carcinoma can be cured if you get treated early.
Bowen Disease is a type of skin cancer that’s on the surface of your skin. Your doctor may also call it squamous cell carcinoma “in situ.” Unlike “invasive” squamous cell carcinoma, Bowen disease doesn’t spread to the inside of your body. It looks like scaly, reddish patches that may be crusted.
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, and it’s the easiest to treat. Basal cell carcinoma spreads slowly and the tumors can take on many forms, including a pearly white or waxy bump, often with visible blood vessels, on the ears, neck, or face. A tumor can also appear as a flat, scaly, flesh-colored or brown patch on your back or chest, or more rarely, a white, waxy scar.
Melanoma is not as common as other types of skin cancer, but it’s the most serious. Possible signs include a change in the way a mole or colored area looks. Melanoma can affect the skin only, or it may spread to organs and bones. It can be cured if you get early treatment.
Cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. It’s painless, but it may cause foggy vision, glare from light, and seeing double. You can help prevent cataracts by wearing a hat and sunglasses when you’re in the sun.
If you see any changes to a mole or you spot a new growth or a sore that won’t heal, see your doctor right way.
Be sure to pick up some sunscreen, moisturizers and other supplies at one of our stores to keep your skin healthy and resilient.