What is sun damage, and what are the effects?

Let’s first be clear about what’s going on beneath the skin’s surface before discussing whether or not you can cure skin damage caused by the sun. Jodi LoGerfo, DNP, a family nurse practitioner specialized in family medicine and dermatology, explains that when the skin is exposed to UVA and UVB radiation from the sun without protection, the DNA in skin cells is harmed.

Genetic flaws and mutations result from damage to these cells. These, in turn, can show up in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Skin cancer
  • Wrinkles
  • Dark spots
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Skin sagging

It is crucial to be reminded that UV radiation is a known human carcinogen1, says Jodi. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin are caused by UV radiation, and both of these cancers typically appear on skin that has been exposed to the sun.

Even though some physical manifestations of sun damage, such fine wrinkles and dark spots, can be corrected over time, you should prioritize sun damage prevention (more on that in a moment).

Can you repair sun damage?

Overall, sun damage cannot be fully repaired. However, according to board-certified dermatologist Rebecca Marcus, M.D., there are several topical treatments and procedures that can be used to lessen the visible symptoms of UV damage.

“Topical retinoids are useful in repairing photodamage (damage to the skin caused by UV radiation),” explains Marcus. For this aim, as well as for treating other skin disorders like mild acne and naturally existing fine wrinkles, retinol-2 particularly has been researched and employed.

There aren’t many solutions available for DNA damage brought on by sunlight. Recent improvements, though, have produced encouraging outcomes. An enzyme known as photolyase3 offers a different alternative for treating DNA damage brought on by the sun, according to Marcus. “This enzyme helps to repair DNA damage caused by UV radiation that has already been sustained. Although it is not natural to humans, ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica sells it commercially.

No matter what solutions are currently available or emerge in the near future, prevention is more widely available and risk-free than treatment. Here are a few sun safety guidelines and preventative measures.

How to Take Care of Your Skin Before and After the Sun

1. Avoid it in the beginning

It is just impractical to entirely avoid UV radiation for a variety of reasons. In fact, as Marcus claims, it might be harmful to your health in general, including your skin. “Totally avoiding sun exposure would cause changes to lifestyle that could impact mental health,” the author claims.

When going to a sunny area, though, you should be cautious. “I do recommend seeking shade whenever possible and using hats, sunglasses, and UV protective clothing whenever possible to shield skin from reasonably avoidable sun exposure,” advises Marcus.

2. Stop laziness with SPF

For those prolonged days in the sun, a single layer of SPF won’t be sufficient. “I wholeheartedly endorse daily application of broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher, with reapplication every two hours, and more frequently when swimming or sweating,” Marcus advises, following the advice of the majority of dermatologists.

This is excessive, and we agree. You’ll probably come to the conclusion that it’s a minor price to pay if you measure the benefits of spending a few more minutes maintaining an adequate layer of SPF against the previously mentioned effect of sun damage on the skin.

3. Apply antioxidants

Antioxidants used topically, such as vitamin C, CoQ10, etc., can offer a layer of defense4 against UV deterioration. Marcus explains that although it is not an SPF, it helps somewhat boost skin resistance to the sun and is a great base layer before sunscreen.

4. Hydrate your skin after sun exposure

Your risk of sunburn is low if you wear adequate sunscreen and reapply it frequently. However, it still occurs. If you have a little sunburn or simply wish to take better care of your skin after being exposed to UV rays, you should prioritize hydration.
“Keeping skin well moisturized will help to soothe and repair some of the immediate effects of sunburn, such as peeling, pain, and itching,” adds Marcus. Use caution while selecting products, as anything containing chemical exfoliants will simply aggravate the burn.

The takeaway

The visible effects of UV damage, like as dark spots, fine wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation, may be lessened with topical treatments. In contrast, there are few alternatives for really reversing it, which is concerning given the catastrophic effects of UV exposure. Therefore, put your attention on effective post-sun care and avoidance.