Sun Damaged Skin

Although light is necessary for life, some of this light carries so much energy that it actually has the capacity to damage your skin.

Sun damage describes the changes that occur in your skin in response to effect of the damaging sun rays. This damaging light is in the ultra-violet (UV) spectrum and is divided into 3 categories: UVA, UVB, and UVC.

All UV rays damage collagen fibers, thus accelerating aging of the skin. Sun damage happens in the deepest layers of the skin—the dermis—it can take years before the damage surfaces and becomes visible.

As sunlight passes through the atmosphere, all UVC and most UVB is absorbed by the atmosphere. UVA is not filtered as significantly, accounting for approximately 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.

Thus, UVB and UVA are the main reason contributing to photoaging/photodamage (“photo” means light). Responsible for 90% of visible changes to the skin, photoaging is a direct result of cumulative sun damage you’ve been exposed to throughout your life.


How UV Lights damage our skin

UVB is very biologically active but cannot penetrate beyond the superficial skin layers. It is responsible for delayed tanning and burning; in addition to these short-term effects it enhances skin ageing and significantly promotes the development of skin cancer. It can also cause DNA damages directly.

UVA penetrates more deeply into the skin and cause DNA damage indirectly by generating free radicals and reactive oxygen species which in turn damage DNA. It is responsible for the immediate tanning effect. Furthermore, it also contributes to skin ageing and wrinkling. For a long time it was thought that UVA could not cause any lasting damage. Recent studies strongly suggest that it may also enhance the development of skin cancers.

Furthermore, UVA is immunosuppressive for the entire body (accounting for a large part of the immunosuppressive effects of sunlight over-exposure). Because UVA does not cause reddening of the skin (erythema), it is not measured in the usual types of SPF testing. There is no good clinical measurement for blockage of UVA radiation, but it is important for sunscreen to block both UVA and UVB.


Solar-damage skin conditions

As mentioned above, sun damage describes the changes that occur in your skin in response to effect of the damaging sun rays. These changes include:

  • Changes in texture: skin loses it’s elasticity as collagen and elastin fibers are destroyed by UV radiation. It becomes thinner, leathery, and more fragile.
  • Changes in color: skin tries to protect itself by producing additional pigment (pigment spots as known as sun spots) that would absorb some of the damaging rays and neutralize them. This pigment production is not always uniform, and often occurs in the form of sun spots, or brown spots and blotches of pigment.
  • New blood vessels form as a reaction to solar injury, resulting in spider veins and telangiectasiae.


Available Treatments at Medical Spa Club

The treatment of sun damage always starts with a careful assessment at our Richmond clinic in Metro Vancouver, B.C. to determine the options most appropriate in your individual case. These options include medications as well as a range of cosmetic treatments:

Actinic Keratosis a pre-malignant condition of the skin caused by sun damage. It consists of scaly or crusty patches on skin, most commonly in sun-exposed areas such as face, scalp, arms, and legs. The patches of actinic keratosis usually range 2-6mm in size. Left untreated it has up to 20% risk of progression to squamous cell carcinoma. However, it is not infectious.

Actinic Cheilitis is a form of actinic keratosisis. It is a type of precancerous skin change that happens on the lips. It is usually related to damage from solar exposure. It occurs when skin cells have been damaged (“keratinocytes”) due to prolonged exposure to UV light. This condition can develop into a kind of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma if you do not have it treated.

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Call us at 604-284-5501 for any questions or book online for a consultation with our doctor to discuss your needs and options. No obligation to proceed with any treatment or service – just information so you can decide when you want to make an enhancement of your natural beauty. We are all happy to help you every step of the way.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the preventative measures I can take?

Although it is almost impossible to completely prevent sun damage, there are preventative measures that you can undertake, as well as treatments. Some simple measures you could take to prevent sun damage include:

  • Avoid sun-exposed areas. Look for shade. Particularly avoid mid-day sun (10am-4pm)
  • Wear hats, sun glasses, and loose clothing
  • Use a sunscreen with highest protective SPF rating. Choose a sunscreen that has a sun block in it rather than just a chemical sun screen. Sun block will usually contain molecules such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide, which are metal-containing molecules that physically block and reflect sunlight rather than just absorbing part of the spectrum
  • Do not use indoor tanning