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Summer Smart Skin

Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we consider ourselves lucky that summer coincides not only with school holidays, but also, Christmas, New Year and the end of one year and the beginning of another.

#summerfun

As the busy year begins to wind down, it seems the perfect time to lie back, take some time off no matter how hard we have worked through the year, and relax with family.

Summer Daze....

When I think of summer, I think of long, lazy days, lots of water activities and books, cool drinks and food!

Already, when walking around, I see fellow Aussies out and about, enjoying the sun, and while I don't like to think of myself as a party pooper, my main concern is for their skin.

Although most people love the warmth and light of the sun, too much sun exposure can significantly damage human skin. The sun's heat dries out areas of unprotected skin and depletes the skin's supply of natural lubricating oils. The sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause burning and long-term changes in the skin's structure.

The most common types of sun damage to the skin are:

  • Dry skin — Sun-exposed skin can gradually lose moisture and essential oils, making it appear dry, flaky and prematurely wrinkled, even in younger people.
  • Sunburn — Sunburn is the common name for the skin injury that appears immediately after the skin is exposed to UV radiation. Mild sunburn causes only painful reddening of the skin, but more severe cases can produce tiny fluid-filled bumps (vesicles) or larger blisters.

  • Actinic keratosis — This is a tiny bump that feels like sandpaper or a small, scaly patch of sun-damaged skin. Unlike suntan markings or sunburns, an actinic keratosis does not usually go away unless it is frozen, chemically treated or removed by a doctor. It develops in areas of skin that have undergone repeated or long-term exposure to the sun's UV light, and is a warning sign of increased risk of skin cancer. About 10% to 15% of actinic keratoses eventually change into squamous cell cancers of the skin.

  • Long-term changes in the skin's collagen — These changes include photoaging (premature aging of the skin because of sun exposure). In photoaging, the skin develops wrinkles and fine lines because of changes in the collagen of a deep layer of the skin called the dermis.

 

  • Over a lifetime, repeated episodes of sunburn and unprotected sun exposure can increase a person's risk of malignant melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.

 

So what does skin damage look like?

Sun-damaged skin may shows the following:

  • Dry skin — The skin appears dry, flaky and slightly more wrinkled than skin on other parts of your body that have not been exposed to the sun. Dry skin is also one of the most common causes of itching and ageing skin gets drier, so needs more care to keep it hydrated.
  • Sunburn — Mild sunburn causes pain and redness on sun-exposed skin. In most cases, there are clear boundary lines where the skin has been protected from the sun by shirt sleeves, shorts, a bathing suit or other clothing. More severe cases of sunburn produce painful blisters, sometimes together with nausea and dizziness.
  • Actinic keratosis — An actinic keratosis appears as a small bump that feels like sandpaper or a persistent patch of scaly (peeling) skin that may have a jagged or even sharp surface and that has a pink, yellow, red or brownish tint. At first, an actinic keratosis may be the size of a pimple. Rarely, an actinic keratosis may itch or be slightly tender.
  • Long-term changes in the skin's collagen — Symptoms of collagen changes include fine lines, deeper wrinkles, a thickened skin texture and easy bruising on sun-exposed areas, especially the back of the hands and forearms.

 

Outcomes

Sun damage may result in a permanent cosmetic concern, only some of which may be treatable, but not usually reversible, with judicious use of personalised skincare regimen, careful sun protection for life and treatments as recommended by your doctor - chemical peels, laser and light treatments, prescription medications as well as injectables.

Some treatments for actinic keratoses can leave a pale (de-pigmented) area of the skin surface. More important than appearance is the long-term impact of sun damage on your chances of developing skin cancer. The more unprotected sun exposure you have during your lifetime, the greater your risk of skin cancer, especially if you have a light complexion so it is important to have your doctor care for these and check your skin regularly and to keep monitoring it yourself for any new changes.

As an example, I have attached an example of what happens with the most simple measures that most of us ignore - suncare.

Using the app Sunface, I took a pic of myself, and then compared myself in 5, 15 and 15 years, with daily sunscreen vs no sun protection. See the results for yourself. In someone with lighter/fairer skin, the damage is faster and deeper, as would be the lines. In someone with darker skin, it is slower, but still unavoidable if one is not careful about sun protection.

 

Take home message?

  • It is NEVER too late to care for your skin.
  • it begins with simple measures such as sun protection - all day, everyday, sun or rain, winter or summer - hat, sunscreen, glasses and clothing
  • regular reapplication of sunscreen during the day
  • apply sunscreen 15 mins before getting in the car - the windshield and windows don't block out sun rays
  • SPF 30+ regularly through the day, 5mls (teaspoon) to the face
  • reapply more often when sweating, or in the water

References 

Weird things that happen as we get older.


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