The Effects of Heat and Sun on Skin
Sun damage can cause a lot of superficial effects on the skin and some pretty serious ones. All of these effects are equally disastrous because sun damaged skin requires a lot of work to be restored to its former glory. The following are the harmful effects of heat and sun on skin –
• Skin Cancer – Australia’s most common cancer is skin cancer. Before reaching 70 years of age, 66% Australians are diagnosed with this cancer. Every year, more than 380,000 people in Australia receive treatment for skin cancer – more than anywhere else in the world. Thus, specifically for Australians, prevention from sun damage and caring for sun damaged skin is extremely necessary. Skin cancer is usually a result of long term exposure to the sun. The following are the specific skin cancer types that can be caused by the sun
- BCC (Basal Cell Carcinoma) – BCC is the most common type of skin cancer in Australia and 75% Australians are diagnosed with it. On the other hand, it is relatively a less dangerous type. BCC starts off as round, small, pale and red (or pearly) bumps. Sometimes, they might look like eczema as they appear on skin that is scaly and red. In Australia, the target age for this cancer is 20 – 30.
- Melanoma – Melanoma occurs in 10% of people in Australia with sun-damaged skin and every year, 10,300 people are diagnosed with the same. Although, areas which receive a lot of sun damage are the target of Melanoma, it can also occur in areas which have never experienced sun exposure. Usually, melanoma will manifest itself in the form of a colour changing, shape changing and size changing flat spots. As time progresses, the colour changes to black, the shape becomes irregular and it also becomes bigger.
- SCC (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) – SCC is pretty dangerous but it is not that common. It may start from sunspots and transform them into scaly, thick and red spots that may ulcerate and bleed. If left untreated, these spots can spread to the lymph nodes over a course of weeks or months. Older Australians (over 40s) are more prone to this skin cancer.
• Sun Spots (Solar Keratosis) – When skin is exposed to UV rays of the sun, sunspots are caused. The size of the spots can be small, starting from 2mm and reaching up to 20mm. Their appearance can be warty or scaly. Colour is usually red or closer to the shade of the skin – it varies. Areas that receive regular sun exposure such as the face, hands, arms, neck, et al are usually the places where sunspots are most found. These spots can grow on to become SCC. In Australia, they are common in fair people with sun-damaged skin.
• Cosmetic Changes – Sun exposure can harm the beauty and health of your skin in a number of ways. For both young and old, extremely sun damaged skin is seldom treated properly. The following are some cosmetic effects of sun damage on skin
- Premature Ageing – Visible damage to the skin is often the result of sun exposure. This is the main reason why most anti-ageing skin care products come with an in-built sun protection formula. Not caring for the skin can cause premature ageing but a lot more damage is caused by the harmful rays of the sun.
- Wrinkles and Fine Lines – The skin stays flexible and elastic because of moisture and health. However, when exposed to the sun over long years, the thin and absorbent inner layers of the skin become thick and dry. They are not able to retain and hold moisture anymore. This causes fine lines and wrinkles on the face. Middle aged to older Australians have these damage signs around their mouths and eyes.
- Textural Changes – The sun can cause the texture of your skin to feel rough and dry. These textural changes occur after years of unprotected exposure to the sun, untreated sunburns, and further sun damage. Sun damaged skin, if not cared for, can completely ruin your beauty.
- Discoloration – After years (or a long period) of sun exposure, the melanocytes or tanning cells get over-activated and cause brown freckles to develop on the skin. Forearms, shins and other areas that are exposed to the sun can see these textural changes.
The best way to protect from sun damage is to invest in a good quality chemical free sunscreen with a decent SPF. Understand that SPF does not signify the level of protection but the time for which the sunscreen will protect you. SPF 15 protects you for 150 minutes, and so on. Look for a sunscreen with good coverage against both UVA and UVB. Also, wear a broad brimmed hat when you go out, wear sunscreen even when indoors, and drink a lot of water to heal sun damage.
While the sunshine is an essential source of energy and Vitamin D that our bodies need, it is important to carefully and continually look after our skin. Boosting skin immune functions and increase environmental protection with antioxidant such as Vitamins A, C and E is one such way to do so. Oils such as Jojoba oil, Coconut oil, Sea-buckthorn oil and Rosehip oil and other organic skin care products rejuvenate sun-damaged skin by balancing pH, restoring smoothness and firmness.