Sun damage: causes and signs

Our glorious sun-filled days mean that sun damage is a fact of life for all South African skins. Best, then, we know how to prevent this damage, to spot its tell-tale signs, and to treat it

Helllloooo sunshine! After the year we’ve just had, we have never been more ready for a holiday, but are we going to be careful under our blazing summer sun?
There’s only one right answer here… yes, we are! The consequences of not treating our sun with very healthy respect are not pretty to contemplate.

The signs of sun damage
When we hear the words “sun damage”, many of us picture someone with a mature skin, wrinkles and pigmentation. The truth, however, is that sun damage can start appearing on our skin as early as our twenties, and it doesn’t only show up as dark marks:

  • First up, you can expect an impaired barrier function, which allows moisture to escape, leading to dehydration and poor functioning of the skin (leading to premature ageing and possible sensitisation), and a rough, dull texture.
  • Sun damage degrades the body’s collagen and elastin, resulting in those first fine lines. This progresses to wrinkles, a leathery texture and a loss of firmness – accelerating as we enter our forties and fifties – especially among paler skin types.
  • The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can also damage the walls of our blood vessels, causing visible broken capillaries and redness.
  • Of course, there’s the very obvious hyperpigmentation (dark spots) aspect, which probably concerns us most because it affects all shades of skin.
    The melanin colour pigment in our skin is there to protect our cells’ vital structures from UV damage.
    Unfortunately, factors like hormonal influence, scarring and sun damage can make our skin produce blotches of pigmentation darker than our natural skin tone, which most of us find unattractive and want to eliminate.
  • Lastly, but most importantly, unprotected sun exposure can even cause breaks and kinks in our DNA – the type that can lead to skin cancer!

Myths about sun damage
We must avoid the sun completely.
A little sun exposure is good for us. We need sunlight to stimulate our bodies to produce vitamin D – vital for the functioning of many of our body systems. But we need only a little. With our sunshine levels, doctors advise that 10 minutes twice a week is all you need to keep topped up.

Only a series of very bad sunburns will damage your skin.
Yes, sunburn increases the amount of damage, and can lead to cancer, but the cumulative effects of daily unprotected sun exposure is probably the most common thing that causes the effects of premature ageing.

Worry about sun damage is only about vanity.
Yes, sun damage causes us to look older before our time, but the damage also alters our skin cell DNA, making our skin less efficient at doing its job as our largest organ and causing skin cancer, including deadly melanoma.

The point of it all
We need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves in the sun. We must also teach our children this lesson from a very early age, so that we can enjoy its benefits without the negative effects.

This means sun protection
Clearly, sun-damage prevention is first choice in limiting premature ageing, hyperpigmentation, and all the factors mentioned above.
Wearing a high protection-factor sunscreen every single day is your best insurance against future sun damage and, if you are working on your hyperpigmentation, it is essential because exposure to sunlight starts the pigmentation cycle all over again.

We recommend the advanced formulation of Lamelle Helase Photo-Repair Cream SPF 50, which not only protects skin against the entire light spectrum – UVA, UVB, UVC, Visible Light and Infrared, it corrects sun damage by soothing inflammation and repairing damaged DNA. It can be used on all skins from age 6 months onwards.
This must be supported by avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm, as well as wearing UV-protective clothing and sunglasses.

The good news is…it’s never too late
At Skin Renewal, there’s a lot we can do to help rejuvenate the skin of patients with existing sun damage.
If you’re struggling with any signs of sun-damaged skin, make an appointment to chat with one of our doctors or therapists.

They’ll be able to suggest the treatment solutions package that will address your concerns, depending on their severity.
We discuss this fully next time.

To find out more about sun damage and protection against the sun, or to find suitable treatment solutions after the damage has been done, visit Skin Renewal on or contact 0861 SKIN SA (754 672).

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