Thursday, April 12th, 2012

How Sun Harms Your Skin

Sunscreen is one beauty staple that you can’t do without in any season and for any reason. Still, most of us wear it diligently in summer and get lazy about it in winter. And you better not ask about the cloudy days. The laziness results in the ageing of the skin. Yes, you heard me right. Sun damage is one of the topmost causes of the ageing of the skin. Dr Sheilly Kapoor, Consultant Dermatology at Medanta The Medicity informs more.

ABC of Ultra Violet Rays

UVA rays penetrate deepest into the skin and are often referred to as the ‘ageing rays’. In high doses, these rays damage the underlying collagen causing darkening, pigmentation and acceleration of the ageing process. Skin affected by the UVA rays looks scaly, dry, wrinkled and leathery with dark patches.
UVB rays are primarily responsible for sun burn and are often referred to as the “burning” rays. It is considered most damaging because it causes the top layers of skin to release chemicals that make blood vessels swell and leak fluids. The skin turns red and feels hot and painful, and at times, swelling and blisters occur.

Though, sun burn is dangerous at any age, but it’s especially harmful in children and young people, as studies have shown that just one episode of blistering sunburn before the age of 20 can double your chance of getting malignant melanoma.

Sun and Your Skin

Dr Kapoor jots down few perceptible effects of sun exposure on your skin.

  • Uneven Pigmentation- To protect itself from the damaging effects of the sun, your skin increases its production of melanocytes. These cells produce the dark brown pigment called melanin. Overexposure leads to the development of extra melanin thereby making your skin look darker or suntanned. In some cases, increase in melanin production results in irregular colouring or pigmentation of the skin. The sun can also cause a permanent stretching (dilation) of small blood vessels, giving your skin a mottled, reddish appearance.
  • Solar Lentigines, also referred to as liver spots or age spots, are flat spots of increased pigmentation — usually brown, black or gray. They vary in size and usually appear on the face, hands, arms and upper back — areas most exposed to the sun.
  • Labial Lentigo A dark brown lesion, called labial lentigo, develop on the lips after repeated sun exposure. In most cases, labial lentigo is a single spot that forms on the lower lip, which is often more exposed to sunlight.
  • Solar Elastosis Ultraviolet radiation breaks down the skin’s connective tissue — collagen and elastin fibers — which lie in the deeper layer of skin (dermis). Without the supportive connective tissue, the skin loses its strength and flexibility resulting in vertical creases (A), deep wrinkles, and sagging skin.
  • Melasma is a brown darkening of facial skin. It likely occurs from a combination of factors, including exposure to sunlight and an increase in the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. And it often affects women with dark skin and those who take oral contraceptives or hormone therapy, or who are pregnant. The dark patches usually occur on the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin.
  • Poikiloderma results in irregular reddish-brown pigmentation spots that mostly appear on the side of the neck or on the cheeks. It is common in middle-aged and elderly women and is likely caused by chronic sun exposure in combination with sun-sensitive chemicals in cosmetics or perfume.
  • Solar Keratoses, (also known as actinic keratoses) appear as rough, scaly raised patches that vary in colour from flesh coloured to dark pink or brown. It is mostly noticed on the face, ears, lower arms and hands of fair-skinned people who are too frequent in the sun. If left untreated, actinic keratoses may progress to a type of skin cancer.
  • Skin Cancer can also occur as a result of long term sun exposure. It can be melanoma or non melanoma types. Lentigo maligna is one such condition which starts as a dark flat spot that slowly darkens and enlarges. It mostly develops on your face, hands or legs on long-term sun exposure and can turn into full fledged skin cancer.

So this summer, better see a doctor if you notice a new skin growth, a bothersome change in your skin, a change in the appearance or texture of a mole, or a sore that doesn’t heal.

Priya Singh

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