6 Surprising Ways the Sun Can Affect Your Skin — and What to Do About It

Do you slather on sunscreen each day? You should, for more reasons than reducing your cancer risk. The sun can affect your skin in surprising ways. Fortunately, protecting yourself is as simple as covering up and choosing the right SPF. Why should you bother? Here are six reasons you should treat safeguarding your skin from the sun seriously.

1. Photoaging and Premature Aging

It’s no secret that too much time in the sun can result in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and an uneven complexion. The term “photoaging” refers to the cumulative effects of radiation from the sun or artificial ultraviolet (UV) sources. It results in collagen breakdown, which causes deep wrinkles, sagging skin, “hollow” cheeks and other signs of aging older individuals experience.

2. Hyperpigmentation and Other Skin Conditions

Hyperpigmentation refers to the appearance of blotchy or mottled skin with alternating patches of light and dark. This condition can have various causes, and sun damage is one of the most common — hyperpigmentation spots are also sometimes called “sun spots.”

Aside from hyperpigmentation, sun exposure and excessive sun damage can lead to vitiligo and mole growth.

3. Eye Damage

You should wear sunglasses as well as sunscreen when in the sun. The skin around your eyes is more prone to damage, and UV light exposure can also damage your vision. For example, women account for 63% of age-related macular degeneration cases, and failing to protect your eyes is one of the biggest and most preventable risk factors.

4. Sunburn

Sunburn doesn’t feel good and spurs premature aging, photoaging and hyperpigmentation while upping your chances of disease. Having five or more severe sunburns throughout your life doubles your skin cancer risk.

Keep yourself safe by slathering on sunscreen and pay attention to the type and when you apply it. Sunscreen can take up to 15 minutes to absorb into the skin, so make sure you apply it a bit before you head out for the day.

5. Skin Dehydration

Dehydrated skin looks flaky and ashy, making you look older and more tired. Furthermore, you sweat more in the sun, accelerating moisture loss.

Keeping yourself hydrated is key. While the general rule is to divide your weight in half and consume that many ounces of water per day, you may need more if you spend a lot of time outdoors.

6. Heat Rash

Those little angry red bumps on your chin might not be pimples. Heat rash occurs when your eccrine glands, which let sweat escape from your skin’s surface, become blocked. The result is tiny, red, inflamed bumps that can itch like crazy.

Treatment includes cooling yourself down in a shower or pool and applying topical anti-itch creams. As heat rash often occurs where fabric meets your skin, opt for breathable cotton over synthetics that prevent airflow.

Is the Sun Ever Good for Your Skin?

In some cases, the sun can be good for your skin. For example, mild exposure prompts your body to produce natural vitamin D, which boosts your mood and improves immune function.

Furthermore, some people with autoimmune diseases do better with mild sun exposure. The trick is finding the right amount of exposure to improve symptoms without prompting a severe flare-up.

How the Sun Affects Your Skin

The sun affects your skin in multiple ways. Understanding the risks prompts you to take simple proactive steps, such as applying sunscreen and wearing other forms of sun gear. Protect yourself before you venture out and enjoy a healthier, more glowing complexion for life.

Cover Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Inside photo by Lukas Rychvalsky