The warm rays of the early summer sun can feel great on your skin after a gray, cold winter in Washington, DC. But unfortunately, when it comes to sun exposure, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
Getting a sunburn is a pretty clear reminder about the power of the sun’s rays. But even without a burn, the sun can still damage your skin at the cellular level, causing changes that won’t be visible until you get older.
At Metroderm DC: Medical, Laser, and Aesthetic Dermatology Center, Todd Perkins, MD, and Edward Stolar, MD, help patients address sun damage and learn ways to protect their skin from unhealthy ultraviolet (UV) rays that can lead to wrinkling, sagging skin, and skin cancer.
In this post, they provide a quick overview of the sun’s effects on your skin, including the good, the bad, and the not-so-attractive.
First, the good
You shouldn’t avoid the sun entirely. Exposing your skin to some sunshine actually helps your body stay healthy. That’s because when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D. In fact, that sun-to-skin production process provides the lion’s share of vitamin D for your body.
But you don’t need much sun exposure to get the vitamin D your body needs. The specific amount depends on lots of variables, including where you live, your skin tone, the time of year, how much skin is exposed, and even your age.
You can get all the vitamin D you need while still practicing sun safety to reduce your risks of skin damage.
Of course, being outdoors in the sunshine provides other benefits, too, including boosting your mood. Here again, moderation is the key.
Now, the bad
Skin cancer is, without question, the most serious consequence of too much sun exposure. Skin cancer is a direct consequence of UV radiation exposure.
When UV rays penetrate your skin, they alter your DNA, affecting the way your cells behave and grow. Over time, UV exposure can cause your skin cells to rapidly multiply, leading to cancerous tumors.
Wearing sunscreen every day is one of the best ways to prevent getting too much UV radiation. Hanging out in the shade, wearing protective clothing (including hats), and avoiding midday hours when the sun’s rays are strongest also limit the amount of UV radiation that your skin absorbs.
It’s important to have a skin cancer screening every year. Skin cancer can be difficult to detect in its early stages — the time when cancers are also most responsive to treatment. Annual skin cancer checkups help us spot cancers so we can treat you as soon as possible.
Finally, the not-so-attractive
While skin cancer is by far the most serious consequence of too much sun exposure, those UV rays can affect your skin’s appearance, too. Remember, UV rays penetrate your skin, causing changes in the skin’s structure. Over time, it’s those changes that we often attribute to a natural part of getting older.
But the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that sun exposure is actually responsible for about 90% of the changes you see in your skin as you get older, including dark spots, fine lines, laxity, and scaly spots.
That means that by playing a very proactive role in managing your skin’s exposure to the sun, you could dramatically reduce wrinkles, spots, and other photoaging-related changes when you get older. Again, using sunscreen and steering clear of the sun during midday hours can reduce those aging effects.
Year-round care for healthy skin
Bottom line: While sun exposure can definitely take a toll on skin health, a few simple steps can help. Wearing sunscreen (yes, even if it’s cloudy), donning protective clothing, seeking shade, and staying indoors during the hours when the sun is most intense can help your skin look its best while substantially reducing your risk of cancer.
To learn how we can help you maintain your healthy skin at every age, call 202-659-2223 or book an appointment online with our team at Metroderm DC: Medical, Laser, and Aesthetic Dermatology Center today.