How does sun exposure affect our skin?

Because exposure to the sun causes most of the skin changes associated with aging, protecting the skin from the sun is the single most important skin care practice you can adopt. Significant exposure to the sun will wrinkle and dry the skin. Uneven pigmentation -- from freckles to small or large brown spots -- is another side effect of frequent sunning. Melasma, commonly associated with pregnancy, is brought out by the sun and produces large brown patches on the forehead and cheeks.

The most serious consequence of sun exposure is skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, making up nearly half of all diagnosed cases of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Most sun damage occurs prior to the age of 18, but skin cancer can take up to 20 or more years to develop; children who experience just a few serious sunburns are believed to have an increased risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Nothing weathers the skin as much as unprotected sun exposure and smoking. The two best things you can do for your skin today is stop:

  • Letting the sun damage your skin: Ultraviolet radiation is responsible for 80% of environmental skin damage and is the single biggest contributor to premature aging. Put a sunscreen of SPF 30 (or a daily moisturizer containing it) next to your toothbrush, and make applying it a morning ritual. 
  • Smoking: Smoking decreases the production of collagen, which is one of the most important building blocks of the skin. Without it, your skin sags and dips, creating wrinkles, creases, and fine lines.



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Jeanine B. Downie, MD
The most important reason for vigilant sun protection is preventing cancer, but some people are more motivated by the cosmetic changes that sun damage can cause:
  • Your pores will get bigger. People think that pore size is genetic. It’s not. Over time, the pores of people who tan a lot will hypertrophy and increase in width, creating a rough, patchy texture to the skin.
  • Your other skin conditions will get worse. The sun can irritate skin conditions like eczema, melasma, vitiligo, and even acne. This can cause skin tone changes that range from hyperpigmentation to scarring.
  • Get ready for wrinkles. Of UVB rays and UVA rays, it’s the latter that cause premature aging of the skin. Contrary to popular belief, people who have more melanin in their skin are not immune to their effects.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.