This information relates to all types of skin sun damage including age spots (aka liver spots), premature ageing and excessive freckles.
Sunshine cheers us up and is an important source of vitamin D. But it is also the most common factor in skin ageing and pigmentation issues.
Long after your suntan (or sunburn) has faded, the damage lingers in your skin. It can result in areas of darker pigmentation, which may not appear until years later. These can be unsightly, particularly when they are on your face.
Sun damage is also the number one cause of skin cancer. If you are in any doubt about changes to your skin you should always visit your GP first, before undertaking any aesthetic treatments.
Causes of sun damage
Sun damage is caused when ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun hits your skin. There are two forms of UV which reach our skin: UVA and UVB.
Both UVA and UVB light, or radiation, damages the cells in your skin, including the collagen and elastin fibres which support your skin. Your skin produces more of the pigment melanin as a defence mechanism, which is the reason why you get a sun tan.
However, the melanin the skin produces is only equivalent to a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 2 or 4, so it doesn’t provide enough protection to prevent further damage including sunburn.
While your tan and any sunburn will eventually fade, the damage done to your skin is permanent, even if it’s not initially visible on the surface.
Symptoms of sun damage
Suntans, sunburn and premature ageing (including fine lines and wrinkles) are all symptoms of too much sun exposure. It can exacerbate skin conditions such as rosacea and also cause raised, rough patches on your skin called actinic keratoses.
Damage from the sun’s UV radiation is also the most common cause of skin cancer. If you are at all unsure about any changes to your skin you should always see your GP. The NHS specifically advises that you should seek medical advice if:
“you have any skin abnormality, such as a lump, ulcer, lesion or skin discolouration that has not healed after 4 weeks. While it’s unlikely to be skin cancer, it’s best to be sure.”
One of the more visually problematic results of sun exposure is pigmentation to the skin. These are often called “age spots” or “liver spots” – however these names are rather incongruous, as the fact is that this pigmentation is caused by the sun, not by your age or your liver.
These areas of darker skin are flat and may fade over the winter or remain year round.
While a light sprinkling of freckles can look natural and attractive, excessive or very dark freckles are often considered more unsightly. Like larger areas of skin pigmentation, they are a sign of UV damage.
Treatments for sun damage
We offer a range of treatments which can help deal with excessive skin pigmentation caused by sun damage. Our expert practitioners will assess your skin and advise on the best course of treatment for the results you desire.
Dan, who performed my laser work, has always been very honest about the results and has gone above and beyond to make my experience worthwhile.
NS – who received laser treatment with Dan at our Huntingdon clinic.
How to prevent sun damage
Prevention is always better than cure and sun damage is no exception to this rule. Even if you already have areas of permanent sun damage, it’s never too late to adopt a good skin protection regime to prevent further damage.
Always wear a minimum of SPF30 in the summertime. You might want to drop this to SPF15 in the winter. This protects you from UVB radiation. You should also ensure that your suntan lotion has a four or five star UVA protection rating. And make sure your sunscreen is still in date.
Check you are using enough of the lotion. A good guide is that you need at least 2 teaspoons of it to cover your head, arms and neck. 2 tablespoons of lotion if you’re wearing a swimming costume!
In addition, wear a hat and sunglasses to protect the top of your head and your eyes.
Why does the sun cause premature ageing?
When UV radiation from the sun damages your skin, this includes the collagen and elastin fibres within the skin. These are vital to maintain the elasticity of youthful skin. When they are harmed by the sun (known as photoageing) this causes many signs of ageing, including:
- Fine lines, wrinkles and deep folds.
- Rough, leathery skin.
- Sagging skin.
- Spider veins.
- A reddened, ruddy complexion.
Will I get sun damage from a sunbed?
Yes. The risks of sun damage from a sunbed are the same, if not higher, than from natural sun exposure.
Isn’t sunshine good for me?
The sun does have some benefits for our health, in particular by helping our bodies make vitamin D, which in turn helps us to absorb calcium and phosphates from our food. However, there’s no need to spend hours in the sun to get your dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D can be added to your diet by eating more oily fish, red meat and eggs or by taking a supplement (which might be particularly helpful in the winter months).
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What our patients say
Thank you to our wonderful patients for these kind words
I’m absolutely thrilled with the results – the transformation is incredible. I just wish I’d had this done ages ago. Fantastic!
The results have changed my life! I am now able to enjoy life without the constant embarrassment and anxiety [hyperhidrosis] brings.
My face looks amazing :))
… I’m extremely thankful to Dr Timothy Beazleigh who carried out the [treatment for migraines] as I have felt so well since.
I am delighted with the result of my treatment – it’s even better than I dared to hope for.