The True Effects of Sun Exposure on Your Skin

Summer has finally arrived, which means it’s time to get out there and enjoy everything this season has to offer. However, you should be careful about how much sun you soak up. It only takes one sunburn to cause significant damage to your complexion that makes you look older than you really are. With that in mind, here’s our complete guide to sun and skin exposure to help you protect yourself from harmful UV rays year-round.

Who Loves the Sun? Not Everyone

Human bodies evolved to reap the maximum health benefits from Earth’s golden star. Sunlight helps you regulate your sleep patterns, keeping you awake during the day and signaling you when it is time to wind down at night. The sun also causes your skin to produce vitamin D, which is essential for good health. However, there’s a dark side of sun exposure: skin damage.

If you paid close attention in those high school science classes, you probably remember light travels from the sun to our planet’s surface in wave form. Ultraviolet, or UV, light, is the kind that damages your skin at the cellular level. There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. Over time, both kinds can affect the health of your skin. 

The more sun exposure you get in childhood, the earlier you will begin to see signs of aging such as uneven tone and texture, wrinkles, and less elasticity. However, UV damage is cumulative, and as a result, you will notice your skin has a harder and harder time bouncing back as you get older. 

A Brief Guide to Skin Cancer

In addition to showing your age sooner, excessive sun exposure can also increase your risk of developing skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in the United States.

How do the sun’s rays cause skin cancer? When UV light hits skin cells, it can harm the DNA inside them. This damaged DNA can cause the cells to grow and divide rapidly, creating clusters of excess cells called a tumor. These may be either cancerous or harmless.

Often, the first sign of skin cancer is a tiny blemish or spot on your skin. A cancer that begins in your skin cells can also become more aggressive, eventually spreading to affect other organs in your body.

Dermatologists divide skin cancer into three categories: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Of the three, melanoma is the most severe type, with life-threatening potential. Warning signs of all three of these cancers include changes in the size, shape, or color of a mole or other blemish, a sore that won’t heal, or the emergence of a new skin lesion.

Because all three kinds of skin cancers are highly curable when you detect them and get them removed early, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly head-to-toe self-screenings to note the location of new or changing moles that might be cancerous or precancerous.

Dr. Seth Matarasso offers innovative Mohs micrographic surgery, the most advanced and effective way to remove skin cancer and prevent it from recurring.  

Ways to Minimize Sun Damage

The most common-sense way to protect your skin from damage, including skin cancer, is to limit how much sun exposure you receive. Avoid spending too long in the sun. If you must be outside on a bright, sunny day, stay away from direct sunlight if possible. Wear protective clothing and sunglasses, and reapply sunscreen frequently between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is when the sun’s rays beat down with the most intensity.

If your goal in soaking up the rays is to kickstart your body’s production of vitamin D, remember it only takes 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure to get the job done. You can also get vitamin D from foods and dietary supplements.

When you need to go outside, even if it’s cloudy, be smart. Before you leave your house, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to your face and body, and reapply it every two hours. 

Sun-Smart in San Francisco 

Limiting the amount of time you spend outside is the best way to protect your skin. If you are worried about sun damage or your chances of developing skin cancer, contact our office today to make an appointment. Not only does Dr. Matarasso provide advanced surgery for skin cancer, but he also offers a variety of cosmetic treatments to help you look your best.