While laying out on a sunny summer day might feel exceptionally good, fewer activities can cause more long-term damage to your body’s health than getting a tan. Even if one summer’s suntan can seem pretty harmless, the aggregate effect of excessive sun exposure places you at a higher risk of premature wrinkling, cellular damage, age spots, and skin cancer. The dedicated Salem skin care professionals at Valley View Dermatology wants every patient to understand the risks of tanning even if the summer seems so far away.
Skin cancer ranks as the most common form of cancer in the U.S., with over two million people being diagnosed yearly. In 2012, an estimated 76,000 people will receive a melanoma diagnosis, the most deadly form of skin cancer, attributing to nearly 10,000 deaths, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Despite these dangers, millions of Americans continue to put themselves at risk by regularly going outside without protection. Between 1970 and 2009, the number of melanoma cases increased by 400 percent among young men and by 800 percent in the U.S. among young women.
So before you head out to the park or pool during these final days of summer, here are a few things you need to know about the dark side of sun exposure.
Even though society has placed a premium on beautifully bronzed skin, that golden hue is actually the result of you damaging the epidermis, or top layer skin. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light stimulates your body to produce more melanin pigment, which makes your skin a darker color. Your body produces melanin pigment as a way to protect your cells from the dangerous ultraviolet light you’ve been exposed to from the sun. So getting a tan is actually your body’s way of limiting the amount of damage your cells receive from future trips outside. To reduce the amount of ultraviolet light your skin is exposed to, you should wear SPF 30 sunscreen whenever you head outside.
Diagnosing Your Sunburn
It takes time for your body to build up enough melanin pigment in the skin to give your body the kind of protection it needs from the sun. Sunburns occur when you spend too much time outside before you have built up a tan and can cause serious damage to your skin.
First-degree sunburn usually appears within a few hours after sun exposure and could take several days of weeks to fully fade away. The symptoms of a first-degree burn include redness, a flush feeling along the skin, and discomfort. You can treat the symptoms of a first-degree burn with over-the-counter pain relievers, aloe, cold compresses, or by applying moisturizing creams to the affected areas.
A far more severe sunburn, a second-degree burn can damage deeper layers of the skin than just your epidermis and could lead to nerve damage. Second-degree burns usually take much longer to heal and result in more painful symptoms, including swelling, redness, and blistering. If blisters do form on your skin, do not break them as they provide a source of moisture and protection, and could become infected if opened. If you suffer a severe second-degree burn, you should consider seeking treatment from a doctor to help treat your blisters.
The Effects of Sun Exposure
While a sunburn will eventually heal, the long-term effects of spending too much time in the sun will stay with you for a lifetime. The Salem skin care professionals at Valley View Dermatology feel that every patient should fully understand these risks before tanning.
- Wrinkles. Few follies of youth can have as big an impact on your appearance when older than tanning. Over 80 percent of the signs of aging skin in adults are related to tans they had as teens prior to turning 18. This happens because the rays of the sun make your skin appear old and wrinkled long before it should. Ultraviolet light damages skin fibers known as elastin. When the elastin in your skin breaks down, your skin begins to stretch, sag, and lose its ability to return to place after stretching.
- Skin Tone. Irregular coloring or pigmentation in the skin is another symptom of excess sun exposure, and can cause your skin to appear dark and lighter in different spots. Your skin can also take on a reddish look from the sun causing permanent changes in small blood vessel just under the skin.
- Age Spots. These brown or gray spot that form on the skin are not actually caused by aging, though you may exhibit more the older you get. Sun exposure causes age spots, which is why they usually appear on areas of the skin that receive a lot of sunlight. To treat age spot, you can try using acid peels and bleaching creams.
- Skin Cancer. A number of sun-related skin conditions are precancerous and need to be immediately checked by your doctor. If you experience any changes in the size of moles or freckles or develop skin lesions, you need to schedule an examination.