Sunscreen is considered the first line of defense against sun-related skin damage, though some concern over the safety of sunscreen itself has made its way around the internet. While it’s difficult to say for certain if sunscreen causes problems, it’s proven that the damage from sun exposure causes potentially serious conditions. Safe sun practices, including wearing sunscreen, are absolutely essential for your skin’s long-term health. Studies show distinct correlations between unsafe sun habits and the following skin problems. Sunscreen is an essential part of reducing or eliminating your risk of these conditions.
The most immediate and obvious reason why sunscreen is beneficial to your skin is that it helps prevent sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend that you use at least SPF 15 sunscreen and reapply as directed whenever you’re out in the sun. This will help dramatically reduce the amount of UV damage your skin sustains, and will generally prevent sunburn. Not only are sunburns an unsightly red color and are uncomfortable or painful, they can turn into serious burns that blister and greatly increase your chances of infection.
Permanent skin discoloration
There are a number of different skin conditions that can result from excessive sun exposure that result in permanent discoloration of your skin. Such discoloration is most likely to appear on your face, ears, neck, chest, back, arms, and anywhere else that gets regular unprotected sun exposure. Initially, these discolorations may be as relatively minor as liver spots, uneven pigmentation, or enlarged blood vessels close to the surface of the skin. Over time, prominent black spots, dark patches and even abscesses may appear. While some of this abnormal pigmentation may fade after some time away from unprotected exposure, most of it is permanent.
Wrinkling and sagging
Your skin maintains shape and tone by virtue of elastin and other such elements that make it soft and supple. It is commonly held to be true that elastin degrades over time, inevitably leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. While it’s true that you can never eliminate damage to your skin so thoroughly as to stave off wrinkles forever, it’s entirely possible to delay and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Wearing sunscreen is one of the primary ways to do this, as sun damage is a primary cause of elastin breakdown. This is one reason why wrinkles are most likely to appear on the face, neck and hands first. Before getting to the point of spending hundreds of dollars on anti-aging products and wrinkle concealers, first just take care of the skin you have while it’s still healthy.
Pre-cancers and cancers
Studies show that excessive exposure to sun or UV rays from other sources, such as tanning beds, directly correlates to significantly higher incidences of skin cancer. The signs of elevated skin cancer risk include concentrated collections of pigmentation, growing or painful moles, and patches of scaly skin called keratoses. Actinic keratosis is one of the primary conditions seen as a precursor to skin cancer, with about 30 percent of all spots eventually morphing into cancer. If you notice changes in your skin, especially after a long-term habit of not wearing sunscreen, then it is imperative that you see a dermatologist about early treatment before it gets worse.
Wearing sunscreen should always be paired with other safe sun practices such as wearing a hat, covering as much skin with clothing as you comfortably can, and limiting unnecessary sun exposure. Sun bathing can have an especially significant negative impact on your health. Do not forget to drink plenty of fluids, and consider lip balms and sunglasses with UV protection as well to ensure the highest possible level of sun safety.