It starts with sunburn, but it can turn into a host of other issues. If you’re showing sun damaged skin, you might be wondering what’s normal and what’s not -- especially if you’re on the younger side. We’ll fill you in on what to look for, when to be concerned, and how to treat sun damage.
The truth is that sun damaged skin can really start showing up at any age. In fact, the bronzing effect that happens when skin is exposed to the sun’s rays -- which we commonly call a tan -- is technically considered damage to the skin cells. And most people know that even babies and kids can get blistering sunburns, which could potentially develop into skin cancer later on in life.
When it comes to signs of sun damaged skin, like wrinkles or dark and pigmented spots, most people start noticing these issues as early as their mid-twenties to early thirties. While wrinkles aren’t harmful, they can cause some to feel self conscious. Dark or pigmented spots aren’t necessarily an indicator of a more serious issue, but they can be, so it’s a good idea to get a skin cancer screening if you notice anything suspicious-looking.
Skin cancer is typically caused by excess exposure to sunlight -- specifically, to the UV rays emitted from the sun. UVA rays cause signs of aging, UVB rays cause burning, and both types of rays can cause certain types of skin cancer to develop.
When performing a self skin check -- which you should do regularly, especially if you’re at a high risk of developing skin cancer -- keep an eye on your freckles and moles specifically. Look for new or changing spots, growths, or lesions. If you notice anything you haven’t seen before, make an appointment to see a dermatologist right away. Be sure to receive an annual skin cancer screening at a dermatology office as well. If you have fair skin, light blonde or red hair, and blue or green eyes, you’re at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. You’re also at a higher risk if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer.
There are plenty of treatment options for those cosmetic concerns like wrinkles or skin discoloration from sun exposure. Laser treatments can reduce dark spots and resurface skin for a smoother skin tone. By targeting melanin pigmented areas that then absorb the light beam’s energy, laser therapy vaporizes unwanted melanin and lightens the pigment of the skin.
Another option that doesn’t require a laser beam is a chemical peel. This is sometimes an add-on service as part of a traditional facial treatment, or it can be received as its own treatment. Chemical peels are quick and simple, lasting only around 30 minutes. The aim is to use a chemical solution to safely exfoliate the skin. This instantly brightens the skin. Then, over time and with repetition, chemical peels also help reduce dark spots and even minimize fine lines and wrinkles by repeatedly removing the top layer of dead skin cells. The popular cosmetic treatment can even diminish acne scars!
If you’re in the Bellevue, Washington area and need a skin cancer screening or want to treat existing sun damaged skin, contact North Pacific Dermatology today for an appointment.