Sun exposure in moderation is beneficial to the health. It can stimulate the natural production of vitamin D in our bodies, which is needed for healthy bone growth. However, chronic and long-term sun exposure can damage the skin, causing a number of health concerns including photoaging (premature skin aging), and greatly increases your chances of developing skin cancer. A common form of sun damage is solar elastosis, in which collagen is destroyed and an abnormal accumulation of elastic tissue in the skin occurs. It commonly appears as thick, roughened skin and occurs on sun exposed areas such as the face and back of the neck. Over time the skin can become increasingly wrinkled and dry. People with fair skin, or who have had sun burns on a regular basis are more likely to develop this condition. In many cases, taking precautions such as using sunscreens that offer UVA and UVB protection, limiting sun exposure and wearing protective clothing can help prevent solar elastosis.
Common symptoms of solar elastosis include:
- Thickening of the skin
- Loss of firmness
Chronic and long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays is the primary cause of solar elastosis. Over time, skin damage from UV radiation can accumulate, greatly increasing your chances of developing skin cancer.
Proper and gentle skin care measures should be taken when caring for skin affected by solar elastosis. Use gentle cleansers that are fragrance and allergen free to avoid irritating damaged areas of the skin. Moisturizers are extremely helpful in in restoring and maintaining the skin’s natural moisture levels. Look for moisturizers that contain UV filters, which can offer additional safeguards against UV radiation. Make sure to apply these frequently and generously, to adequately hydrate and protect the skin.
Since solar elastosis is caused by exposure to UV rays, it’s important to take preventative measures when going outdoors.
Limit sun exposure: Reducing your time in the sun is perhaps the easiest way to avoid damage to your skin caused by UV rays. When outdoors, set a time limit and seek shade when necessary. Also keep in mind that UV radiation is the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Use Sunscreen: Sunscreens are an essential part of protection against the sun. Look for sunscreens that are labeled “Broad Spectrum”. They are often the most effective and offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure to apply generously and frequently.
Cover and protect: Wrap-around sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and clothing that covers your arms and legs, can offer extra protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Look for any changes in your skin: If any changes in existing moles, or new skin growths are noticed, consult with a dermatologist immediately to determine if the symptoms may be precancerous.
The daily use of a sunscreen can greatly reduce your chances of sun damage. Look for sunscreens that contain the following ingredients:
- Titanium Dioxide
- Zinc Oxide
These are all active ingredients that are helpful in preventing sun damage. Make sure your sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays. These will be simply labeled “broad spectrum”. Moisturizers are also very helpful for rehydrating skin that is dry.
A doctor may prescribe topical treatments, such as retinoids, which can smooth the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles caused by sun damage. Medications such as Taratozene are also helpful in reversing sun damage and photoaging.
Procedures such as chemical peels and microdermabrasion, are commonly used to restore the skin surface, by removing the upper part of the skin surface, which stimulates the growth of newer healthier skin.