The warm rays of the sun sometimes feel so good on your skin that it’s hard to turn away. You may think you’re getting plenty of important D vitamins from solar exposure. Plus, what looks better any time of year than the rosy glow from being outdoors? Unless you want to look like a hard-core sailor or add years to your face, you should reconsider the benefits you think you’re getting from ultraviolet exposure.
And unless you don’t care that skin cancer is a complicated disease to conquer, you may want to reconsider your love affair with a tan and listen to the warnings of your New York dermatologist to stay out of the sun.
In fact, ultraviolet sunrays do considerable damage to your skin. Unprotected skin dries out under the harsh light and leads to a host of undesirable conditions that include:
- Depleting your skin’s natural oils
- Causing long-term changes in your skin
- Drying your skin out leads to flakiness and premature wrinkles
- Burning that causes blisters and bumps filled with fluid
- Bruising easily even from minor trauma
- Developing moles that can turn into skin cancer
- Leaving pigment changes, such as white spots on your arms and legs
- Creating age spots before their normal time
The most common result of overexposure to the sun is premature aging, no matter how old you are. Other cosmetic reactions to UV rays include:
- Crow’s feet
- Frown lines
- Broken and thinning hair
- Accelerated nail growth can lead to increased fungal infections
The type of skin you have plays a big role in how much at risk you are of developing serious sun damage problems, such as cancer. The lighter your skin type, the greater your risk; the heavier the pigmentation in your skin, the more UV protection you have naturally. At the same time, anyone can and will develop side effects from being out in the sun too much.
People who tan easily have increased melanin from the sun, which slightly reduces the risk of sun damage, and those who get sunburned increase their risks substantially. Other factors that increase your risk of developing serious sun damage consequences include:
- A family history of skin cancer
- Having numerous large moles
- Skin that’s covered with freckles even before going out in the sun
- Working outdoors
- Living at high elevations where the sun’s rays are stronger
- Having a suppressed immune system
- Being an organ recipient
- Have blue or green eyes, or red or blond hair
- Living or vacationing in subtropical locations
You know when you get sunburned because your skin becomes red and sensitive to the touch. Sunburns aren’t always apparent while they’re happening, but later in the day, you notice the burn. Peeling often follows sunburns because your skin has been so dried out and damaged. Other symptoms of sun damage are subtler, which is why you must maintain a regular schedule of check-ups with your Manhattan dermatologist if you are in any of the above risk categories.
When you feel unusual bumps or when parts of your skin that have been exposed to the sun are itchier and drier than normal, you may be in the early stages of serious sun damage. You may also experience tougher skin, deeper lines, and easier bruising on those areas that get the most sun.
Available Treatments for Sun Damaged Skin
Several home remedies are available to help you with mild sunburn and negligible sun damage. They include:
- Using unscented soap with a high-fat content
- Trying moisturizers that contain lactic acid, urea, alpha-hydroxy acids, or glycerin.
- Washing with cool or warm water instead of hot water
- Applying cool compresses to burned skin
- Taking over-the-counter pain relievers for the discomfort
It isn’t entirely possible to reverse all the damage imposed on your skin by the sun, but your NYC dermatologist may be able to help. A prescription cream that contains a Vitamin A derivative called tretinoin or a stronger, prescription-strength lotion with alpha-hydroxy acids may delay or reverse some signs of sun damage. Other options to improve the appearance of your skin can include:
- Chemical peels
- Laser resurfacing
Actinic Keratosis Treatment
Lesions called actinic keratosis can develop over time after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or even from tanning booths. The small, scaly bumps are almost always pre-cancerous. Nearly 15 percent of all actinic keratosis bumps actually turn into squamous cell cancers. A similar condition called actinic cheilitis occurs in the form of lesions on your lips.
Both actinic conditions don’t go away by themselves but must be removed by your NYC dermatologist before they turn into malignant melanoma. It would help if you were treated as soon as possible when your dermatologist diagnosed you with actinic keratosis bumps. Depending on their location, size, and number, your options for treatment may include:
- Photodynamic treatment: This procedure requires applying a sensitive solution so that when light hits it, the bumps are destroyed.
- Cryotherapy: Usually, this treatment is done in your New York dermatologist’s office. It’s a safe, painless procedure that requires a small numbing solution before the bumps are frozen off with liquid nitrogen.
- 5-fluorouracil: Also called 5-FU, this topical cream is an anti-cancer treatment that eliminates actinic keratosis. You apply a small amount every night for about two weeks. There is no discomfort or side effects.
- Topical imiquimod: This is another topical treatment that works by regulating your body’s immune system to react to and eliminate the pre-cancerous bumps.
- Shaving: Your dermatologist may actually be able to shave off the bump completely in the office. The tissue is then sent to a lab to perform a biopsy.
Prevention the Best Cure
Skin damage is a serious condition that’s preventable if you take the prescribed precautions. Always wear sunscreen that is water-resistant with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Apply sunscreen every time of the year, whether it’s sunny or overcast. Wear protective clothing and hats to keep the damaging rays off your skin. Coat your lips with protective lip balm. Wear sunglasses that have built-in UV ray protection. And limit the amount of time you spend in the sun whenever you can.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult dermatologist NYC about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board-certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
(212) 427-8750 Manhattan Dermatology (Midtown) 56 W 45th St, Ste 819, NY 10036
(212) 889-2402 Manhattan Dermatology (Union Square) 55 W 17th St, Ste 103, NY 10011