Ever noticed that some people don’t have any freckles? Freckles are the result of sun damage, and as we’re all born without them, those that are freckle-free have protected their skin from the sun. 

Understanding the basics about UV radiation and how the sun damages and ages your skin, is the first step in protecting yourself against premature ageing and reducing your chances of looking older, quicker.

What is UV Radiation?

UV radiation is the natural energy produced by the sun which is invisible to the eye but can burn your skin. UV radiation is made up of two types of radiation that can penetrate the skin and cause permanent damage, UVA and UVB. Ultraviolet A (UVA) has longer wavelengths and is associated with skin ageing. Ultraviolet B (UVB) has shorter wavelengths and is associated with skin burning. Every time your skin is burnt, you increase the signs of premature ageing in your skin and raise your risk of developing skin cancer.

Premature Ageing

The appearance and structure of your skin changes with age due to natural internal chronological ageing and external factors including sun exposure, pollution, and lifestyle. UV radiation is the primary external cause of premature skin ageing, the severity of damage is dependent on the amount of sun exposure and skin pigment.

If you have a lighter skin tone, skin ageing will occur at a younger age and in the form of skin wrinkling and sagging. Whereas Asian and darker skin tone’s primary indicator of premature ageing is hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.

Women Age Faster in Australia

Now that we know what causes premature ageing, is all sun damage equal? The answer is no, and this next paragraph should come with a warning for Australian women, as it may be alarming.

A recent study found that Australian women have more severe signs of aged skin than women in the UK, Canada, and USA. Though that was bad, Australian women will see the signs of skin ageing 20 years earlier than their overseas counterparts. With 80% of skin ageing caused by the sun, Australia being so close to the equator and a hole in the ozone above it, if you don’t protect your skin, you’re going to look older, faster.

What Sun Damaged Skin Looks Like

Sun damage is not just about sunburn, it’s about the long-term damage that’s done to the skin. The main signs of prematurely aged skin are:

Fine Lines & Wrinkles: Usually occurs around the forehead and around the eyes in the form of crow’s feet.

Sagging: UV exposure damages the skin’s elasticity tissues, and causes loose, sagging skin, typically in the cheek area and around the mouth.

Hyperpigmentation: Appearing as brown, black, red, or pink spots or small patches on your face. Hyperpigmentation is sometimes called age spots or sunspots.

Uneven Skin Tone: Redness and broken capillaries due to damaged collagen fibres. Blood vessels have reduced pressure and capillaries and spider veins are more likely to appear on the skin’s surface.

Rough, Dry Skin Texture: Scaly patches and crusty skin that’s thicker in density and raised from the surface.


How To Reverse the Signs of Sun Damage

Prevention is always better than a cure and consistent use of sunscreen every day is key. However, what if the damage has already been done? Sunscreen is going to help protect your skin from further damage, but you can also use your daily skincare routine to reduce and help reverse the signs of sun damage. There are certain ingredients that you should look for in skincare that are going to help repair sun damaged skin better than others.

Aloe Vera: This antioxidant rich plant soothes, moisturises dry skin, and helps even skin tone.

Antioxidants: Neutralises free radicals and helps with hyperpigmentation.

Vitamin A: Works by encouraging cell turnover and increasing collagen production and evens skin tone.

Niacinamide: Improves the skin’s barrier function, decreases hyperpigmentation, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles.

There are numerous cosmetic procedures that can help reduce and reverse the signs of sun damage but it’s best to start with your skincare, as you are already doing a skincare routine twice a day. You’ll be surprised by how much improvement you’ll see by using the correct ingredients daily and being conscious of your sun behaviour.

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