All about Sun Damage related Aging & What you can do


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Does the sun really damage your skin and accelerate aging? If yes how and how much. We ask Dr.Harshna Bijlani, Medical Head of The Ageless Clinic all about Sun Damage and what you can do to reverse it. 


1.    What is sun damage? How does it happen?
Sun damage is the damage caused to your skin due to direct and indirect exposure to the sun. Direct exposure is when you’re outdoors or out in the sun, indirect exposure is when the sun is penetrating through the windows or you’re in a semi-sheltered area. We may think that we’re protected from the sun when we’re in a car, inside the house, at work and so on. However, that’s not the case, even indirect exposure to UVA UVB rays that penetrate through large glass windows can cause sun damage.

2.    What does it look like? Are there different ways in which different people show signs of sun damage?
Direct or indirect exposure of the skin to the sun can damage your skin in multiple ways. We know the most prominent damage which is sun burns, but a number of skin concerns can be attributed to sun exposure. UVA UVB rays can cause to the skin in the form of pigmentation, tanning, freckles, sun spots, dehydrated skin and even cause photoageing – which is damage to your collagen which can further cause fine lines and wrinkles. 


3.    How does it affect the collagen and result in problems such as wrinkles and thinning skin?
Aging takes place in two ways – one is the intrinsic ageing process (from within) of the body, marked by gradual loss of collagen, thinner, less supple skin, etc., caused by genetics, lifestyle, age, diet and so on. The second is extrinsic aging which is accelerated due to sun exposure and generally marked by thicker leather like skin, pigmentation, fine lines and so on. 


4.    Should one be worried about every freckle that pops up? 
A lot of individuals, especially with lighter skin are genetically predisposed to freckles, that’s nothing to worry about. Sun exposure tends to make freckles darker or increase them in number, if you’re predisposed to freckles make sure you have adequate sun protection and cover up as much as you can in the sun. Freckles are normally 1mm-2 mm in size and tan, slightly reddish. While the appearance of freckles are not a cause of concern, make sure you observe any changes in the size and colour and if you notice any dramatic changes, get it checked by your skin doctor. 


5.    Can sun damage be reversed?
Sun damage can be reversed but it also depends on the extent of sun damage your skin has been subjected to. Superficial sun damage is easier to treat, however deeper sun damage may be harder to treat, especially in older individuals. Long-term sun damage would definitely affect your skin health and quality, making it harder to reverse. Protective and controlled sun exposure, a high intake of anti-oxidants and a good skincare routine and treatment plan can help partially reverse the signs of sun damage.


6.    What are the effective treatments that can help do so and how do they work on sun damage?
Some of the treatments that can help reverse the sun damage are peels, anti-oxidant infusing facials, vitamin booster IV drips, pigmentation lasers like PicoSure, resurfacing lasers like CO2 or glass laser and various collagen boosting treatments like radio frequency, ultrasound and so on to help boost the production of collagen. You can even look for collagen moisturisers and consider fillers and BOTOX that in combination with lasers can help give you a younger appearance. 


7.    Does retinol work? But it's also photoreactive, so how should it be used right?
Retinol is derivative of vitamin A, not to be confused with Isotretinoin. Retinol comes in various strengths ranging from 0.5% to 2% and works very well for anti-ageing and acne. While it gives some great results for acne and anti-ageing it also makes your skin highly photo-sensitive so you need to be careful while using retinol. Do not use retinol during the day and if you’re going on any beach vacation or visiting a tropical place with high and continuous sun exposure, maybe avoid using your retinol products for a couple of days while on the trip. If you’re someone who’s job or daily commute subjects you to high sun exposure, make sure you cover up and use proper sunscreen. 


8.    How can you prevent sun damage in the first place? What are the different ways?
The only way to prevent sun damage is to properly protect your skin from sun exposure and have as limited sun exposure as possible. The number 1 rule to prevent sun damage is covering up - make sure you wear full clothing to prevent direct skin exposure, wear a light full sleeved top if possible, wear sunglasses and a hat if you can or carry a parasol/umbrella to protect yourself from the sun rays. Make sure you wear a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or more, with a PA rating of 4 pluses, touch up every 2-3hours and make sure it suits your skin type


9.    Does a good diet help in reduces sun damage? Do antioxidant-rich food items help with the skin in this case?
Anti-oxidants protect the skin by reducing and counteracting free radical production. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to our cells in the form of oxidative stress. Anti-oxidant foods definitely help in reducing the sun damage and reducing oxidative stress which in turn help fight against ageing and pigmentation. Eating antioxidant rich fruits with a high water content will also help keep your skin and body hydrated. Try and add tomatoes, broccoli, barley, berries, melons, etc. to your daily diet and keep hydrating yourself.