Electromagnetic radiation (EM) from the Sun in the form of Ultraviolet (UV) light causes damage to the skin called photodamage. Photodamage is caused by frequent unprotected exposure to sunlight. This damage can be short term or in some cases last for years. Short term damage includes the usual sunburn and suntan as well as alterations in the skin's immune system. Long term damage includes pre-cancer and cancer, as well as unattractive skin changes because of photoaging. These skin changes make you look like you have "prematurely aged" skin, and usually take the form of wrinkles.
Some other changes that occur due to photoaging include:
Photoaging affects at least 35% of the American population alone and even more in other countries where the Sun is more intense. When talking about photoaging dermatologists class people in categories called: Skin Phototype I, II, III, IV, V, & VI according to their skin type. People with the highest amounts of photoaging include fair skinned individuals who always burn and rarely tan. These individuals have Skin Phototypes I or II. They usually have blonde or red hair, and white or light brown skin. However people with skin phototypes III and IV, and sometimes even skin types V and VI can get photoaging after prolonged exposure to the Sun.
How much photodamage a person gets depends on various factors including:
Photoaging is seen most frequently and severely on parts of the body that are constantly exposed to the Sun such as the: face, ears, sides of the neck, the backs of hands and forearms and occasionally a bald head. Photoaging is rarely seen in less exposed areas and when it is it is because a person has been out in the Sun way too long.
Prevention of photodamage is accomplished by avoiding both natural Sun light and artificial UV radiation whenever possible. Avoid being in the Sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. because during these hours the Sun is directly overhead and it's intensity is at it's highest. Also never use tanning booths or sunlamps.
Topical therapies are ointments and creams you can apply to your skin. These are sometimes effective in improving the appearance of photoaged skin but usually don't reverse the effects of mild to moderate photodamage. Makeup is also effective in covering the problem but not treating it.
There are several pharmaceuticals that can be applied to the skin to actually treat or cure photoaging by effecting the structure or function of the skin tissue. These include:
You could also go for surgical treatment but only very severely sun-damaged skin needs surgery. There are two traditional procedures for treating photodamaged skin: these are dermabrasion and chemical peels. Lately though laser resurfacing has become more popular than the other two treatments. These surgical treatments are designed to improve the appearance of photoaged skin by removing the top layers of the skin so that new healthy skin can replace it.
©Copyright 1998 Elizabeth
Beckett, Holly Bernitt, and Vishwa Chandra.