What is the Sun Doing to Your Skin?

What-is-Sun-Doing-to-SkinHow is it possible that this beautiful sunshine can wreak such havoc?

But it does. The sun has an extraordinary impact on the skin and can cause many changes. "We have heard repeatedly about the increased risk of developing skin cancer,” said primary care physician Omer Ansari, M.D. with Westchester Medical Group. “But the sun can impact the skin in other ways, too.”

Irreversible Consequences

Although changes in skin may take years to develop, the damage is irreversible. The changing process is called photoaging. Normally the body produces enzymes that help repair sun-injured tissues and collagen. But large amounts of the enzyme, which occurs after overexposure to the sun, can actually break down collagen fibers. Most of these effects from sun exposure occur by age 20, while signs of the effects may not show up until 10 to 20 years later.

Fibers in the skin, called elastin, are damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet light, causing the skin to lose its elasticity. When broken down, the fibers lose the ability to snap back, meaning wrinkles will form and gravity takes over, causing skin to sag on the face, neck and upper arms.

Years of sun exposure also leads to age spots, which are flat, brown spots on the skin. The spots usually appear on the face, hands, arms, back and feet. Exposure to radiation from sunlight accounts for about 90 percent of the symptoms of premature aging.

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