By Michael Klein
Doctors list three things that people need to do to make sunscreen an effective part of their sun protection routine – apply the lotion liberally, put it on early enough so that it has time to be absorbed before you go out, and use it every day.
Despite this, many of us find excuses to skip out on one or more of those things. We don’t want the lotion to be caked on, so we don’t use enough. There’s not enough time to put it on before going out, so we’ll just do it in the car. We even decide that it’s not necessary to use if we’re not going to be out that long.
Unfortunately, using sunscreen in this way makes it less effective and leaves us open to all of the potential damage that can come from the UVA and UVB rays of the sun. What does that mean?
Sunburns. We all know about sunburns. In fact, for many of us, that was probably the primary reason our parents used when teaching us that we had to wear sunscreen or sunblock before going to the neighborhood pool. Usually these aren’t serious or long-lasting, but they can be quite painful and embarrassing.
Wrinkles. When we say that the sun is tanning us, what it’s really doing is drying out our skin. Over time, this can lead to skin that makes you look much older with many more lines and wrinkles than for someone with healthy skin at your age. It also causes different kinds of wrinkles – both coarse and fine – which can make it seem like your skin has lines everywhere. The sun does this to us because too much exposure can destroy our collagen and elastic tissue – a process called elastosis.
Mottled pigmentation. What does mottled pigmentation mean? That exposure to the sun can actually cause specific areas of your skin to look lighter or darker than the rest, giving you a mottled or almost spotty look.
Yellowing. It’s not uncommon for very young babies to have a slight yellowing of their skin that’s called jaundice. It comes from not getting enough sunlight, which makes sense since you’re supposed to keep infants out of the sun as much as possible. Ironically, adults can have their skin become yellow – or sallow – by getting too much sun.
Freckles. Here’s one you probably weren’t expecting. One of the little-known effects of excessive sunlight is that your skin might actually develop freckles.
Benign tumors. You know that the UV rays of the sun can cause skin cancer, but did you know that they also play a role in creating benign tumors? Since they’re benign, obviously they’re harmless, but that doesn’t mean that they’re comfortable or aesthetically pleasing.
Skin lesions. That probably sounds bad enough, but it gets worse. These aren’t just any skin lesions, but cancerous and pre-cancerous lesions. If you start to see these, it’s because the immune functions in your skin have just stopped working. Not a good sign.
Skin cancer. The ultimate fear of too much exposure to UV radiation. You don’t need me to tell you that skin cancer can be deadly, but even at its best it’s a dangerous, debilitating, and expensive disease to deal with.
These are the kinds of things you have to look forward to if you decide that you don’t really need to use sunscreen or can pick and choose on a whim.
– Michael Klein has been writing articles about skin care for companies like Skinfo Skincare, and their Elta MD products, for more than a decade. When not writing, Michael loves spending time with his family or shopping around the wonderful City of Chicago.