Sun Damaged Skin – Age Spots and Discolorations
Basking in the warm glow of the sun’s rays provides many with comfort and relaxation. And bronzed and tan skin is often sought after as high commodities, and associated with youth and energy. But regardless of the immediate gratification we receive from soaking up those hot rays, prolonged exposure to the sun over the years actually can make our skin age more quickly. With accelerated sun damaged skin, comes age spots, discolorations, wrinkles and sometimes even skin cancer. The UV (ultra violet) rays of the sun damage the skin’s elastin, the fibres in the epidermis that keep our skin taut, tight and wrinkle free. Those same UV rays also disrupt the melanin, which produce the skin’s pigmentation in our skin, creating age spots or other forms of discoloration.
The impaired elastin in sun damaged skin causes the skin to sag and stretch. It also limits the skin’s natural ability to heal quickly. Although freckles occur due to a genetic pre-disposition, they are also aggravated and darkened by sun exposure. Both Melasma and lentigos are also caused by excessive and unprotected exposure to ultra violet rays. Melasma is a skin disorder that produces light brown spots on the chest, forehead, nose or cheeks. Lentigos are dark brown or black spots, otherwise known as age or liver spots, which appear on the back, shoulders and hands.
Other discolorations caused by sun damaged skin include mottled pigmentation, sallowness and telangiectasias. Mottled pigmentation is a genetic disorder caused by a gene mutation and aggravated by sun exposure. Symptoms include excessively fragile skin, skin blistering and discoloration of the skin. Sallowness is a yellow discoloration of the skin that can be caused by UV rays. Telangiectasias is a skin disorder that occurs when small blood vessels are dilated and are visible under the skin. These blood vessels can become evident anywhere on the body, but are primarily seen on the cheek, nose and chin.
Age spots specifically due to sun damaged skin are more prevalent in people with fair complexions, while other discolorations, such as Melasma, are found more in brown skinned individuals. Age spots can start as early as age 30 depending on the amount of sun exposure received. The discolorations are generally round and flat, and can be just a few centimetres to a few inches in diameter. They are generally harmless and benign with no required treatment needed unless a significant change in appearance occurs, but can produce a very unsightly appearance on the skin.