Of all the factors which can make your skin age prematurely, exposure to the sun is one of the most serious. The resulting wrinkles, discolouration, and textural changes can be reversed by cosmetic procedures, but avoiding the damage to begin with is far more sensible.
Unfortunately, sun damage is cumulative – even patients in their early twenties can show the effects if they've spent lots of time outside soaking up the rays. This is particularly common in Australia, where scorching summers are common, and – in many areas – even the winter brings plenty of sunshine. Here are the main ways in which your skin can be prematurely aged by extended exposure to the sun.
The more sun exposure you have when you're young, the earlier your wrinkles will develop. Though a sun-kissed complexion is commonly sought in order to appear attractive, the truth is that time spent working on a tan causes the inner layers of your skin to thicken.
This means that the skin's ability to store moisture is drastically reduced, leading to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This becomes particularly noticeable around the eyes and mouth, and quickly causes even younger people to display prematurely aged skin.
If you've spent plenty of time in the sun, you might have noticed uneven pigmentation. This is caused by the over activity of melanocytes (tanning cells). The earliest and most common result is the appearance of brown freckles, which are caused by the production of the dark brown pigment melanin.
Melanin makes your body appear more tanned, and freckles aren't often things which people worry about. However, blotching can soon occur, as can age spots (commonly referred to as liver spots). Additionally, the permanent stretching of small blood vessels often caused by prolonged exposure to the sun can eventually give the skin a mottled and reddish appearance.
Sun damage doesn't just cause changes to the way your skin looks, it also makes it feel older and coarser to the touch. Over time, prolonged exposure to the sun can make the outer layer of your skin thinner, so it will easily blister, tear, or graze.
It can also lead to thick, yellowy bumps on the parts of your skin which have been most exposed – commonly the neck, face, and hands - and dry out all areas to leave them feeling rough and aged.
If you're skin has been damaged by long-term exposure to the sun, you can easily take advantage of cosmetic anti-ageing treatments, but should certainly be more careful in the future.