The skin can suffer greatly from over exposure to the sun. Getting a sunburn is of minimal concern when one considers the long lasting effects of getting too much sun. When the skin is exposed to excessive sun it can result in patches of skin which become discolored. A dermatologist would call these darkened patches solar lentigines, but they are commonly known as sun spots. Many times they are brown but in some skin types they appear more grayish in color. They may also be accompanied by other signs of damage caused by the sun’s harmful rays such as dry or thinning skin or wrinkles.
Sun spots can be various sizes, shapes and even colors. They are typically seen on the areas of skin which receive the most direct sunlight such as the face and hands. It is more likely that people who have fairer skin will get sun spots than those who have darker pigmented skin. Statistically, about 90 percent of people over 60 who are considered to be light skinned or fair skinned have some sun related sun spots. This does not mean that individuals who have darker skin are immune to scarring by the sun. Deeper skin tones display damage as gray spots or ashy areas on the skin. These unsightly spots are typically seen after years of overexposure to the harmful rays of the sun, but young people who do a lot of tanning even in tanning beds or booths can also have premature sun spots. There are some ways to prevent these sun spots from ever occurring in the first place.
Sun spots are a type of skin damage; but they also indicate that the body is trying to defend itself from damage caused by the sun’s rays. When the body is exposed to UV rays it makes melancytes in the outer skin layers. This causes the skin to produce more melanin, or pigment, than is usual. This is what gives the body its “tan” which is really protecting the deeper layers of the skin from receiving sun damage. When the body makes too much melanin it creates spots and speckles. The best way to avoid sun spots is to limit the skin’s exposure to the sun. Since sunlight is necessary to help the body make vitamin D and fight off depression, it is important to get some sun every day. To do this it is important to apply sunscreen before going outside. Make sure to keep the arms, hands and face covered with sunscreen in order to avoid discoloration.
Of course the New Jersey summers can be very hot at times and this makes people want to wear lighter clothes, and less of them. However, in order to protect the skin from developing sun spots it is important to cover the skin up. Wearing very light materials can help the body keep cool enough but also protect it from the damaging rays of the sun. Long pants and long sleeves can prevent the skin from becoming damaged. It is advisable to at least wear a hat during the hot days of the summer. A hat with a good sized brim can help shield the face and neck from the sun. This shade is a very good protection for the skin in these areas where sun spots commonly occur.
It may not sound very connected, but eating foods that are rich in antioxidants can help the body’s ability to defend itself against both sunburn and DNA damage. There have been several studies with results that indicated eating beta-carotene can help increase the body’s internal SPF substantially. Vitamin C and Vitamin E have also been proven to help build the body’s natural defenses to UV exposure.