Sun damage explained




Did you know that unprotected exposure to the sun is the #1 cause of premature skin aging?

There are two main types of UV rays that cause sun damage: UVA and UVB.

UVA (longer-wave) rays activate skin in an unhealthy way to become tan, but they are not the rays responsible for sunburn. UVA rays go far deeper into skin and trigger skin-cancer and premature aging damage.

UVB (shorter-wave) rays are responsible for causing sunburn and also trigger premature aging damage. UVB is considered the common cause of most skin cancers.


A new study by Zachary W. Lipsky, a biomedical engineering PhD candidate at Binghamton University and overseen by Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Guy K. German found is that no UV range is more harmful than another -rather, the damage scales with the amount of UV energy that the skin absorbs. A more significant discovery, however, is the mechanism for how exactly UV damages skin. The study shows that UV weakens the bonds between cells in the stratum corneum -- the top layer of skin -- by affecting proteins in corneodesmosomes that help the cells to adhere together. That's why sunburn leads to skin peeling. It damages the skin's structural integrity.

"We're trying to push the message to use sunscreen not just for preventing skin cancer, but also to keep the integrity of your skin so you don't get infections or other problems," Lipsky said.

"The stratum corneum is the first barrier to the outside environment, so we need to protect it against all these different bacteria and nasty stuff that can get into our bodies."


Sun damage has short- and long-term consequences. The immediate visible results are sunburns. In its moderate form, it gives red skin and slight burns. In more serious cases, it is accompanied by blisters, nausea and dizziness.

The long-term consequence of unprotected exposure to the sun is a dull, uneven complexion and dry skin. The sun can dry out the skin and empty it of its essential fatty acids, leaving a dry feeling and appearance, and over time a wrinkled surface. Damage from the sun slows down cell renewal, causing an accumulation of dead cells. 

They can also cause persistent pigmentation and brown spots.

Damage from the sun can also destroy collagen and elastin. Collagen is a protein that maintains skin firmness and elastin a fiber support that gives the skin its elasticity. A breakdown of collagen and elastin in the dermis causes premature aging of the skin, a loss of elasticity and firmness resulting in wrinkles and fine lines.


Most of the effects of sun damage are cosmetic, but it can become a real problem for your health when it comes to skin cancers. Repeated sunburns and unprotected exposure can increase the risk of several forms of skin cancer. 

This is also why sun protection is so important.



Prevention is better than cure, so be sure to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun every day. It is never too early (or too late) to start using an SPF. More precisely, the older you get, the harder it is for your skin to repair the effects of sun damage, so it is better to start early. For a day with average sunshine, your morning SPF should suffice. But if you go out for a long time or if you sweat a lot, it will be necessary to reapply SPF regularly to ensure full protection. Also be aware that some medications can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Sun damage also affects the lips. Do not forget to protect them with a SPF 30 balm at least. Reapply regularly, as the actions of eating, drinking and talking quickly eliminate protection.


Even if the skin damage caused by sun is irreversible, there are products that can help reduce the appearance of these damages.

An AHA exfoliator: it exfoliates the surface of the skin, helping to blur pigmentation spots and reduce dryness. Your complexion will be more even and look healthier.

Retinol: stimulates the natural process of cell renewal, reduces wrinkles and depigmentation associated with the sun.

Vitamin C: it reduces brown spots, helps lighten and even out the complexion, protects against external aggressions.

Antioxidant serums: their powerful antioxidants protect against external aggressions and boost the effectiveness of your SPF protection against the sun.