Over and over, beauty and health experts warn people to wear sunscreen to avoid sun damage. Yet still, people who love to tan, people who think that their skin is too dark to get burned and busy people simply forget and forgo the sunscreen. However, once you're aware of the consequences of too much exposure to the sun, you may be more apt to remember to apply sunscreen.
1. Premature, More Apparent Wrinkles
Because premature wrinkles do not immediately appear after sun damage, especially if you're still quite young, many people do not associate their sun exposure with premature wrinkles later in life. However, even one instance of too much sun exposure can thin the outer most layer of your skin and slow down the production of collagen in your skin, which will make your skin less elastic, firm and taut. Over time--but as early as your late 20s or early 30s--this damage will make your skin begin to wrinkle prematurely and the fine lines and deep creases will appear deeper and more apparent than they otherwise would during aging.
Along with premature, more apparent wrinkles, people who have spent too much time in the sun without protection become more apparent in their late 20s, early 30s and beyond, as their skin starts to take on an overly dry, lined and stiff appearance.
2. Sun Spots
Melanin is a natural substance in the skin that the body produces in the hope of protecting the skin cells from UV rays. It gives the skin a darker color and is responsible for the tanned look. However, in excess, the melanin can form into permanent "sun spots" on your face and body that don't fade even after the tan fades (and are still apparent even when you are tanned). Sun spots make your skin less even-toned, which makes you look older.
3. Skin Cancer
The most serious side effect of sun damage is skin cancer, which can occur even after exposure to artificial tanning beds. Skin cancer often occurs when your skin has been damaged at a cellular level. Your skin cannot produce enough melanin to protect itself; in fact, once your skin starts becoming darker and your melanin production has increased, your skin is already reacting to cellular damage. Sun can still damage your skin during cold winter months and even on cloudy days, so make sure you wear an SPF of 30 or more every day and reapply it during every hour of sun exposure.
Of course, fear of sun damage shouldn't stop you from all exposure to the sun, as Vitamin D is an essential vitamin best absorbed by sun exposure. However, limit your exposure to the sun without protection to ten to thirty minutes a day depending on your skin tone. (The darker your skin, the longer it will take you to absorb Vitamin D.) Remember, too, that sunscreen needs to absorb into your skin for twenty minutes before you're protected.