Overexposure to the sun's harmful rays may lead to sun damaged skin in some patients. There are several possible symptoms of sun damage spanning from cosmetic blemishes to more serious conditions like skin cancer. Treatment for sun damaged skin depends on which symptoms are present.

What Causes Sun Damage?

The sun is often to blame for cosmetic flaws such as wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots and skin discolorations. Exposure to UVA rays from the sun leads to damage to the skin, which often results in sunburn shortly after. Long term effects may not be realized for years, but those suntans and sunburns may have very negative consequences later in life.

Many incorrectly assume that tanning beds are safer than natural sun exposure. Some studies show, however, that UVA rays from tanning beds may be two to three times more powerful than UVA rays occurring naturally from the sun.

Symptoms of Sun Damaged Skin

Sun damage usually leads to either a sunburn or suntan a few hours after prolonged exposure. Sunburn is usually a first degree burn with damage to the epidermis, while second degree burns may affect deeper layers of skin and may lead to blistering.

The long term effects of sun damage may not be realized for many years, but too much sun exposure may speed up skin aging. Wrinkles, fine lines, age spots and other cosmetic blemishes may appear much earlier than they otherwise would.

Skin cancer is the most serious effect of sun damage. There are various types of skin cancer and treatment will depend on which type and stage of skin cancer is present.

Getting Treatment

Treatment for sun damaged skin will depend on which symptoms are present. Most patients are able to treat sunburn with over-the-counter products like aloe or creams. Second degree sunburns may require medical attention.

Cosmetic symptoms like fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, etc. may require laser resurfacing, intense pulsed light therapies, chemical peels and other cosmetic treatments. Skin cancer should be treated as soon as possible. Surgery is commonly used to treat skin cancer, while certain medications may be used as well. Later stages of skin cancer may require chemotherapy, radiation or other treatments.

A skincare professional is the best resource for further information. SkinCareGuide.com has several articles dedicated to helping patients understand sun damage and how to treat it.