Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/20/2021
The sun’s energy lands on the earth in visible light rays that we see, and in infrared rays and in ultraviolet (UV) rays that we don’t.
These UV rays can be broken down into three categories: UVA, UVB and UVC rays, which vary based on length.
UVA and UVB are the only rays that can reach our skin, and UVB can lead to much deeper sun-damaged skin (and thus, a larger skin cancer risk) than UVA.
Melanin in our skin normally combats limited UV ray exposure. But when sun-damaged skin is burned, the melanin can’t fight it all and the skin burns as a reaction to an injury caused by the sun.
Each time we go outside — or even experience exposure to rays through car and home windows — if our skin isn’t covered by clothing or sunscreen, it receives a little (or a lot) of UV damage.
Over time, sun-damaged skin builds on sun-damaged skin to the point that age spots, blotchiness, wrinkles and other signs of photoaging damage become apparent.
Excessive sun exposure can lead to a variety of signs and symptoms, including:
Rougher skin texture
“Sun spots,” or pigmentation changes like age spots or freckles
How to Prevent Sun-Damaged Skin
Since most sun-damaged skin is irreversible, the best defense is a good offense.
Translation: avoid tanning beds, seek out shade when possible, apply waterproof sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher at least every two hours when outdoors and wear clothes with UPF sun protection when you plan to spend an extended amount of time al fresco if possible.
“Apply sunscreen” sounds like straightforward advice, but it’s actually difficult to do it correctly. To use sunscreen safely:
Ensure the sunscreen you buy and apply is broad-spectrum, which means that it filters UVA and UVB rays. Here’s a thorough list of scientist-approved, eco-friendly brands.
Cover all areas of skin that might potentially be exposed, including your nose, back of neck and ear lobes.
Apply it 30 minutes before you plan to head outdoors.
Each time you apply and reapply, use enough to fill about a standard-size shot glass to coat unprotected skin from head to toe.
Know the difference between SPFs. Those with higher numbers offer slightly more protection than lower; for example, SPF 15 wards off 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent.
How to Repair Sun-Damaged Skin
Once sun-damaged skin reaches this point, the damage is done. But that doesn’t mean sun-damaged skin treatments don’t exist.
(This does mean that frequent and thorough self skin checks are a must, as are yearly skin exams by your healthcare provider. These are vital for possible skin cancer detection.)
You can potentially remove sun spots and plump up wrinkles through products and procedures like injectable fillers, lasers, chemical peels, microdermabrasion or ultrasound.
Those treatment options for how to get rid of sunspots on face can be quite invasive or expensive, however, so many dermatologists recommend at-home options like exfoliation, prescription retinoids, night wrinkle creams and other serums as a first course of action.
From removing skin spots to smoothing out wrinkles, dermatologist-formulated hims Anti-Aging Cream is an excellent multi-pronged plan of attack — and it starts at $10 per month.
Apply this along with SPF every day and your 10-years-from-now skin will be singing your praises.
When it comes to skin and sun-damage, you really need to be careful — once it’s there (and trust us when we say it’ll happen), it doesn’t go away.
Luckily, preventing sun damage is pretty straightforward with a little care and tact.
Things like consistently using broad-spectrum sunscreen, wearing direct clothing and keeping your skin healthy and clean.
Good skincare practices make all the difference.
Insider tips, early access and more.