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A Love-Hate Relationship: Skin vs. The Sun

The sun can damage skin if you're not careful.Summer has a way of bringing people together in the most literal way possible: by drawing us all outside. The first day of sunny weather looks like the beginning of every alien invasion movie, with everyone walking outside at once and staring up at the sky, wondering about the mysterious orb above them.

But let’s talk about that mysterious orb we call the sun. When it comes to your skin, the sun is surrounded by rumors.

Some people would tell you to smother yourself in sunscreen every time you walk past a window. Others say a little sun is essential for your body’s vitamin D levels.

Once and for all, which is it? Is the sun a hero or a villain?

The truth is that it’s a bit of both. The sun has both positive and negative effects on your skin, and you’re about to get a crash course in both.

The Good

If you’re like most of us, you’ve dealt with acne at some point in your life. You may even be wrapped up in a blemish battle right now. If so, we have good news: sunlight may be able to reduce your acne.

Some people with acne find that when they’re spending more time outdoors, their acne gets better. Truth be told, the exact way sunlight fights acne is unknown. Most commonly, dermatologists believe that the UV rays kill some of the bacteria that contribute to acne.

It’s a bit of a gamble, though, because it depends on what’s causing your acne. For those who primarily have bacteria-induced acne, it could be worth an afternoon by the pool.

If your acne is caused by dry skin that clogs your pores, on the other hand, too much sun exposure could do more harm than good. It can dry your skin even more, making the problem worse.

While it’s less common than acne, another condition may improve with UV light: psoriasis. Psoriasis causes your skin cells to multiply too quickly, creating rough, scaly patches of skin. Certain types of UV rays can slow that cell growth and cut down on your symptoms.

For both acne and psoriasis, though, there are safer ways to get treatment. In both cases, you should see a dermatologist to find out the underlying problems that are contributing to your condition. It’s possible that your dermatologist will recommend getting your glow on, but don’t purposely expose your skin to the sun without professional guidance.

Don’t forget that sunlight isn’t a magic bullet either. While psoriasis may warrant prescription medications, acne care starts with a great oil-free cleanser like the Biopelle Tensage Gel Cleanser.

The Bad

Before you set up camp on a lounge chair for the summer, you need to know about the downsides of sun exposure. When it comes to your appearance, it’s all about aging.

There are two ways excessive sun exposure makes you look older.

First, it depletes collagen. Collagen is a natural protein in your skin that makes the skin firm, thick, and youthful. As you get older, your body produces less collagen. That’s why skin develops wrinkles and starts to sag.

Sun exposure puts that collagen depletion into overdrive. That means getting wrinkles and sagging skin sooner, which probably isn’t on your list of New Year’s Resolutions.

The other way sunlight ages your skin deals with your coloration. You’ve heard of age spots or liver spots: small areas of darkened skin that we associate with aging. They’re most common on areas like the face and hands. Have you ever wondered why that is?

It’s because those areas get the most sun exposure. When your skin starts to recognize that it’s getting sun damage, it produces more pigment to reflect the light and protect itself. That’s why you get a tan after a day on the beach.

Over time, some of that extra pigment can build up, causing age spots.

The best solution is to reduce your sun exposure in the first place. If you grew up in the era of tanning beds and this advice is too little too late, hope isn’t lost.

When it comes to collagen, start using products that plump and firm your skin like DDF’s Advanced Firming Cream. To reduce age spots, the top ingredient to look for is vitamin C, which is a powerhouse for more even complexions. My personal favorite is the Citrix Vitamin C Brightening Serum.

Getting the Best Skin of Your Life

Thankfully, the medical community has done a great job of educating people about the risk of skin cancer that comes with too much sun exposure. Almost everyone today knows that too much time outside puts them at risk for skin cancer, but that’s far from the only way sunlight interacts with your skin.

At the end of the day, the moral of the story is this: protecting yourself from the sun can help you stay healthier and look younger, and you should only intentionally get sun exposure with a doctor’s recommendation.

In the meantime, add sunscreen to your daily routine. For those of us who like to sleep in until the last possible second before we’re late to work (*raising my hand in shame*), you can even use a tinted sunscreen instead of a primer or foundation. It won’t add any time to your routine and you can still enjoy the summer sun in all its glory.