sun damage skin

Sun-Damaged Skin

Blog, Skin Treatments

Too much sun exposure can prematurely age your skin, leading to freckling, discolouration, dryness, and deep wrinkles. Up to 80% of the visible signs of aging are thought to be caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, and those exposed areas are also more susceptible to melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

But there is something that you can do about that damage and the marks it leaves. In the following guide, we’ll discuss treatments for freckles and sun damage, show you how to avoid skin pigmentation, and address topics such as:

  • How to repair sun-damaged skin.
  • The best sun-damaged skin treatments.
  • The signs of sun-damaged skin.
  • Natural ways to fix sun-damaged skin.

What causes skin damage?

Sun damage is known as photoaging and occurs when unprotected skin is exposed to sunlight. 

The skin changes naturally with age, but sunlight accelerates this process. It contains both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, and it’s the former that ages the skin.

UVA rays have a much longer wavelength than UVB rays, so they penetrate deep into the dermis. The skin produces an excessive amount of elastin in response and this leads to the production of metalloproteinases, a type of enzyme that breaks down collagen.

If the skin is exposed to UVA rays on a regular basis, this process will repeat, causing extensive damage.

One of the problems with skin damage is that it occurs in the deepest layers of skin, so the damage isn’t always visible straight away and may take years to appear.

UVB rays can also harm the skin, but this damage occurs on the outer layer (epidermis). UVB rays have more energy, so the damage is more direct, leading to sunburn and the formation of precancerous cells, known as actinic keratoses.

Signs of sun-damaged skin

If you spend a lot of time outdoors and rarely use sunscreen, there’s a good chance your skin is suffering from signs of sun damage. It happens gradually, so you may not notice it, but if you compare an area that gets a lot of sun (such as your face) to one that is rarely exposed, you’ll see the difference.

The signs of sun damage may start to appear in your late teens or early twenties and can get worse from there. These signs include:


It’s a misconception that prolonged sun damage only occurs after multiple incidences of sunburn. As noted above, the primary cause of sunburn is UVB rays while UVA rays are responsible for photoaging.

Contrary to what the name might suggest, sunburn is not an actual burn. It’s not the same as when you burn your skin from fire or scolding water. It’s a reaction triggered by cellular damage.

When your skin cells are overexposed to UV radiation, they begin to die off. In response, your blood vessels dilate to increase blood flow and an immune response is triggered. This causes your skin to appear red and swollen. It will also be sensitive to the touch.

There is no easy way to fix sunburn, but there are creams and lotions (including aloe vera) that can make it more bearable and keep the area hydrated. 

Prevention is the best cure, so stay out of direct sunlight, use sunscreen, and cover exposed areas such as your face and neck.

Your skin needs extra attention during the summer months, so think more about future damage and less about your summer tan. And don’t worry—you can still get some cosmetic treatments at times when your skin is most exposed. Check out our guide to sun-safe aesthetic treatments for a list of recommended summer treatments.

Age spots

The term “age spots” is a bit of a misnomer, as these brown spots are caused by sun exposure and not age.

UV radiation accelerates melanin production and causes it to clump together, creating a high concentration that presents as a brown mark, not unlike a birthmark.

Wrinkles or solar elastosis

Solar elastosis is a condition characterised by thick and yellowed skin that may appear creased or furrowed. It is caused by long-term and excessive sun exposure as the UV rays break down the skin’s collagen and ruin its elasticity.

Wrinkles also occur as a result of collagen breakdown. It’s often assumed that wrinkles are just a natural product of aging, but the majority are caused by sun exposure. 

Thread veins

Also known as spider veins or telangiectasia, thread veins are small but prominent veins that appear just below the surface of the skin and have a branch-like pattern. They are very common around the nose and cheeks and sun exposure is a known cause.


If your skin is inflamed, it can become hyperpigmented, which means it may appear blotchy or mottled. This is one of the main catalysts that drives people to seek treatment, but what many don’t realise is that hyperpigmentation is directly related to sun damage. 

Before you buy skin-lightening creams and other home remedies, book an appointment with a specialist such as the experts here at Pulse Light Clinic. We specialise in skin pigmentation treatments and offer a range of different options.

Skin cancers

Skin cancers are obviously the main concern related to chronic sun damage. The vast majority of these cancers are caused by excessive exposure to UV radiation, whether through natural sunlight or artificial sunlamps and tanning beds. If you have fair skin, you are more susceptible to skin cancer, but it can appear in all skin types.

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma: The most common type. Often appears as a flesh-coloured bump on the neck, head, or arms, but can appear anywhere on the body. 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: More common in people with light skin. Seen in areas that get a lot of direct exposure to the sun and may appear as a firm red bump or scaly patch.
  • Melanoma: The most serious type of cancer. Typically develops within a mole or appears as a new dark spot. Can spread quickly if not found and treated early.

Actinic keratoses

Actinic keratoses are precancerous growths that can develop into squamous cell carcinoma (see above). The presence of an actinic keratosis doesn’t mean you have cancer, but rather that you are more susceptible to it and should seek medical advice.

Sun-damaged skin treatments

There are a number of different treatments available for sun-damaged skin. These include treatments designed to lighten discoloured areas, promote collagen growth, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and protect the skin.

For more information, check out our guides to Picosure laser skin rejuvenation and LaseMD. Contact us today to book a free consultation and experience the benefits of these advanced treatments for yourself.


Can you repair sun-damaged skin?

You can’t reverse all of the damage, but you can undo some of it and reduce the visible effects.

What does sun damage look like on the skin?

Sun damage can appear as age spots, rough skin, changes in skin tone, reduced elasticity, and thread veins.

What is the best way to get rid of sun-damaged skin?

It depends on the individual. This is something that a practitioner will discuss with you following an examination. Some of the best treatment options include chemical peels and laser skin rejuvenation.

How can I fix my sun-damaged skin naturally?

Preventing further damage is the first thing you should focus on, so adequate sun protection is important. Other than that, stay hydrated, moisturise, exfoliate regularly, and look into products like retinol, which is derived from vitamin A and may help with blemishes.