As we know, the cumulative effects of sun exposure manifest in numerous types of symptoms and conditions and put us at a higher risk of cellular damage – early wrinkling, age spots, actinic keratoses, and skin cancer.

Tanned skin is to be revered as beautiful, but that golden color you see is the result of injury to the epidermis, the top layer of skin. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays accelerates the effects of aging and increases your risk for developing skin cancer.

Actinic cheilitis (related to actinic keratosis) is a precancerous condition that usually appears on the lower lips. Scaly patches or persistent dryness and cracking of the lips may be present. Less common symptoms include swelling of the lip, loss of sharp border between the lip and skin, and prominent lines around the lips. Actinic cheilitis may eventually evolve into invasive squamous cell carcinoma if not treated.

The sun’s rays make skin look old and wrinkled years before it should. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers breakdown, the skin begins to stretch, sag, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching.

Too much sun also causes irregular coloring or pigmentation of the skin. Additionally, the sun can cause a permanent stretching of small blood vessels, giving your skin a reddish appearance. It is often misdiagnosed as rosacea.

Age spots are the result of sun exposure.  This is why they tend to appear on areas that get a lot of sun, such as the face, hands, and chest. Bleaching creams, acid peels, and light-based treatments may lessen their appearance. Vitamin C and other antioxidants have also been known to help.

Not only does sun exposure affect our skin, it also plays an important role in our eyesight.  A cataract – a cloudy area in the lens of the eye that blocks the passage of light to the retina – can be caused by sun exposure. Cataracts are painless but may cause vision problems, including foggy vision, glare from light, and double vision in one eye. Prevent cataracts by wearing a hat and sunglasses when in the sun.

Always remember sun protection – all year long!