What Sunlight Really Does to Your Skin

No matter how much we may want to avoid it, growing older is inevitable, and even though cosmetic plastic surgery and non-surgical facial rejuvenation procedures can do a great deal to alleviate many of the classic signs of facial aging, they cannot stop the process entirely.  This is one of the many reasons why I have always advocated taking a gradual approach to facial rejuvenation using subtle procedures that only target a patient’s specific areas of concern when and if it becomes necessary.  However, there is one anti-aging practice that I wholeheartedly endorse for all patients, regardless of where they are in the aging process: diligent skin care.  Unfortunately, taking care of the skin can be complicated, particularly since everyday environmental factors like ultraviolet light from the sun can seriously damage it.  Understanding exactly how sunlight affects your skin may help encourage you to take the steps necessary to keep it healthy and young looking.

What Sunlight Really Does to Your SkinYour skin is composed of three separate layers, with the largest layer, or dermis, sandwiched between the protective outer epidermis and the deep subcutaneous tissue.  Collagen and elastin in the dermis form an intricate network of flexible fibers that allows the skin to shift, stretch, and then “spring back” to its original position.  However, as we get older the production of collagen and elastin in the skin slows down and the skin gradually becomes less elastic, allowing lines and wrinkles to form.  Ultraviolet light can damage skin cells by destroying the elastin and collagen, effectively accelerating the skin aging process.  In an effort to protect the dermis, the cells of the epidermis produce a dark substance called melanin when they are exposed to ultraviolet light.  Although the dark pigments in melanin do absorb some of the ultraviolet radiation and keep it from passing through to the more delicate dermal layer, they can also cause freckles, age spots, and other forms of skin discoloration that make the skin appear old and uneven.  Finally, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun can even affect the DNA in skin cells directly, causing mutations that can eventually result in the growth of tumors and skin cancer.

Unfortunately, avoiding skin damage from the sun can be difficult, as ultraviolet radiation can penetrate cloud cover and even light fabrics.  Although the higher levels of melanin in darker skin do provide some additional protection, no one is immune and even those with very dark skin tones will suffer long term damage if they spend too much time in the sun without protection.  Patients who are suffering signs of premature aging from the sun can usually benefit from various skin resurfacing treatments, like chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing, which remove the damaged outer layers of skin and stimulate the body’s natural healing factors to create new healthy skin cells.  Facial volume that has been diminished by the loss of collagen and elastin can also be replenished through the use of fat transfer techniques or injectable facial fillers, like Juvéderm® or Restylane®.  Since every face ages differently, I will sit down with you during a facial aging consultation to determine the specific procedures that would be best for you.  Please contact me, Dr. Fernando Burstein so that we can schedule a full consultation and view simulated images of your potential results.  Don’t forget to connect with me, Dr. Fernando Burstein, on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for the latest facial plastic surgery news.