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How the Sun Affects Your Skin (and What You Can Do About It)

It’s All Fun in the Sun, Until…


… You spend a tad-bit too long on a comfy, Adirondack chair reading that historical fiction novel you desperately need to finish while sipping a refreshing beverage. You reached the tantalizing end of your novel, but you also gained a painfully irritating sunburn on your face, shoulders, and décolletage. 

Was the ending worth the burn?

It may be common knowledge that excessive sun exposure can cause skin cancer. In addition, we are all now absolutely willing to admit that spending a mere 5 minutes in a tanning bed can wreak absolute havoc on your skin. That being said, we often give little to no thought about how the sun causes damage to our skin, what damage the sun can cause aside from skin cancer, and how you can protect your skin from damaging rays. 

These factors are increasingly important to consider, especially as we battle the scorching rays that accompany a good ‘ol Texas summer. Think of this as your “trusty guide” to navigating the big, beautiful, blistering sun during the summer months and into early fall.  


Here Comes the Sun

The sun is the largest object in our solar system, 109.2x larger than the Earth, and sits a pretty 93 million miles away from human life. This hot ball of gas affects the Earth, and subsequently human beings, in many physical ways including: dictating the seasons, influencing the weather, setting ocean currents, establishing geographical climate, and much more. 

Without the energy emitted from the sun, the Earth would be unable to sustain human life. On a personal level, sunlight impacts our sleep patterns and drives biochemical reactions in the body including the production of serotonin and vitamin D. 

On the flipside, sunlight can cause damage to the epidermal (topmost) layer of the skin all the way down to the dermal (middle layer) and subcutaneous (deepest) layer of the skin. 


How Does the Sun Affect Your Skin?

While the sun is a big, beautiful star that provides comfort and warmth to anyone who seeks it, this bright star packs a mean punch. 

The sun releases energy in various forms: visible light (what you can see), infrared radiation (what you can feel), and UV light (what you can’t see). You may have heard of “UV light” from casually browsing online blogs or reading the copy on your bottle of sunscreen. 

UV light is further broken down into 3 categories: Ultraviolet A Rays (UVA), Ultraviolet B Rays (UVB), and Ultraviolet C Rays (UVC). UVA rays age the skin, harm the eyes, and reduce the body’s immune response. UVB rays can cause a myriad of skin problems including sunburn, accelerated aging, and skin cancer. The Earth’s atmosphere dissipates UVC rays before they reach the Earth’s surface, so we don’t worry too much about this type of UV light. 

As with the UVC rays, the Earth’s atmosphere protects our bodies from a good deal of UV light, but not all UV light. The UV light that penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere can cause mild to severe damage to the skin if not properly protected. 

The most common skin conditions associated with excess sun exposure are: sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer. 


Skin Conditions Caused by Excess Sun Exposure

While we are often in search of a full-body bronze in the summer months, a tan is actually the body’s defense mechanism to ward off the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays. 

Regardless of skin type, ethnicity, and genetic factors, excess exposure to UVA and UVB rays can cause harm to the skin including sunburns, photoaging, and skin cancer. 



A sunburn is, not shockingly, a burn resulting from exposure to UVA and UVB rays. This skin condition is often accompanied by redness, sensitivity to touch, skin that feels warm to the touch, and, in severe cases either blistering, vomiting, fever, nausea or fatigue.

You can acquire a sunburn on any part of your body that is exposed, unprotected or protected, to sunlight (this includes your ears, your scalp, your lips, and even your eyeballs!). A mild sunburn can heal on its own time, during which you may notice slight or significant skin shedding. 



We tend to have an adverse reaction to the word “aging,” and try our best to prevent our body from displaying the outward signs of passing years. Despite this strong aversion, most people are unaware of just how much UVA and UVB rays can accelerate the skin’s aging process. 

Photoaging, or damage caused to the skin by UV rays, is responsible for 90% of the changes to our skin. That means those extra minutes of tanning by the pool, the carefree shrug when you forget to apply sunscreen before the beach, and that week long trip to Mexico when you simply forgot to apply sunscreen at all, sure add up! 

Visible signs of photoaging include melasma, “sun” spots, freckles, fine lines, wrinkles, and general texture changes to the skin. 


Skin Cancer

Skin cancer, in general, is an abnormal growth of skin cells as a result of excess sun exposure.  

There are three primary forms of skin cancer including: basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are usually curable while melanoma can spread to various parts of the body and ultimately result in death if left unnoticed or untreated.

Skin cancer can develop in various parts of the body including areas not often exposed to sunlight. A common misconception is that skin cancer can only develop in fair skin individuals, which is not accurate. There is no particular skin type or skin tone that is immune to skin cancer. 


Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

The sun is certainly not your “enemy,” despite the mildly overwhelming side effects of excessive sun exposure. As we mentioned, sunlight is a necessary contributor to the development of Vitamin D, serotonin, and more in the body! 

Excessive exposure to UVA and UVB rays can cause damage, not any exposure to UVA and UVB rays. There are certain precautions you can take to ensure adequate protection from the harmful effects of the sun while still enjoying the many benefits it has to offer. 

  • Apply broad spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF (even on overcast days) 20 minutes before sun exposure. Re-apply your sunscreen every 2 hours or after exiting the water. 
  • Avoid sun exposure between the hours of 10am and 4pm, otherwise known as peak UVB hours. 
  • Opt for a shady spot whenever you can. Keep in mind that not all umbrellas, canopies, and coverings can shield you completely from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Shield skin with clothing when possible. A wide brimmed hat can protect the face, scalp, and eyes from sun damage while sunglasses with UV protection can shield the eyes from harmful rays.

Take Your Skincare Knowledge to the Next Level

Did this article pique your interest? Did you find yourself hungry for more information or eager to learn even more about the science of skin? Or, do you have a deep longing to learn cutting edge, advanced techniques that can treat photoaging?

Esthetics may be the perfect career path for you, friend. In under 6 months at the Avenue Five Institute you can gain the robust skills you need to become a licensed esthetician, changing the world one face at a time!

Our unique hybrid learning program offers students the flexibility of online learning paired with hands-on training that integrates seamlessly with your busy schedule. Over the course of 6 months you will learn all about: facial massage, facial treatments, skin analysis, extractions and exfoliation, general anatomy, physiology, histology, chemistry of the skin, and much more. In addition, you will learn advanced techniques (that can help to mitigate the effects of photoaging!) including: microdermabrasion, microcurrent, chemical peels, LED light therapy, and more. 

Now is the time. It is never too early to start living the life you have always wanted. Visit our esthetics program page now for more information including start dates and enrollment requirements and get the ball rolling towards your future.