When Does Sun Damage Start To Appear?

Who doesn’t know by now how damaging the sun’s UV rays are and that the best, most effective way to protect our skin from them is to wear sunscreen daily? Yet, many people start to wear sunscreen late in life, or skip it when the weather is gloomy and they stay indoors not knowing that UVA rays can penetrate through clouds and windows, or simply prefer to stick to cosmetics with SPF erroneously assuming they provide adequate protection on their own.

These bad habits can harm skin. However, that can be hard to realize because, unlike a sunburn, the other damaging effects of UV rays, such as wrinkles and sun spots, don’t show up straight away. Instead, sun damage accumulates overtime and starts to show up years later. When to be exact? According to Dr Schultz, “sun damage from unprotected sun exposure only takes one to two decades to show up, so beginning in anyone’s 20s and early 30s you can start to see the effects of unprotected sun exposure from childhood”!

We commonly think that wrinkles only begin to appear in our 30s and sun spots even later, but that’s not always true. I’ve started developing fine lines, especially around my eyes, in my mid-20s and I believe that was due to the fact that I never wore sunscreen as a child. Italian springs are very nice and warm, and in the summer the sun can hit pretty hard. I was always playing outside with my sister and my mum never thought of applying sunscreen on us. In the 80s sunscreen was believed (at least here) to be something to use before going to the beach only.

Of course if you live somewhere where the weather is often gloomy and the sun sets early, then the damage caused by the sun will be limited in comparison to someone who lives in a hot and sunny country or is an avid user of tanning beds (which should be avoided as they cause wrinkles and skin cancer too), but that’s not a good reason to skip the sunscreen. No matter where you live or how young you are, you should always wear sunscreen to prevent further damage. It’s the best thing you can do to help your skin stay younger for longer and age gracefully.

Have the effects of sun damage already started to show up on your skin? If so, when?

Source: Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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  1. Janessa says

    Oh gosh, I have sun damage for sure! I’m nearly 18 (early next year) and I have four tiny brown dots on the right side of my face, and one on my left temple and forehead, three on my neck and collarbone one behind my ears. I also have some really light freckles on my arms and random brown dots. I’m naturally very pale (my grandma is as pale as milk) and I only wore sunscreen (probably without reapplication) while swimming and going to the beach when I was a kid. I also have forehead damage because my skin there isn’t as firm and there’s two spots. Some of my sun spots have darkened and gotten bigger so that troubles me a bit. I live in Southern California so I know heat!
    I usually wear a baseball cap at school so I have some protection other than sunscreen. I freckle easily too.
    For me, sun damage began to appear (in the form of freckles) when I was 16 and they were very light and unnoticeable but some have darkened into dots. :\

    But now that I’ve found some gems like your blog and at least I know how to treat and prevent damage.

    I have a question: I still seem to get sunspots with my sunscreen, is it because of past sun damage or am I just prone to them? My face sunscreen has Titanium Dioxide 2.2%, and Zinc Oxide 16.3% and Octinoxate 7.4%. Thanks :].

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, I’m sorry you have brown spots already. Unfortunately unprotected sun exposure can cause quite a lot of damage at an early age too. But at least by using sunscreen daily you can now avoid damaging your skin further.

      That could be past damage that is now beginning to show up. Your sunscreen seems a pretty solid one, so I doubt that’s causing the problem, unless you’re not applying it liberally enough.

  2. says

    Good for you Janessa for wearing sunscreen so early in life! I can remember when I was in high school and college and would lay out with tin foil to get a darker tan! UGHHHHH! Now I can’t believe I did it, but back then we didn’t know as much as we do now. This is a fantastic site and she does an amazing job of bringing different things to your attention.
    Victoria´s last blog post ..Tackle Wrinkles with the dpl Nuve Beauty SystemMy Profile

    • Janessa says

      I tried to tan in the past, too. :\ I can’t believe I’m writing to an editor of another blog (you). 😀 How awesome. I’m going to check out your website.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Victoria, I think we all did that at some point. *sighs* Like you said, up until a few years ago, we didn’t know how damaging the sun rays could be. At least now we know better and we can avoid further damage from happening.

      And aww thank you! 😳

  3. says

    Thanks Janessa :)
    You know what’s really terrible? I grew up in Colorado where you can have a major snow storm one day and then a beautiful sunny day the next. We would set up chairs in the snow and lay out so that the sun would reflect off of the snow and we would get a dark tan in the middle of winter (don’t try it!) Yikes!
    Victoria´s last blog post ..Pumpkin Skin Care is a Perfect Fall TreatMy Profile

  4. says

    i never wore sunscreen till i was about 18, because my mom insisted that we don’t need it because the sun isn’t bad for us. And that time i lived in a really small town where we don’t have many choices for sunscreens and the ones my town had were all oily and thick!

    by the time when i was 18, freckles were already showing on my cheeks and it has been a constant battle of lightening them. i started using sunscreen whether i like it or not and slowly found sunscreens that work for me.

    and i am pretty lucky that i don’t see anymore new freckles popping up ever since then and they aren’t getting any darker! sunscreen is a must for everybody! even babies!
    plue´s last blog post ..Off To The Land of Smiles!My Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Plue, I agree. Sunscreen is a must for everyone. It can really avoid a lot of damage and I’m glad you’ve found one that works well for you.

  5. says

    great article!

    I used to play a lot out in the sun when I was a kid, too, and was always out swimming from 10 AM- 1:00 PM when the sun’s UV index is supposedly at its peak. I never applied sunscreen as a child and I got sunburnt a lot but never thought much of it.

    When I turned 20, I started to develop uneven skin tone. Looking back at my college photos, I realized I started to get fine lines on the corners of my eyes quite early, too! Now, I’m battling very deep pigmentations that don’t respond to topical treatments. They aren’t too obvious but upon closer inspection, one can see that I have maps all over my face, especially on my forehead and on my temples (it’s melasma). Yes, it’s part hormonal but it might never have happened if only I was diligent with my sunscreen or never sun-baked myself when I was much younger.
    Vivi´s last blog post ..Would you use an “Unlabeled” beauty product that performs miracles?My Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Vivi, I’m sorry to hear the sun has damaged your skin is so badly. It is really a pity that we weren’t told about how harmful it could be sooner. Sunbathing (and even sunburning) was normal back then and noone thought much of it. *sighs*

      Oh well, at least by using sunscreen now we can prevent more damage from happening and I hope that you find a treatment that works well for your melasma.

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