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Symptoms of Sun Damaged Skin

Sun damaged skin can take several forms, but there are distinct symptoms that are unique to it.


Wrinkles are one of the most common symptoms of sun damage. Although wrinkles are caused by aging, wrinkles caused by sun damage have a characteristic appearance.

  • Coarse wrinkles are common in sun damaged skin
  • Roughness of the skin is common in sun damaged skin


Pigmentation or color is the body's way of protecting the skin and occur in response to sun exposure.

  • Lentigos, more commonly known as sun spots are small brown circles that begin to appear in a person's late twenties or early thirties in response to sun exposure
  • Melasma is a common condition among young women, and causes dark symmetrical patches to occur on the face. It is triggered by a combination of estrogen and sun exposure.
  • Although temporary and less dangerous, tans and freckles are also triggered by sun exposure, and will fade if the skin is not exposed to the sun for a period of time

Skin Texture:

Skin texture is also affected by long-term sun damage. Sun damage accumulates over time, and thus symptoms of sun damage are often seen on the elderly, particularly on those who work outdoors.

  • Solar elastosis is a common feature of chronic sun damage
  • Rubbery skin is the main feature of solar elastosis
  • The skin becomes rough and thickened

Blood Vessels:

Redness is a common feature in those with sun damage. The blood vessels can widen, causing the skin to become red. In some cases, it can be rosacea.

  • Redness is often a result of widening blood vessels close to the surface of the skin
  • Chronic sun exposure can widen or sometimes break blood vessels
  • Rosacea is a chronic condition that causes redness

Precancerous Tumours:

Actinic keratosis is another common skin condition that is often seen in the elderly who have accumulated sun damage.

  • Actinic keratosis is a rough patch on the skin
  • It can be felt easier than it is seen in its earlier stage
  • A white rough scale can develop as it advances
  • As actinic keratosis has a risk of developing into skin cancer they should be removed by a dermatologist

Skin Cancer:

Skin cancers are the most feared consequence of sun damage.

  • There are three common types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma
  • They all have distinct appearances, and vary in how dangerous they are
  • Look for distinct changes in color from surrounding skin, asymmetry, and size
  • Skin cancers will expand in size, and will appear odd-different from typical harmless skin growths like moles
  • If you suspect skin cancer, have it checked out by a dermatologist. It's better to be safe than sorry.

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