While sun exposure has certain benefits there are some downsides to being exposed to it for a prolonged period, sunlight is composed of a spectrum of rays, and about ten per cent of that is ultraviolet radiation.

Photoaging is sometimes called photodamage. It is a condition where the skin exhibits some adverse changes and undesirable side effects due to overexposure to Ultraviolet radiation. Read on to learn about photo-ageing and how to treat and prevent it. 

What is Photoaging?

Photoaging is an adverse ageing effect and skin damage caused when the skin, unprotected by sunscreen, is exposed to ultraviolet radiations from the sun. This exposure sets off genetic changes in the DNA on a cellular level. Photodamage from UV rays is elicited in the deepest layers of the skin, known as the dermis. As a result, it could take years before the damage becomes apparent. 

Photoaging is the cumulated result of years of unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays throughout one’s life. You’ll find that a lot of younger people equipped with this knowledge start taking the use of sunscreens more seriously from their early days. In contrast, some older individuals wish they’d utilized the knowledge sooner. 

What causes photoaging?

What causes photoaging?

A commonly asked question is how does photoaging occur? Long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation causes some physical changes, potentially coupled with an altered DNA on a cellular level. These changes, referred to as sun damage or photoaging, include premature ageing and possibly skin cancer. That said, there are three primary types of ultraviolet light based on wavelength. Ultraviolet A, B and C. 

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) light

This form of UV rays causes damage to all layers of the skin. The ray is absorbed into the dermal layer, so the effect spans from the topmost superficial layer, the epidermis, to the dermis. Since the impact spreads across these layers, the collagen and elastin protein fibres are also affected. Apart from these proteins, some blood vessels and capillaries are left in a weakened state. 

Collagen provides strength and rigidity, while elastin offers flexibility and stretchiness to the skin. Blood vessels and capillaries ensure proper blood and oxygen supply to the skin cells. When these components are affected, the overall integrity of the skin reduces. Resultantly UVA light hastens the ageing process of the skin. 

  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) light

UVB light irradiates the outer layer of the skin and more potently damages the DNA than the UVA in the epidermis. This radiation  is capable of causing sunburns and the formation of precancerous cells (actinic keratoses) 

  • Ultraviolet (UVC) light 

Fortunately, this UV light type is absorbed by the ozone layer and atmosphere and isn’t much of a health risk.

On a cloudy day, more than eighty per cent of UV radiation still penetrates well enough to make it to the earth’s surface. On that note, UVA and UVB lights aren’t potent on days with only clear skies or summer heat. 

How the sun damages the epidermis and dermis, causing photoaging 

How the sun damages the epidermis and dermis, causing photoaging 

The Epidermis 

The primary constituents of the epidermis include melanocytes and keratinocytes. Melanocytes house melanin, which is responsible for skin colour pigmentation. On the other hand, the keratinocytes restore the epidermal barrier through migration, proliferation and differentiation. These cells bear most of the damage from unprotected sun exposure. 

Melanocytes increase in size and become more branched to distribute melanin evenly across most skin parts. Overexposure causes some parts of the epidermis to thicken while others thin out. As a result, there is a noticeable irregularity with skin pigmentation. As years of sun exposure accumulate, some spots begin to develop, which may, later on, develop into forms of cancer. 

The dermis

The dermis contains collagen and elastin, which aid skin tensile strength and elasticity. As an individual ages, the amount and quality of these proteins and their functions drop. With overexposure to sunlight, elastin production increases, but the protein is of poor quality. 

As a result, the relationship between collagen and elastin is compromised, and the skin is left with lesser integrity. In the case of skin damage on the face, you’ll notice wrinkles, brown spots and fine lines on the photoaging face of individuals with light complexions. In coloured individuals, you’ll see irregular skin pigmentation predominantly.

How do you treat photoaging?

Out of many questions asked concerning photoaging, a prominent one is “how do you treat photoaging?” Photoaging can’t be removed entirely. However, there are some photoaging treatment methods to help minimize the effects. Some of these include;

  • Lasers treatment 

It is a treatment regimen that utilizes laser energy to minimize the appearance of brown spots and fine lines. This method rejuvenates the skin and improves the appearance of enlarged pores, texture, and overall. Some other laser treatments, like the pulsed dye laser, can remove broken blood vessels and clear out redness from sun overexposure. Laser treatments will also leave your skin healthier by treating precancerous cells.

  • Chemical peels

Chemical peels such as trichloroacetic or glycolic acid can be applied to the skin. It removes spots and precancerous cells while improving the texture and tone of photoaging skin.

  • Photodynamic therapy

Photodynamic therapy also helps get healthier skin by removing precancerous cells acquired from overexposure. The treatment involves applying a topical medication and then using a red or blue fluorescent light to activate it, thereby destroying precancerous cells. 

  • Topical medications

Topical medications have long been used for numerous skin-related issues. Some medications, such as topical retinoids, can be prescribed to even out irregularities in the skin tone. Topical retinoids can also address other photoaging signs like rough skin and fine lines. 

  • Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy requires using a cooling agent such as liquid nitrogen to freeze off non-cancerous age spots or precancerous cells. A few days after the treatment, the brown spots will shed off. Precancerous cells have parts of them that might, later on, become cancer cells. Because dermatologists have no idea which parts are safe or unsafe, the predominant advice is to treat the lesions. 

Preventive measures for photoaging 

  • Apply and reapply SPF 30 or 50 photoaging sunscreen daily
Apply spf to avoid photoaging

One of the greatest and simplest ways to safeguard the health and beauty of your skin at any age is to wear sunscreen. Regularly use photoaging sunscreen to avoid skin cancer, early ageing and sunburn.

Sunscreen can protect you against UVB and UVA rays and promote anti-ageing benefits. Applying sunscreen shouldn’t be limited to sunny days or only when you are outdoors. 

The reason is the blue light emitted by artificial light sources like LED light bulbs and displays. Secondary sources like these can result in the production of early wrinkles and dark spots. Dermatologists advise that you make use of sunscreens with at least a 30 SPF rating. Consider using a sunscreen product with an SPF rating of 60 or higher on days when you spend a lot of time outdoors. 

  • Wear Sunglasses
Wear always sunglasses to avoid photoaging

It’s crucial to protect the skin around the eye contour from sun exposure because it is three times thinner, more vulnerable to UV light, has less natural protection, and ages more quickly than the rest of the face. Sunglasses also shield your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is present year-round, even on overcast days and in the depths of winter.

  • Avoid The Sun
Avoid the sun if you do not want photoaging issues

Prevention, they say, is better than cure. If possible, avoid being in the sun between 10 am and 2 pm, when it’s at its peak. When feasible, try to sit in the shade or under an umbrella. Wear a wide-brim hat to protect your face and wear protective clothing. 

For individuals who like the pleasant sensation of having radiant, sun-kissed skin, give spray tans or self-tanner a try. Not only will either give your skin a natural-looking tanned appearance, but you don’t have to worry about UV sun damage. In addition, the skin gets nourished. 

Read: Sunburn Remedies and Prevention

FAQs on photoaging 

What is the difference between normal ageing and photoaging?

Questions about photoaging Vs normal ageing are commonly asked. The normal ageing process depends on time and genetics, whereas photoaging depends on UV radiation exposure.

A person could experience photoaging at a young age, like during the teen years. In other words, photoaging is premature skin ageing, while normal ageing is naturally timed. 

Who is at risk of photodamage?

No one is immune to photoaging. You are at risk of photodamage if you expose your skin to sunlight without adequate protection. However, the degree of photodamage sustainability depends on the amount of sun exposure and skin type. According to the skin cancer foundation, skin type determines earlier development of photodamage and skin cancer.

Light skin people are at higher risk of photodamage and skin cancer. Dark skin people have a lesser chance of photodamage and skin cancer, but they are not immune to these conditions. Dark skin people are likely to develop melasma instead of early photodamage.

Is photo-ageing reversible?

Different sources have different claims. A source states that research shows that sun damage or photoaging is reversible, but the effectiveness of the treatments is unclear. That being said, DNA damages observed from photodamage or photoaging are irreversible. However, you can aesthetically reduce the physical lesions. 

If you have discolourations, fine lines, wrinkles, or other photoaged skin features, expert Aesthetics clinicians like Nina Bal can help you smooth with non-invasive medical procedures and medical-grade skincare products.


Photoaging is unlike natural ageing. While the latter involves you growing old with grace, sun damages cause unwanted side effects ranging from spots and irregular pigmentation to precancerous cells and altered DNA matrix.

Sunscreens, shades, and avoiding the sunlight at its peak should all be incorporated into your lifestyle to prevent photodamage. If you already have some physical effects of photoaging, there’s no cause for alarm. Consult a professional dermatologist to begin a treatment plan for yourself. 

Skincare Steps for Glowing Skin


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