When we talk about healthy skin, we’re referring to skin that is bright, smooth, hydrated and even. These characteristics reflect a strong dermal structure, which is owed to a combination of factors including thorough cleansing, good nutrition and, of course, daily sun protection.
But there is more to our skin health than what we can see on the surface. And while the condition of our skin can be somewhat accurately interpreted from what’s visible, it is important to remember that skin damage happens at a molecular level. This deep damage, which takes place inside skin cells, is not immediately visible to the eye, but it’s crucial that we’re aware of it to prevent damage occurring over time.
Professional skin imaging
The best way to identify what’s going on deep within the skin is with professional skin analysis. This skin imaging technology captures multi-spectral images of the skin, revealing the skin’s true condition, both on the surface and beneath. Using a combination of lighting such as daylight and UV light, a skin analysis will provide a comprehensive analysis of the skin and reveal its hidden layers. This analysis is only available with specialist practitioners and doctors.
At a superficial level, your skin analysis will highlight characteristics you might have already noticed, such as pore size, texture, blemishes, wrinkles and acne scars. At a deeper level, it will identify problems that you may never have realised, including UV damage and pigmentation. Your skin analysis can then determine your skin age, which may or may not fall in line with our actual age!
Skin imaging is particularly important prior to any treatment, as it paints a more accurate picture of the state of our skin, helping your skin specialist to plan the best course of action. Though UV images can’t predict skin cancer, they can offer us a lot of information about our skin health, including the consequences of unprotected sun exposure.
Visible signs of sun damage
Of course, we don’t need skin analysis to notice visible signs of sun damaged skin. Along with the immediate problems of sunburn and redness, we will also start to see wrinkling, poor texture, dryness and pigmentation.
The issues you can easily notice will depend on the type of skin you have. Light skin is generally thinner, so we can observe more fine lines and larger amounts of pigmentation. With darker skin types, such as Mediterrannean and Asian skin, we will notice a thickening of the skin and obvious blood vessels. This is caused by damage to the structures within the skin.
Unprotected sun exposure is the leading cause of this visible damage, but the problems lie much deeper, too.
We sat down with Dr Miguel Montero from Discover Laser to discuss deep skin damage and what exactly is going on beneath the surface of our skin. Watch this short video in which Dr Montero explains all:
When our skin is exposed to sunlight, a chemical change occurs that affects our skin’s DNA. This DNA is important, because it repairs skin cells and ensures that each cell functions properly. We’ve always known the role that UVB rays play in skin cancer, but it’s now become clearer that UVA, infrared and visible light (all emitted from the sun) also contribute to cell damage and increase our chances of developing the disease.
When in the sun, our skin tries its hardest to protect itself and produces more dark brown pigment, melanin. This stimulation of the production of melanin can be noticed on a skin analysis, as it highlights blotches where the melanin has coagulated.
But the suns rays don’t just stimulate melanin production. They also impact on our skin’s collagen and elastin production, which makes our skin less elastic, thus leading to wrinkles and sagging.
The immediate signs of sun damage are obvious; hot, red skin, which may be accompanied by blisters, as well as nausea and dizziness (sun stroke) in extreme cases. The longer term, less obvious effects are DNA damage, which is what can lead to skin cancer.
Jenna’s skin analysis
Dr Montero also looked at the skin analysis of Heliocare Brand Manager, Jenna. Jenna’s skin is light and freckled, and over the last five years, she has used a broad spectrum sun protection daily.
We can see little sun damage on the surface of Jenna’s skin. However, she spent a lot of time in the sun when she was younger. We can see evidence of this in her skin analysis, where natural freckles have started to form larger structures. This pigmentation of the epidermis is the effect of UV light, and a sign of sun damage.
The images also show some prominent blood vessels. While under the surface at the moment, they will become visible on the surface over time. It’s clear from these images that while there is little damage on the surface of the skin, there’s a lot going on underneath the surface that is yet to appear.
For more information on Jenna’s skin analysis and the deeper effects of sun damage, take a look at the video:
How to keep skin healthy
Dr Miguel Montero also shared his advice on keeping skin healthy – you can watch the short video here:
The best way to keep our skin healthy on the surface and underneath is by using sun protection, all year round. When it’s particularly sunny, you should also avoid the sun at peak times and wear appropriate clothing, including broad brim hats. These measures will protect against UV rays, infrared and visible light, which can still cause damage, even when it’s cloudy outside.
When it comes to a sun protection product, Heliocare 360° is the perfect choice, as it offers broad spectrum protection and powerful anti-oxidants that defend the skin from within. Heliocare 360° Capsules are an additional product you can take to boost your skin’s ability to protect against sun damage. Containing Fernblock®, a natural anti-oxidant extract, these supplements protect against free radicals, protecting the skin’s structure and immune response to sunlight. These products, when used together, will give your skin the ultimate level of protection, both on the surface and underneath.