woman preventing sun damage on face

Sun Damage On Face

Our guide on how to protect the skin from sun damage on face

Sun damage on face

Sun damage on face: what to look for and how to protect the skin

There are few people who would deny that feeling the sun on your face is one of life’s great pleasures. But enjoying it too much without adequate protection could leave you with an unwanted memento of your holidays - while your tan may have long faded, the damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays remains. 

While signs of ageing are the signs of a life well lived, it is important to minimise sun damage not only for cosmetic reasons but because it can be harmful to your health. The good news is you can enjoy the benefits of the sun without it leaving its mark on your face too severely. Let’s take a closer look at skin damage on face and how to protect skin from sun damage.

Sun Damage On face

What causes skin damage from sun?

Melanin is a pigment that gives your skin its colour. When the skin is exposed to UV rays, extra melanin is produced by the body in an attempt to protect the skin. This will make your skin look darker, or, as we know it, gives you a suntan. UV rays from the sun speed up an uneven production of melanin which can then cause irregular colouring (pigmentation) of the skin. This can manifest itself on the face in several ways, which we explore below. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can also cause permanent stretching of small blood vessels that can leave spidery veins on the face. 

Sun Damage on Face

What does sun damage on face look like?

woman treating sun damage on face
Signs of sun damage on face

Thread Veins

Overexposure to the sun can break down the collagen in your skin and weaken the blood vessels causing spidery veins. These are a close relative of varicose veins and can give your skin a mottled, reddish appearance. They are mostly painless and do not cause health problems, but some people may wish to treat them.

woman with skin damage from sun
Signs of sun damage on face

Sun Spots

Melanin, when produced in high concentrations, can clump together to form brown spots or dark marks. Sun spots, also known as age and liver spots, are flat spots of these increased uneven colour (pigmentation). They usually appear on parts of the body most exposed to the sun such as the face, hands, arms and upper back. They are very common in older adults but can occur in younger people who have spent a lot of time in the sun with inadequate protection. 
Find out more about sun spots here.
lady avoiding sun damage on face
Signs of sun damage on face

Actinic Keratosis

Also known as solar keratosis, actinic keratosis is the most common skin condition caused by sun damage on face. It’s a small, thickened, scaly growth on the skin on sun-exposed areas such as the head and face that is caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. They can be anywhere between 1-3 cm in size and can be light, dark, pink, red, the same colour as your skin, or a combination of all or some of these. 

People with fair skin who do not tan easily are most commonly affected because they have less protective melanin. Sometimes they go away or fade away, or they may stay unchanged for years. It is important to keep an eye on it and see your GP if it grows larger or is something you’re worried about.
woman treating sun damage on skin
Signs of sun damage on face

Solar Elastosis

In its most common form, solar elastosis manifests as yellow, thickened, coarsely wrinkled skin. It is caused by prolonged unprotected sun exposure. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun’s rays breaks down collagen and elastin - the skin's connective tissue. This tissue lies deep in the dermis and as it disintegrates, it is unable to support the top layer of skin. As a result the top layer of skin - the bit we see - begins to lose its strength and flexibility causing vertical creases, deep wrinkles, and loose or sagging skin.
Sun Damage on Face

How to protect skin from sun damage

Avoid the sun during peak hours
As a rule, this is usually between 11am and 3pm although it depends on where in the world you are and the time of year. Be aware that water, snow, sand and concrete reflect light and increase the risk of sunburn and that being in the shade is not protection alone.


Wear sun protective clothing
Covering up, particularly if you do head out in the middle of the day, will help protect you against harmful UV rays. This includes trousers or long skirts, long sleeve shirts, sunglasses and hats. And don’t forget the back of your neck.


Use sunscreen
Good sunscreen habits will not only protect your skin against the visible signs of ageing, fine lines and wrinkles under your eyes but also reduce pigmentation, sun spots, and broken capillaries. And also protect you from more serious forms of sun damage such as skin cancers. Look for water-resistant, broad-spectrum coverage with an SPF of at least 15 depending on your skin type. Apply a sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours - or more often if you're swimming or sweating. 

Even if you’re not at the beach, wear suncream on your face daily - even on cool, overcast days. Get used to applying facial sunscreens as part of your morning skincare routine, after or instead of a moisturiser, and before any makeup. 

lady avoiding skin damage from sun
family avoiding skin damage from sun
NIVEA SUN UV Face Shine Control Cream SPF 50 will provide high coverage without leaving any greasy residue. Its mattifying, non-greasy formula absorbs well into the skin without leaving white streaks and is the ideal base for makeup. 

Worried about sunscreen irritating your skin? NIVEA SUN UV Face Soothing Sensitive Cream SPF50 is ideal for those with sensitive skin, protecting it against effects such as premature skin ageing while also soothing irritations. 

NIVEA SUN UV Face Q10 Anti-Age & Anti-Pigment Cream SPF 50 and NIVEA SUN UV Face Q10 Anti-Age & Anti-Pigment Cream SPF 30 target skin damage from the sun with Q10 that prevents and fights the appearance of sun-induced fine lines, wrinkles and pigment spots. Apply first thing before you leave the house and slip it into your bag to reapply later


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