Why It's Important to Wear Sunscreen Every Day (Even in Colder Months)

Regardless of what caused your skin to become uneven in tone, the slightest bit of sun exposure (mere minutes in the sun can be enough for some) can trigger the skin to kick melanin production into overdrive. That’s why wearing sunscreen daily is imperative, as well as a topical skin-care product, like hydroquinone or kojic acid, that stops the pigment-producing message from being delivered.

Surface Pigmentation vs. Deep Pigmentation

Where hyperpigmentation lives in the skin determines how dark the skin will be. When pigmentation is on the surface, the discoloration is more of a light brown color and is more diffused. It also responds better to nonablative fractional lasers. Pigmentation deep within skin takes on more of a dark brown or gray tone and is solid and dense. “Deep pigmentation is harder to treat because it’s more resilient and can come back easily,” says San Francisco dermatologist Vic Narurkar, MD. “That’s why we use the stronger products for this type of pigmentation as opposed to over-the-counter brightening creams and lotions, which work better for hyperpigmentation on the surface.”

Skin Color Matters

Hyperpigmentation can affect all skin tones—but it runs rampant in those with darker skin. The reason: the darker the skin, the more active the melanocytes are because of naturally high melanin levels. “The cause of it doesn’t influence the severity of your discoloration but the severity of your hyperpigmentation is shaped by your skin tone,” says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD. Hyperpigmentation can affect lighter skin (the discoloration is usually pink or red), but it is more prevalent in those with darker skin who are of Asian, Mediterranean or African decent, especially when the skin is exposed to the sun.

What Happens to Untreated Pigment?

Hyperpigmentation is more of a cosmetic problem than a skin health condition according to Dr. Narurkar. In most cases, hyperpigmentation will eventually resolve on its own if it is not treated. “But, the question is, how long it will take to lighten up? There’s no way to know and a lot of people just don’t want to deal with discoloration because makeup can hide it so much.” If your skin is prone to pigmentation, always take preventative measures, especially with sunscreen. Minneapolis, MN, dermatologist Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, points out that failing to protect pigmented skin from the sun can cause discolored areas to become even more pigmented.

Safeguard Your Skin

No matter what your skin type and color are, sunscreen needs to be worn by everyone every day. Those with hyperpigmentation can’t afford to forgo protection. “The single most important component for treating hyperpigmentation is photoprotection,” says Miami dermatologist Flor A. Mayoral, MD. “You must be consistent in using sunscreen and reapply it often if the affected area is going to be exposed to ultraviolet rays.”

1. Use Sunscreen With at Least an SPF of 30
“Broad-spectrum sun protection is the best, and most important thing you can do to protect your skin from hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Narurkar. Make sure your sunscreen protects your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

2. Load up on Antioxidants
Acne is known to cause spots and discoloration, but a good serum that’s loaded with antioxidants can actually help prevent breakouts and inflammation, limiting the risk of hyperpigmentation, too.

3. Protect your Eyes
The skin that surrounds the outer area of the eyes can be quick to develop dark sunspots if it is not protected. To get the maximum level of protection possible, wear a pair of sun-shielding glasses after you’ve applied SPF.

4. Wear a Hat
“Even when using a strong SPF, a hat is mandatory. No matter how much SPF your sunscreen offers, it is not enough,” says Dr. Tanzi. Wide-brimmed hats are best since they add another level of protection by blocking the face from the sun.

5 Comments
  • Posted on

    As we approach summer - It's so very important to pay attention to proper and healthy sun protection - It's to be used DAILY at all times regardless of the weather - The environmental damage affects one's skin regardless of being warm out - In New York we tend to walk around a lot and we are very exposed to the sun at all times - Its a big mistake patients make thinking that they only new sun protection when going to the beach - In summer months its very important to reapply sun protection often - And when running, doing sports or being fully exposed to the sun apply SPF every 2 hours - If you have more sensitive or fair skin you need to be extra careful - Enjoy a healthy summer without sun damage - Be sure to follow @SKINCAREXPERT for more beauty tips!

  • RockGod
    Posted on

    Look, the reality is that I love the sun no lotion as a kid in the 1960's. It has always been a spiritual feeling when I am able to get out in the sun and feel those glorious rays beaming down on my body! I'm 55 years old do not apply SPF unless I am spending a prolonged period (fishing, beach etc.)in the sun. I always apply (since age 45) skin creams (DHEA, ALA, Vitamin C etc) in the morning and at night. Take additional collagen, Lovaza as well. Guess what? My skin looks fine and more importantly I am Spiritually Fit :)! Everything within reason and remember to be grateful for each and everyday you have on this Earth!

  • shel b
    Posted on

    Ditto Nora. I just turned 60 in Oct and many people think I'm in my 40's...they always ask me what I use on my skin to keep it so dewy and wrinkle free...easy: sunscreen! It wasn't always so...as a child of the 60's, I can't count the number of times I went to the beach and never used sunscreen. Three years ago, I was diagnosed with skin cancer and had a large lesion removed from my back. Every time I look in the mirror to do my own body check that 5-inch scar reminds me to always wear my sunscreen. I'm lucky...no other instances and I thank God everyday for my health.

  • Debbie Clark
    Posted on

    Sunscreen is a absoute must every single day. I'm so glad you are getting the word out.

  • Nora Grahe
    Posted on

    Thank You for this article! I always have worn sunscreen on myself and more importantly always applied it to my children when they went outdoors! I know the importance!

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