In just a 14 second Tiktok from Austin Skin Physicians, you can see the severe impact of decades of sun exposure. One patient is shown sitting with his deeply tan arms and hands resting on his thighs, which are bare and strikingly pale in comparison. The sun damage to his skin is significant.
“Sometimes our lifestyle such as our professional or personal choices demand we spend significant amount of time outdoors,” Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD explains. “This may lead to significant sun exposure and ultraviolet aka sun damage. This can present as sunburn, dark skin discoloration, accelerated skin aging (wrinkles and loose skin) and predispose to skin cancer.”
Miami, FL dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD notes that sun damage can even affect your eyes and even your immune system. “Exposure to the sun’s UV rays can also damage your eyes, increasing the risk of cataracts and other eye problems,” Dr. Chacon explains. “Overexposure to the sun can also suppress your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections and other health problems.”
The most striking thing about this Tiktok is the contrast between his arms and legs. As the clip states, this patient has spent over 70 years working the land out in the sun, but always wore pants. This protected his legs from a lot of the sun damage his exposed skin received.
Several shades darker than his legs, his arms and hands are covered in sunspots, which are clusters of hyperpigmentation caused by prolonged sun exposure. There is also a difference in skin texture. UV radiation has caused the elastin in his skin here to wear down. This makes it look thickened and leathery in comparison to his almost powder-soft looking legs.
It is entirely likely that this patient is being screened (hopefully regularly) for potential skin cancer. When assessing your skin, dermatologists look for irregularities. This would include an asymmetrical mole or a sunspot with a notched or uneven border. They also, critically, look for how these spots change over time.
This video demonstrates how dangerous prolonged sun exposure is, and how much it can change the skin over time. As one commenter put it, it’s “crazy to think that’s the same body,” but this is the toll decades of work in the sun has taken on this patient’s skin.
Sunscreen is the most vital step in keeping your skin safe, but it’s not all you can do. Dr. Blyumin-Karasik recommends starting with an SPF of 30+ before sun exposure. “Reapplying every 90 minutes, adding a hat, sunglasses, and UVP clothing and seeking shade are good ways to prevent these sun damage skin changes and enhance skin stamina!”