Your skin is your biggest organ and works as a protective barrier between your body and the outside environment. It's important to take good care of your skin so that you can prevent unnecessary skin damage and maintain all-around good health.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation refers to the invisible electromagnetic waves given off by the sun and by some artificial things, like tanning beds. There are three types of UV radiation:
- UVA rays
- UVB rays
- UVC rays
UVA rays are the least damaging of the three but can make skin cells age. UVA rays are linked to the development of wrinkles. UVB rays damage the skin directly and are the direct cause of most sunburns and skin cancers. UVC rays are the strongest of the three and are given off by certain tools like welding torches and mercury lamps.
UV radiation damages the DNA in our skin cells. DNA is crucial to the healthy functioning of our cells. When DNA is damaged over time, skin cells can start to grow out of control and form skin cancers. UV rays also trigger the release of free radicals in the skin. These unstable atoms can damage elastin fibers, leading to wrinkles and other visible signs of premature aging.
UV radiation from the sun is stronger at certain times and places:
- Between 10 AM and 4 PM
- During spring and summer
- Higher altitude areas
- Countries closer to the equator
To protect yourself from sun damage, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every day. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours when you're outdoors and opt for shade when the sun is at its strongest.
UV radiation from artificial objects can also damage your skin. These objects include:
- Tanning beds and booths
- Black-light lamps
- Broken mercury vapor lamps
Avoid using tanning beds and booths if possible.
Tobacco smoke contains harmful substances and is associated with the following kinds of long-term skin damage:
- Narrowed blood vessels
- Reduced Vitamin A in the skin
- Breakdown of elastin fibers in the skin
- Release of free radicals
When blood vessels narrow, there's less flow of oxygen and vital nutrients to the skin cells, which contributes to wrinkles. Smokers purse their lips when they smoke, which causes fine lines around the mouth and eyes. The heat and smoke given off by a cigarette can dry out the top layer of skin.
Smoking also has negative effects on skin wounds and the wound-healing process. Smoking decreases blood flow and hinders inflammation in the body, which in turn slows down the body's natural healing process. This can lead to wounds that won't go away.
If you've been diagnosed with any of the following skin or skin-related conditions, smoking can make them even worse:
Consider quitting smoking to prevent unnecessary skin damage.
Contact dermatitis happens when you develop an itchy or painful skin reaction after contact with a skin irritant. The irritant could be an allergen or a chemical found in everyday household products. Common skin irritants include:
- Cleaning products
- Fabric softener
- Wool clothing
- Perfumes or fragrances
- Metal jewelry
There are two types of contact dermatitis. Allergic contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction to a specific allergen, like nickel or perfume. If you're allergic to these substances and accidentally touch them, it can take a few days before an itchy, red rash develops. In contrast, irritant contact dermatitis produces a painful rash almost immediately and is triggered by harsh chemicals like detergents or acids in cleaning products.
When your skin comes into contact with an irritating substance, your immune system produces white blood cells which trigger inflammation. This inflammatory response causes an itchy rash. If you scratch the affected area, it could become wet and start to ooze liquid. This increases the chance of getting an infection.
You're more likely to develop contact dermatitis if you work at a job that requires lots of hands-on activity, such as:
- Healthcare and dental work
- Mechanical work
- Gardening or farming
- Cooking or cleaning
- Construction work
- Hair and beauty work
To prevent skin damage from contact dermatitis, try to identify and avoid irritants that trigger your skin. If you must touch a known irritant, make sure to wear protective gloves and wash your hands with a mild, fragrance-free soap afterward. Moisturize your skin regularly to maintain the skin barrier and consider applying a barrier cream or gel to provide extra protection.
Latest Skin News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Cancer Society: "Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation."
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: "Smoking and its effects on skin."
Cancer Research UK: "How does the sun and UV cause cancer?"
Cleveland Clinic: "Contact Dermatitis."
Mayo Clinic: "Contact Dermatitis", "Is it true that smoking cause wrinkles?"
Top What Things Damage Skin Related Articles
8 Skin Warning Signs to Worry About in a RashMost of the rashes are harmless and may not indicate anything serious. However, if there are these accompanying symptoms along with the skin rash, it may signify something serious.
Skin & Makeup QuizAre you doing right by your skin? Take the Skin and Makeup Quiz to learn how to make the most of your beauty regimen.
Dry SkinDry skin (xeroderma) may be caused by external factors, like cold temperatures, low humidity, harsh soaps, and certain medications, or internal factors, such as thyroid disease, diabetes, psoriasis, or Sjogren's syndrome. Symptoms and signs of dry skin include itching and red, cracked or flaky skin. The main treatment for dry skin is frequent, daily lubrication of the skin.
How Can Stress Affect Your Skin?Your skin has a direct connection to your brain. Recent research has shown that your skin can perceive stress and respond to it.
Melanoma (Skin Cancer)Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which begins in skin cells called melanocytes and affects more than 53,600 people in the United States each year. These melanocytes can grow together to form benign moles which, after a change in size, shape, or color can be a sign of melanoma. Caused by sun exposure, early detection becomes extremely important to avoid a spread to other areas of the body. Diagnosis is confirmed through a biopsy of the abnormal skin and treatment depends on the extent and characteristics of the patient. Metastatic melanoma is melanoma that has spread to various organs.
The Skin (Human Anatomy): Picture, Definition, Function and Skin ConditionsThe skin is the largest organ in the body that covers the entire external surface. It protects the internal organs from germs and thus helps prevent infections. The skin is made up of three main layers.
Skin Cancer QuizWhat causes skin cancer? Take our Skin Cancer Quiz to learn about the risks, symptoms, causes, and treatments for this common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide.
Skin CancerSkin cancers occur when skin cells undergo malignant transformations and grow into tumors. The most common types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are highly curable when they are diagnosed and treated early. Sun exposure, tanning beds, depressed immune system, radiation exposure, and certain viral infections are risk factors for skin cancer. Skin cancers are treated with surgery or radiation. The prognosis of nonmelanoma skin cancers is generally very good.
Skin Picture QuizCould you identify a scabies infestation? Take the Skin Diseases Pictures Quiz and learn to identify common conditions that plague human skin.
Skin Problems as You AgeAging skin can cause wrinkles, liver spots, and leg sores. Learn the cause of spider and varicose veins. See pictures of skin tags, actinic keratosis, and seborrheic keratosis. Learn how to care for skin to prevent aging conditions like solar elastosis and cherry angiomas.
15 Tips for Clear SkinAcne, pimples, zits and blemishes often appear on the face, back, chest, neck, and shoulders where skin has the most amount of oil glands. Few of us are immune to breakouts, but treatments can minimize outbreaks. Follow these 15 tips for a clear complexion and skin.
Smoking (How to Quit Smoking)Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or "passive smoke" also harm family members, coworkers, and others around smokers. There are a number of techniques available to assist people who want to quit smoking.
Smoking & Your LooksCigarette smoking can affect your looks and moods. But did you know smoking also affects your heart, causes wrinkles, and increases your risk of cancer? Learn the dangers of smoking.
Sun-Damaged SkinSee how sun damaged skin can cause wrinkles, moles, melanoma (skin cancer) and more. Explore images of squamous cell carcinoma and the early signs of skin cancer.
The 7 Most Important Layers of Your SkinThe skin is the largest organ in the body and it covers the body's entire external surface. It is made up of seven layers. The first five layers form the epidermis, which is the outermost, thick layer of the skin. The hypodermis is the deepest layer of skin situated below the dermis.
What Does Retinol Do for the Skin?Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a fat-soluble organic compound and vitamin A derivative. Vitamin A is important for eyesight, skin health, growth, and development. It acts as an immediate precursor to two important active metabolites: retinal, which plays a critical role in vision, and retinoic acid, which serves as an intracellular messenger regulating the transcription of genes.
What Habits Are Bad for Your Skin?When your skin is healthy, you look and feel better. Habits that are bad for your skin include popping pimples, misuse of chemical exfoliants, not cleansing your face, and not applying sunscreen.