Image: Truck Driver and Sun Induced Aging
While it is common knowledge that sun overexposure can lead to damage of the skin, the image shown below uniquely illustrates the destructive power of ultraviolet (UV) rays. The subject is a 69-year-old truck driver patient of mine. He never applied sunscreen as he thought his window would block radiation from the sun. However, after many years on the road you can see the unfortunate result: extreme aging to the patient’s left side of the face.
While the right side of the subject’s face is relatively preserved, the left side (which was repeatedly exposed to chronic UVA rays) displays just what kind of damage prolonged UV exposure can cause.
How UV Rays Damage the Skin
When UV rays penetrate the skin, a form of radiation is transferred which interacts with melanin, a naturally produced substance of the skin. Melanin serves a shield, absorbing the UV rays to limit damage to your DNA. Tanning is the body’s natural response to the interaction between UV radiation and melanin. However, when the amount of UV exposure exceeds the protection provided by your body’s melanin level you get a sun burn.
Continual overexposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays produces various forms of skin damage including:
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Age spots, freckles, and other pigmentation issues
- Actinic keratosis
- Dry and rough skin
- Skin cancer
Windows Do Not Completely Block UV Rays
While some tinted car windows can block a significant portion of UVB rays, most types of UVA rays pass through. UVA rays are typically associated with aging, however, research does show that UVA contributes to skin cancer development as well. Thus if you spend long periods of time behind the wheel (as the subject in the photo did) your skin will be exposed to a significant amount of UVA radiation; causing accelerated aging.
Some tinted windows may black both types of UV rays depending on the level of tinting. However you should not rely on tinted windows for protection; practicing proper sun safety is still recommended.
Basic Sun Protection
It’s easy to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation, simple practice these good habits:
- Wear sunscreen. Apply sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF) every day. Use a broad spectrum product with an SPF of at least 30. If you will be out in the sun for long periods of time (even if most of that time is spent behind the wheel) make sure to reapply as directed. See our sunscreen guide and tips on choosing a good sunscreen for more information.
- Wear protective clothing. Invest in wide brimmed hats, polarized sunglasses, and active clothing with built in SPF.
- Avoid peak sun hours. Stay out of the sun during peak UV hours, usually from 10 am to 4 pm. You can use many popular weather apps to see the current UV Index in real time.
- Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds are not safe; they emit harmful radiation just like the sun. If you really need a tan use non-harmful self-tanning products.
We all know that UV exposure can cause skin cancer, but this photo is a good reminder of how UV exposure also causes AGING. We urge all of our patients to protect their skin at all times!