When Does Sun Damage Start To Appear?

by Gio
How long does it take for sun damage to appear?

Hands up if you didn’t realise how bad NOT wearing sunscreen was until those first wrinkles started to pop up 15+ years later?

I know that’s true for me. You’d think that growing up in sunny Italy made me sun savvy. Think again.

Back then, no one knew sunscreen was a daily thing. My mum slathered it all over me before we left for the beach. But when playing in our backyard?

Not a drop..

When I finally started wearing sunscreen every single day – yes, even in winter – everyone thought I was a freak. Who the heck wears sunscreen when the sun is hidden behind clouds?

Someone who’s serious about anti-aging – that’s who.

You see, sun damage is underrated because you don’t see it. You don’t realise the damage those pesky UV rays are doing to your skin until years later – when it’s often too late to do much about it.

Compare that with a sunburn. You can see straight away if your skin is getting all red. When you do, you get out of the sun pronto.

If only sun damage were the same, you wouldn’t start getting wrinkles in your mid-20s. So, when does that sun damage start to appear?

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How Long Does It Take For Sun Damage To Show Up?

A loooooooooong time. Like, we’re talking decades here.

According to Dr Schultz, “sun damage from unprotected sun exposure only takes one to two decades to show up, so beginning in anyone’s 20s and early 30s you can start to see the effects of unprotected sun exposure from childhood”!

I learned that the hard way. My parents didn’t make me wear sunscreen as a kid, remember? Back then, I didn’t care about wrinkles – isn’t that something that happens to OLD people?

I was in my mid-20s when I started getting crow’s feet. I was shocked. Where the hell did they come from?! From all those years of unprotected sun exposure, that’s where!

I can’t turn back time but I can be smarter going forward. Now I wear sunscreen every single day. And my friends who thought I was a freak? They look way older than me now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you’re serious about anti-aging, do the same. No matter where you live or how young you are, wear sunscreen to keep those wrinkles off your face for long. Why get older before your time?

Have the effects of sun damage already started to show up on your skin? Let me know in the comments below.



Janessa October 9, 2012 - 10:49 pm

Oh gosh, I have sun damage for sure! I’m nearly 18 (early next year) and I have four tiny brown dots on the right side of my face, and one on my left temple and forehead, three on my neck and collarbone one behind my ears. I also have some really light freckles on my arms and random brown dots. I’m naturally very pale (my grandma is as pale as milk) and I only wore sunscreen (probably without reapplication) while swimming and going to the beach when I was a kid. I also have forehead damage because my skin there isn’t as firm and there’s two spots. Some of my sun spots have darkened and gotten bigger so that troubles me a bit. I live in Southern California so I know heat!
I usually wear a baseball cap at school so I have some protection other than sunscreen. I freckle easily too.
For me, sun damage began to appear (in the form of freckles) when I was 16 and they were very light and unnoticeable but some have darkened into dots. :\

But now that I’ve found some gems like your blog and at least I know how to treat and prevent damage.

I have a question: I still seem to get sunspots with my sunscreen, is it because of past sun damage or am I just prone to them? My face sunscreen has Titanium Dioxide 2.2%, and Zinc Oxide 16.3% and Octinoxate 7.4%. Thanks :].

beautifulwithbrains October 10, 2012 - 8:13 pm

Janessa, I’m sorry you have brown spots already. Unfortunately unprotected sun exposure can cause quite a lot of damage at an early age too. But at least by using sunscreen daily you can now avoid damaging your skin further.

That could be past damage that is now beginning to show up. Your sunscreen seems a pretty solid one, so I doubt that’s causing the problem, unless you’re not applying it liberally enough.

H January 13, 2016 - 4:04 pm

Seems like a pretty good sunscreen, even though I prefer 100% mineral. Dermatologists don’t recommend chemical sunscreen for skin that tends to freckle/spot, or is hyperpigmentation or rosacea prone. Chemical sunscreens can make those conditions worse. Pale people tend to have a lot of those problems. Because of what you describe, it would be healthier, and if you don’t reapply throughout the day,you should go for a completely mineral sunscreen.Hope this helps. I’m a teen, (15) and wear sunscreen (mineral) too!

Victoria October 10, 2012 - 12:44 am

Good for you Janessa for wearing sunscreen so early in life! I can remember when I was in high school and college and would lay out with tin foil to get a darker tan! UGHHHHH! Now I can’t believe I did it, but back then we didn’t know as much as we do now. This is a fantastic site and she does an amazing job of bringing different things to your attention.

Janessa October 10, 2012 - 12:57 am

I tried to tan in the past, too. :\ I can’t believe I’m writing to an editor of another blog (you). ๐Ÿ˜€ How awesome. I’m going to check out your website.

beautifulwithbrains October 10, 2012 - 8:16 pm

Victoria, I think we all did that at some point. *sighs* Like you said, up until a few years ago, we didn’t know how damaging the sun rays could be. At least now we know better and we can avoid further damage from happening.

And aww thank you! ๐Ÿ˜ณ

Victoria October 10, 2012 - 1:14 am

Thanks Janessa ๐Ÿ™‚
You know what’s really terrible? I grew up in Colorado where you can have a major snow storm one day and then a beautiful sunny day the next. We would set up chairs in the snow and lay out so that the sun would reflect off of the snow and we would get a dark tan in the middle of winter (don’t try it!) Yikes!

beautifulwithbrains October 10, 2012 - 8:18 pm

Victoria, oh dear! If only we had known back then what we know now!

Victoria October 10, 2012 - 8:22 pm

No kidding! At least we know now and take steps to prevent even more damage ๐Ÿ™‚

beautifulwithbrains October 11, 2012 - 6:16 am

That’s true. Luckily we now how to protect ourselves now.

plue October 10, 2012 - 5:05 am

i never wore sunscreen till i was about 18, because my mom insisted that we don’t need it because the sun isn’t bad for us. And that time i lived in a really small town where we don’t have many choices for sunscreens and the ones my town had were all oily and thick!

by the time when i was 18, freckles were already showing on my cheeks and it has been a constant battle of lightening them. i started using sunscreen whether i like it or not and slowly found sunscreens that work for me.

and i am pretty lucky that i don’t see anymore new freckles popping up ever since then and they aren’t getting any darker! sunscreen is a must for everybody! even babies!

beautifulwithbrains October 10, 2012 - 8:19 pm

Plue, I agree. Sunscreen is a must for everyone. It can really avoid a lot of damage and I’m glad you’ve found one that works well for you.

Vivi October 11, 2012 - 3:57 am

great article!

I used to play a lot out in the sun when I was a kid, too, and was always out swimming from 10 AM- 1:00 PM when the sun’s UV index is supposedly at its peak. I never applied sunscreen as a child and I got sunburnt a lot but never thought much of it.

When I turned 20, I started to develop uneven skin tone. Looking back at my college photos, I realized I started to get fine lines on the corners of my eyes quite early, too! Now, I’m battling very deep pigmentations that don’t respond to topical treatments. They aren’t too obvious but upon closer inspection, one can see that I have maps all over my face, especially on my forehead and on my temples (it’s melasma). Yes, it’s part hormonal but it might never have happened if only I was diligent with my sunscreen or never sun-baked myself when I was much younger.

beautifulwithbrains October 11, 2012 - 6:12 am

Vivi, I’m sorry to hear the sun has damaged your skin is so badly. It is really a pity that we weren’t told about how harmful it could be sooner. Sunbathing (and even sunburning) was normal back then and noone thought much of it. *sighs*

Oh well, at least by using sunscreen now we can prevent more damage from happening and I hope that you find a treatment that works well for your melasma.

Star June 26, 2020 - 3:23 pm

Hi Gio! I am quite happy with my skincare routine and, at 43, my skin looks pretty good. I have a few freckles from back when I used to play on California beaches as a child sans sunscreen. Once I hit my teens, however, I stopped sunbathing and wore sunscreens. I recently lost my Holy Grail sunscreen though since the company was bought by a big conglomerate and their products have been ruined. I have a 50 SPF hat, but am afraid to try a new sunscreen which won’t upset my very sensitive skin and/or clog my pores/break me out. I can’t use things like beeswax or dimethicones without major pore-clogging issues. Perfumes are also an issue. I do like natural products best. I’m considering a moisturizer/sunscreen by a company called, “Antipodes” and it has some wonderful ingredients in it. The thing that concerns me about it is that it says it is “Brightening” due to some kiwi seed and grape seed extracts/.oils in it. I worry this could upset my sensitive facial skin. I’m looking for a light-textured but effective sunscreen and someone told me it would be best to use a moisturizer-sunscreen combination for that. Do you know any good sunscreens for someone like me?

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