Last updated on Nov 4th, 2015 at 02:25 pm

Photo ageing as a result of sun exposure, is a slow process. It may take several decades before it becomes fully noticeable. In fact 90% of sun damage occurs by the age of 20, only becoming visible in your early thirties and onwards.

The degree of photo ageing is mainly determined by your skin type and total lifetime sun exposure, and the degree of damage to different areas of the body is directly proportional to the amount of sun light received (your hands and neck line for example are more likely to have sun damage and age spots than your stomach).seriously sun damaged skin has a thickened outer layer, making it feel dry, rough and leathery.  Your best defence against premature ageing is the daily use of a good sunscreen. The higher the SPF (sun protection factor), the oilier the cream generally is. So if youâ??re prone to breakouts stick to SPF 15 or lower or try a gel formula.  

Sunburn vs. suntan

There is no such thing as a safe tan. A suntan is actually the bodyâ??s defense mechanism against too strong sun-light and the visible evidence of damage to the skin. Sunlight stimulates the skin to increase melanin supply is activated; it moves up towards the surface of the skin. Where it helps prevent burning and reduces the penetration of the sunâ??s rays. The side effect is skin of that golden color that sun worshipers crave. Although dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin and thus have a higher level of natural protection, they still need to use a sunscreen to avoid skin damage.  

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Sunburn on the other hand, can be equated to cooking your skin. If you donâ??t apply sunscreen, or accidentally fall asleep in the sun, the surface blood vessels dilate (hence the redness), and an inflammatory response is induced to fight the damage, often causing blisters in the process. The redness occurs two to eight hours after severe sun exposure and blistering can occur after 12 to 24 hours. A frightening fact is that our skin remembers this burn, and the DNA may not repair perfectly. These errors in DNA can lead to skin cancer years later. So when you make your way to the coast for your next summer holiday, remember that although a tan fades quickly, your skin carries a permanent memory of the damage.  

Protecting your skin  

The time it takes for unprotected skin to turn red in the sun is known as the MED (minimal erythema dose).your skin type determines your MED. Very fair skin, for example, will have a MED of about six minutes, olive toned skin can tolerate about 10 to 12 minutes and black skin usually has a MED of 18 to 20 minutes. SPF (sun protection factor) is a standard measure that indicates how much additional time above your MED you can spend in the sun with out getting burned. For example, if you can usually spend 10 minutes in the sun before burning, an SPF 15 sunscreen will multiply that time by fifteen(10 minute * 15=150 minutes of sun time) Note that a person with fair skin can spend far less time in the sun than someone with darker skin, even if they both apply the same level of SPF. Once your time is up, you should ideally get out of the sun. 

Reapplying sunscreen only means that you will cook more slowly, a bit like cooking your Sunday roast in the oven-once itâ??s done youâ??re simply crisping it! You should, however, always reapply sunscreen after swimming, perspiring and drying yourself off. The key is to use enough sunscreen for an even and full coverage. Double application is also important: apply the first layer 20 to 30 minutes before you go to the beach, and apply another layer as your coat of armour when you get into the sun.