That lovely summer suntan has definitely become iconic of beauty in popular culture. But don’t go running for the beach without preparation. Despite its desirable look, each time the sun bronzes your skin, it’s actually a sign of damage. Here are some of the negative effects of sun exposure, and why you should prioritize sunscreen when heading out for summer fun:


1. Premature Skin Aging

Fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots—oh my! If you’re seeing these effects years before you think you ought to, sun exposure may be to blame. The UV rays can really speed up your skin’s aging process, as well as adding extra pigments (freckles and age spots) or unwanted textures (tough and leathery) to your skin.


2. Sunburns 

Getting a sunburn is a pain—literally! After a fun day in the sun, it’s such a disappointment to find your skin turning red on you. Plus, you’ll often deal with peeling, maybe even blistering, and (of course) the unwanted swimsuit lines that make you wear your regret, sometimes for the rest of the season. Sunburns are also a sign that you’ve had an intense amount of sun exposure. Each sunburn raises your chances of skin cancer, and sunburns early in life seem to be a greater predictor of the cancer risk.


3. Skin Cancer

When the sun is shining down on you, it is exposing you to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. These UV rays have the power to actually change (or mutate) the genetic material in your cells. These mutations are what ultimately lead to skin cancer. This is a very serious condition that, if not treated early enough, can be deadly. Fortunately, skin cancer is also the most preventable type of cancer if you limit direct sun exposure.


Be mindful of how much sun exposure you are getting and weigh the benefits of bronzed skin with the risks of long-term effects. With aging skin, sunburn, and skin cancer all on the table, we would all do well to protect ourselves. Minimize your risks of these outcomes by wearing sunscreen proudly, reapplying often, wearing sun-protective clothing, and seeking shade whenever you can.