Photos That Will Convince You to Wear Sunscreen Every Day

See what sun damage can really look like.

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Curology Team
Feb 22, 2018 · 5 min read

Women with sun damage on a black and white image
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Wearing sunscreen every day is the best favor you could do your future self. Not only is protecting your skin from the sun key to helping to fade post-acne marks, but it’s also one of the best ways to save your skin from signs of premature aging, like fine lines and wrinkles, rough texture, dark spots — oh, and skin cancer, of course!

As if you needed more reasons to add SPF to your daily skincare routine. But we know the proof is in the proverbial pudding, so we dug up a few photos as evidence you can see for yourself.

1. What you can’t see can hurt you

black and white photos of people in a grid

UV portraits by the photographer Cara Phillips.

Looks can be deceiving: It took a special ultraviolet camera to reveal the sun-induced aging that has accumulated on the faces of the individuals in these photos. Even if you can’t see dark spots or wrinkles today, the sun damage may still be there.

Check out this impactful video of people being shown their own hidden sun damage. And we’ll delve more into this later, but for those with melanin-rich (darker) skin, don’t believe the myth that you don’t need SPF because you have “natural protection” due to the color of your skin!

2. The truck driver

closeup of elderly persons eyes

Originally published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Like a simultaneous before-and-after, this photo shows the effects of unprotected sun exposure on just the left side of this truck driver’s face from years in the driver’s seat. It really makes you think about all the sunlight you don’t even notice you’re getting throughout the day. Remember: UV rays even penetrate through on cloudy days!

3. The twin study

twin study image side by side

This study focused on two twins with a significant difference in the amount of sun exposure they received over their lifetime. The twin on the right had about 10 more hours per week of sun exposure than the twin on the left.

4. Natural protection isn’t 100%!

Although genetically melanin-rich skin (not from a tanning bed!) has natural protection from the sun, it’s not 100%. Research has shown that consistent sunscreen use is the best way to help even out skin tone and fade dark spots in melanin-rich skin. So, depending on your activities outdoors, you’ll want to have a sunscreen on hand that you like!

closeup of side of persons face
closeup of person with eyes closed

5. A lifetime of damage

Think of it this way: You’ve got a lot of aging to do. Don’t you want your skin to look its best for as long as possible?

sunlight effects photo
sun effects photo with child with tongue out

And it’s not just aesthetic signs of aging (like wrinkles) that we need to think about. Regular sunscreen use is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology as a primary method of sun protection to reduce the risk of melanoma and other non-melanoma skin cancers.

Graphic about moles and skin cancer

If you have any concerns about a changing mole, please see an in-person dermatologist as soon as possible. Curology does not evaluate or treat skin cancer.

For help in finding a local dermatologist so that you can be seen in-person, ask your primary care physician or other local healthcare provider for a recommendation, or visit the American Academy of Dermatology site: Find A Derm.

You’ve got a long life to live in your skin — and it’s extremely difficult (not to mention expensive) to reverse sun damage. Slather on the SPF now and look forward to the many decades of smooth, healthy skin to come.

Need help choosing a sunscreen for your face?

Don’t miss our sunscreen guide for everything you need to know about SPF, including what products tend to work best for each skin type.

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There’s no way to reverse sun damage, but there are things you can do to improve signs of aging brought on by sun exposure. Tretinoin, for example, can lighten dark spots and soften the appearance of fine lines. You can access tretinoin (if it’s right for you) as well as other age-defying ingredients with a Curology subscription. Sign up for a free month of Curology and just pay $4.95 + tax to cover the cost of shipping/handling.*

• • •

PS. We did our research so you don't have to:

  1. Erica C Davis and Valerie D Callender. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (2010, July 1).

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 11 ways to reduce premature skin aging. American Academy of Dermatology. (2020, n.d.).

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Prevent skin cancer. American Academy of Dermatology. (2020, n.d.).

  4. Alyson Krueger. Should You Get a Scary UV Photo of Your Skin Damage? The New York Times. (2019, August 16).

  5. Thomas Leveritt. How the sun sees you. YouTube. (2014, August 12).

  6. Jennifer R.S. Gordon and Joaquin C. Brieva. Unilateral Dermatoheliosis. The New England Journal of Medicine. (2012, April 19).

  7. Anna Chien and Heidi Jacobe. UV Radiation and Your Skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation. (2019, June 1).

  8. Jordan P. Farkas, et. al. The Science and Theory behind Facial Aging. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. (2013, May 7).

  9. Sandra Del Bino, et. al. Clinical and Biological Characterization of Skin Pigmentation Diversity and Its Consequences on UV Impact. The International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (2018, May 31).

  10. Erica C Davis and Valerie D Callender. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. Ibid.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Prevent skin cancer. Ibid.

  12. American Academy of Dermatology. ABCDEs of Skin Cancer Detection. Rush University Medical Center. (n.d.)

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Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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