We Texans love to spend time in the sunshine, and we women believe that brown fat looks better than white fat, but sun can really take a toll on your skin.

The sun gives off ultraviolet (UV) light that damages your skin and can cause sunburn. Over time, these rays can lead to wrinkles, dark spots, and other problem areas. The result: You can add years to your looks. Research shows that UV exposure is the reason behind 80% of your skin’s aging.

Fortunately, there are some ways you can turn back the clock and reverse some problems caused by the sun. It’s not possible to erase all of the damage, but there are some steps you can take for these common conditions. However, the best thing you can do is use a good, physical sunscreen product and avoid the damage all together.

If your skin turns pink, painful and particularly if you have blisters, most of the harm to your skin has already occurred. Sunburns signal that there has been damage to the DNA in your skin cells and over time, these injuries add up and lead to physical changes like wrinkles, dark spots and even skin cancer.

While there are plenty of things you can do to ease the pain of sunburn, there are only a few ways you can counteract the damage before it becomes permanent. Wear sunscreen, preferably on containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and reapply it at least every 80 minutes. You’ll protect yourself from future UV radiation and give your skin’s enzymes time to repair some of the damaged DNA.

The sun can really dry out your skin, leaving with you rough, flaky patches. Gently exfoliate using a gentle body scrub to remove the top layer of dead skin cells to reveal the soft skin beneath. But beware, some scrubs contain ground up peach pits or nut shells. These particles may have sharp edges that can scratch your skin. Look instead for scrubs containing jojoba beads which are spherical and can polish that dry skin away. Follow up with a moisturizing lotion or cream. If you’re sunburned, don’t use petroleum-based products, which trap in heat. Staying hydrated will help as well, so drink plenty of water.

UV rays can break down collagen and elastin, two proteins that keep skin firm and smooth. Try these treatments to iron out those wrinkles:
• Beta-carotene: Research shows that this antioxidant makes skin more supple and flexible and reduces sun-related wrinkles. It is found in fruits and vegetables that are brightly colored, like carrots, spinach, and cantaloupe and in many skin care products.
• Retinoids: These compounds boost the amount of collagen in your skin. Your aesthetician can offer creams or a serum, containing tretinoin or retinol. Beware though, retinoids can make you very sun sensitive, so if you are using them, be vigilant about using sunscreen.
• Chemical peels: Progressive chemical peels can remove the top layer of dead, dry, skin cells which make your skin appear dull and dry. Utilizing a combination of acids, those cells are digested, revealing a smoother and brighter complexion. There is no down time associated with this treatment.
• Microdermabrasion: This technique uses tiny crystals to remove the top layer of skin cells. The micro injury to the skins surface prompts the body to make collagen in response to the injury – and that’s a good thing.

Hyperpigmentation can be minimized with a number of treatments that can help lighten these dark spots, also known as liver spots or age spots. Your skin makes a chemical called melanin which gives your skin its color and protects against damaging UV rays. Too much sun can cause the melanin to clump, which shows up as a flat brown or black spot.

To fight the damage, try:
• Skin-lightening creams: Products with hydroquinone can lighten skin. Kojic and glycolic acids are two other ingredients that can help lighten these marks, too.
• Retinoids: Along with smoothing wrinkles, these compounds speed up the turnover and shedding of pigmented cells.
• Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser therapy: These treatments can remove outer layers of skin so new, clear skin can come to the surface.

More than 6 million Americans get these splotchy brown or grey patches known as melasma. Although experts aren’t certain of the exact reason for it, they know that sun exposure can cause melanin to go into overdrive and create the spots on the skin. Scientists are also looking at a possible link to both the liver and hormones as a cause for melasma.
Melasma can be treated with many of the same treatments that work for age spots, such as skin-lightening creams. One study found that hydroquinone, kojic acid, and glycolic acid all worked well in reducing the splotches. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser therapy are also options.  Most important, strict sun avoidance and liberal use of broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against UVA, UVB, and visible light are a must for successful treatment of melasma.

Bottom line, protect yourself with a good sunscreen, drink lots of water, use an exfoliating scrub to gently remove dry skin and moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!

Enjoy the last weekend of summer!Don’t let this be you!