We’ve all heard that the sun’s UV rays can damage the skin, leading to wrinkles, sun spots, and premature aging. But recent research shows that heat can also damage your skin in much the same way. Chronic heat exposure (like from sitting too close to a fireplace, or using a hot water bottle continually) can cause a condition called “erythema ab igne,” which produces mottled, red-brown patches on the exposed skin. At first, the blotchy discoloration can fade when the skin is protected from the heat; however, it can eventually become permanent if the skin is repeatedly exposed to high temperatures.
New studies show that heat can damage your skin even before you see this type of discoloration. Exposure to heat has been shown to destroy collagen and elastic fibers in the skin, so over time, high temperatures can lead to thinning of the skin and eventually premature wrinkling. Heat, just like UV rays, has also been shown to stimulate angiogenesis (new blood vessel growth), which can lead to “broken” capillary veins, red blotches, and uneven pigmentation. Lastly, heat has been shown to generate “free radicals,” which are particles that damage collagen and DNA in your skin.
Based on this new information, scientists are now suggesting that heat may cause aging in human skin. Therefore, in addition to sunscreen to block the effects of UV rays, it may also be important to protect your skin from heat. So what should you do?
- Avoid sitting directly in front of the heater or fireplace for prolonged periods of time.
- If you notice your skin becoming red, turn down the heat or walk away to cool down.
- If you use a small space heater near your desk or chair, change its position so it doesn’t continually hit the same part of your skin.