Normal skin is made up of two layers of tissue: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer and the dermis is the layer underneath. Solar elastosis is a process that affects the dermis. It is a non-cancerous change caused by prolonged exposure to UV radiation, through natural sunlight or tanning beds.
The dermis is made up of thick bundles of a specialized protein called collagen that looks pink when examined under the microscope. After prolonged exposure to UV radiation, the collagen is replaced by another specialized protein called elastin, which looks like small wavy fibers when examined under the microscope. The loss of collagen results in small wrinkles that can be seen on the surface of the skin.
Although solar elastosis is a non-cancerous change in the dermis, it is a sign that the skin has been exposed to a large amount of UV radiation. Prolonged UV radiation is associated with an increased risk of developing skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.