BRONZED Love Island star Laura Anderson loved nothing more than topping up her tan in the sunshine.
But now a skin expert has warned the 32-year-old her skin is like that of a woman at least a decade older.
The former air hostess, who starred on the ITV2 hit show in 2018, was not aware of the harm sunbeds and tanning could do if you don’t use proper sunscreen.
Laura says: “When I was younger I’d head to the tanning salon twice a month for a sunbed, and always before a holiday.
I’d refuse factor 30 — that was something my mum would wear. I used to completely expose my face to the sun.”
Now the influencer, who last year moved to Dubai with boyfriend Dane Bowers, 41, the former boyband singer, has bared all under a UV light to expose the extent of the sun damage.
Plastic surgeon and skincare specialist Mr Paul Banwell (paulebanwell.com), who analysed the pictures, says: “The images of Laura are from a skin analysis machine and highlight melanin deposition in the skin, which in turn is a reflection of sun damage.
Laura has severe pigmentation, which will have been directly impacted by use of sunbeds and time in the sun without sunscreen.”
Agreeing, the founder of Beauti Skin Clinic, Cinzia Campigotto, says: “You would expect this type of skin for someone who’s in their early forties.
“We can see she rarely used sunblock when she was younger, as the UVA rays have radically damaged the fibroblasts in the skin.
“Fibroblasts are what keep the skin healthy and by damaging these, the melanocytes start to shoot irregularly. This is why we get pigmentation.
“When our skin is attacked by UVA rays, the melanocytes react, forming the colour of a tan.
“When the fibroblast is damaged, the melanocytes are not able to do their job properly and shoot pigments out, which appears later in life as skin pigmentation.
“UVA rays can get through anything — clouds, windows, our clothes — which is why it is essential to wear sunscreen every day, all year round.”
One in ten women say they sunbathe for five hours a day on a two-week holiday, according to a Dove survey.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds increases the risk of deadly skin cancer.
In fact, one in four women said they consider tanning so important that a holiday is not “successful” if they do not return home looking bronzed.
With naturally freckled skin, Laura — who would use factor four oil — only realised the damage to her skin when Love Island viewers commented on her looks on social media.
Cruel jibes included, “Laura has a freckle for every year she’s lived on planet Earth,” and: “Laura defo lied about her age. She looks old.”
She says: “I used to think it was freckles but I went on TV and had people constantly comment on it.
If I go out in the sun, I hide my face with a hat
“I realised it was a bit of a problem. I never wore make-up during those days, so people noticed my skin more. It was shocking.”
Now she works hard to take care of her skin with a beauty regime that includes wearing factor-150 SPF.
She adds: “I have a 25-step beauty regime in the hope of saving my skin. I use a lot of retinoids, vitamin C, eye creams, and a skin range for pigmentation.
“I have lots of peels and facials and I educated myself on what is out there to help with my pigmentation. My skin has improved so much.”
But she says: “After all of my skin routines, the results of the picture are still shocking.
“If I go out in the sun, I hide my face with a hat. I have an SPF, I even put it up to my hairline and on my ears and on my eyelids. I mainly wear factor 50, even if I don’t go outside.”
‘LIE BY THE POOL ALL DAY’
Dr Banwell says damage from the sun is not seen for ten to 20 years after exposure.
He adds: “Changes include wrinkles, enlarged blood vessels and dark sun spots. There’s also a much higher risk of skin cancers including melanoma.
“If your sunspots change in colour, shape or they bleed and crust, see a dermatologist.”
Laura says: “Quite a few people in my family have had scares, had moles removed, had skin cancer. That makes me think we need to talk about it a lot more.
“When you are young, you don’t realise how much damage you are doing to your skin. Then you get a bit of a fright because you need to get a mole checked or cut out.”
As a teenager, Laura often used sunbeds. But when she moved to Dubai aged 21 to work for the airline Emirates, she soaked up the year-round sunshine.
She says: “I thought sunbeds were great. They were cheap and you got a tan at the end of it. Then I moved to Dubai — and I was there for eight years before Love Island.
I have a fear of ageing, of course. Your skin is what shows your age
“Sunbathing is what you did out there with your friends. You’d meet up and lie by the pool all day.
“I never thought about sun damage to my skin. I’d just whack on an oil. It’s almost like you want to get burnt — because then you put after-sun on it and then it turns into a tan.”
Now older and wiser, Laura says: “What I would say to my younger self is to drink water because I was brought up drinking fizzy juice and Irn Bru.
“I have a fear of ageing, of course. Your skin is what shows your age. And my main focus is probably my face, so I just want to do everything I can.”
Skincare expert Cinzia says: “Ideally, Laura needs to do a set of skin peels that will help to rebuild new skin.
“However, when sun damage occurs, there is nothing you can really do to get rid of it. Laura could use pigment suppressants so when she goes in the sun or is exposed to light.
FAKE TAN ‘HEALTHY WAY TO GO’
The pigment will not resurface in the skin. There are usually medical-grade products that develop this sort of treatment.”
Laura now says she would rather fake her tan. She says: “It makes me feel good and I think every girl feels better about themselves when they are more brown.
“I know it’s safer — and sunbathing is such an effort. For a while, fake tan was seen as a mess. No one could put it on right and some people would judge.
“It was almost like wearing too much make-up. But now it is praised more as the healthiest way to go.” As for getting older, Laura says she is now embracing it.
She says: “People say life begins at 40. I am just going to focus on improving my skin naturally.
“I would like my boyfriend to be attracted to me — and to look cute all the time. Why not?”
HOW TO PROTECT SKIN FROM SUN DAMAGE
CREAM: Include a high-SPF cream (30-plus) in your daily skincare routine, even on overcast days.
SHADE: Avoid the sun’s most damaging UV rays, between 10am and 4pm.
GREENS: Eat plenty of leafy greens, which are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
WATER: Drink at least two litres of H20 a day to stay hydrated, refreshed and maintain the skin’s elasticity.
SCRUB UP: Dead skin cells can block skincare products, so remove with a gentle scrub or exfoliator.