Reverse + Renew: Minimizing the Effects of Sun Damage


While spending time out in the sun has long been a perk of summer, the warmth of those glorious rays that you so love to feel on your skin is doing more than just giving you an enviable tan. And far more than any compliments you’ll bask in the glow of receiving, the regret you’ll feel as your skin begins to show the deep damage of the sun is something that should make you a proponent of sunscreens and other methods of protecting your beautiful skin from the ravages of the rays.

Unfortunately, it’s not always a matter of preventing sun damage—it’s a matter of reversing the effects of sun damage that’s already happened. We’re all guilty of it—not slathering ourselves with lotion before we go out for a day at the beach or wearing less than an ideal amount of protection of any kind when we’re not in the shade. But even indirect sunlight that streams in the car window can accumulate over time to cause leathery skin, age spots, wrinkles, and premature aging.

"Regardless of the reason your for your own personal sun-damaged skin, there are a number of ways to mitigate that damage."

Regardless of the reason for your own personal sun-damaged skin, there are a number of ways to help mitigate that damage. Treatments and products are being newly introduced all of the time—some more effective than others, of course—but whatever the type of issue and whatever the type of skin you have, there’s a way to give the sun a run for its money and restore the health and beauty of your skin.

Age spots and freckles are often a big indication of sun damage that’s taken time to come out and play. Even on occasions when you’re not going out to spend an extended period of time in the sun, it’s still important to apply sunscreen with a high SPF and broad-spectrum UVA/UVB on any age spots you have. This helps prevent existing age spots from darkening and becoming more noticeable. Summer might be over now and you might not be getting the same amount of sun, but it’s still important to use lotions with sunscreen in them because most damage to the skin is the result of casual or incidental sun exposure. For treatment of pre-existing spots, retinol-based products are especially effective as they work by increasing skin cell turnover, which has the happy result of fading the spots.

We’ve all seen how leathery-looking the skin looks on someone who’s spent decades in the sun without ever once giving a sideways glance at a bottle of sunscreen. But even if you’ve tried to be careful, it’s not always possible to avoid the full strength of the sun. There are those unexpected outings to the park, the walks from store to store while you’re hitting the summer sales, the long and leisurely lunches out on the patio of the area’s trendiest restaurant. Whatever the reason for your over-exposure to the sun, you can end up with the unfortunate effects staring you back in the mirror as it all accumulates to cause skin that looks leathery and dry. Using a high SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen is key in preventing further damage, but moisturizing is also an essential tool for keeping skin looking soft and smooth. Use rich, moisturizing cleansers and follow up application with a healthy dose of nourishing moisturizers. Also try using a smoothing scrub two to three times a week to help slough off the dry, dead skin. Your complexion will appear brighter and become softer, smoother, and more radiant.

"No matter your age, sun safety is important to keeping your skin looking healthy & youthful."

If all of your time in the sun has left you with more extensive damage than can be relieved through product use and a few healthier habits, try chemical peels. For the treatment of older, medium-depth spots, chemical peels that include ingredients such as trichloroacetic acid (TCA) or glycolic acid superficially wound the skin to initiate the body’s natural healing reaction to expel dark pigment. Newer sunspots on very pale complexions can be treated in a single TCA treatment though most people require three to four appointments, plus one to two follow-up treatments annually to maintain the effects.

Lasers are also an effective method to treat sun damage though they do require a recovery period of about a week. On the downside, you may look sunburned and experience peeling, but over time, the texture of your skin will improve. So will the appearance of fine lines and other signs of sun damage.

No matter your true age, sun safety is important to keeping your skin looking healthy and youthful. But even if you’re starting to notice the effects of too much time out in the sun, you still have options for returning some of the radiance and healthy tone of your skin, so talk with your dermatologist to find the perfect solution for you.

ASK THE DOC

Want a specialist’s advice? Dr. Kimberly Lehman of Lehman Advanced Dermatology in Clarksville, Tennessee has a few recommendations:

Chemical Peels: “Chemical peels give skin a more brilliant, smooth, and even appearance and require minimal downtime.”

Laser Genesis: “I recommend the excel V laser, which utilizes different wavelengths to take care of any unwanted redness or brown spots that may be a result of too much sun exposure,” says Lehman. “Typically, patients require multiple treatments to achieve their goals.”

Microneedling: “Microneedling is a great option for the treatment of fine lines and unwanted brown spots and is especially effective in improving skin texture. During this procedure, tiny needles are used to create controlled micro-injuries to the skin in order to produce collagen and elastin. The skin’s repair process results in a more even skin tone and texture.”

Retinols: “Products with the ingredient retinol help with improvement of fine lines as well as the evening of skin coloration, smoothing skin texture, and increasing overall brilliance.”