Our desire for a keen bronze tan has often had us spending long and lazy days out lounging in the sun in our youth. While we may have achieved the deeply craved tan, we are apparently also getting more than that as we fast-forward decades down the line and take a second look. You wouldn’t have thought that some of the chores you carry out every day and your favorite pastimes such as mowing the lawn, laying by the pool, and walking the dog could cause you to develop wrinkles in later life, would you? Of course, our summer activities aren’t left out either. You may have included beach days, outdoor runs, or camping trips in your warm-weather plans. Either way, it’s almost certain that you got to soak up some amount of sunlight.
Now your face, neck, arms, and chest show evidence of those hours of carefree and unprotected sun exposure. It appears in the form of sun-damaged skin with uneven pigmentation, wrinkles, freckles, reduced skin elasticity, sun spots, among others. Fortunately, at our clinic, many skin rejuvenation treatment options are available which can help you to take care of these skin problems caused by sun damage.
What makes sun exposure so harmful?
When ultraviolet light rays reach the skin, they come in contact with the skin’s melanin. It is the melanin that offers protection from sun damage. However, exposure to UV rays in excess results in sunburn as this overwhelms the extent of melanin protection. When this excessive UV exposure occurs repeatedly, the result is various signs of premature aging.
Not only can exposure to the sun cause damage to your looks, but it can also increase your risk of developing different types of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen daily is important even on overcast days because on such days, you still have exposure to UV rays.
Even though generous applications of a broad-spectrum sunscreen is beneficial as a needed first line of defense against sun damage, many people hardly use enough and others don’t remember to reapply after the first. This leads to damage that alters the DNA – one that remains well beyond the sunset.
At our clinic, we advise our patients to apply sunscreen liberally and also wear protective clothing and accessories like hats and sunglasses when out in the bright sunlight as this is the best way to maintain healthy and youthful-looking skin. As always, prevention is better and easier.
Can the effects of sun exposure be reversed?
There are various interventions for sun damage ranging from topical creams and gels applied daily to mechanical and chemical treatments such as skin peels and laser therapy. These treatments are able to smoothen wrinkled or roughened skin, fade uneven pigmentation, reduce large pores and even induce collagen production in the dermis of the skin.
Some of the best procedures and treatments that can alleviate the cosmetic effects of sun damage include:
This is a non-surgical procedure carried out by a dermatologist with the use of different solutions in order to improve the appearance of the skin. Chemical peels are used in the treatment of various skin issues, from acne to wrinkles, and work by the use of various acid blends that exfoliate the skin chemically. Chemical peels take out the outermost skin layers to allow new and clear skin to come up to the surface. This usually has the added effect of simultaneously removing areas of uneven pigmentation, fine lines, and precancerous lesions.
The whole process is relatively straightforward and gives room for customized treatment results. The depth employed for the treatment varies from superficial to medium or deep. The choice of depth is determined by skin type as well as the aesthetic and therapeutic goal. The solution strength which is most suitable for your type of skin and needs will be determined by your provider during the treatment. These solutions can include blends of relatively milder alpha- and beta-hydroxy acid as well as stronger blends of carbolic and trichloroacetic acids. Some tingling or burning sensations while the treatment is ongoing is largely normal and expected.
Depending on the desired depth of the peel, chemical peels can be either done in a series or can be a one-time therapy. Generally, stronger chemical peels need fewer sessions (sometimes one session is enough) but on the flip side, they require months of downtime, and side effects such as redness and swelling are more commonly experienced. On the other hand, milder peel versions require multiple visits which can be expensive but have more minimal downtime.
After the chemical peel procedure, the next few days will see dead skin cells starting to flake off and a brighter and smoother complexion being the result. During this time, strong protection from the sun is an absolute necessity.
Arguably one of the most effective procedures to correct skin issues, many different kinds of lasers are available which can be used on almost all body surfaces including the face, neck and chest, in order to help with reducing the cosmetic side effects of sun damage. Laser treatments generally take less than 30 minutes and downtime may vary depending on the type of laser employed.
Even though it may be confusing to decide where to begin owing to the numerous options available, many dermatologists agree that CO2, Fraxel, and picosecond lasers are one of the most popular when it comes to the treatment of skin textural changes, wrinkles, and uneven pigmentation resulting from UV damage.
A popular choice for skin laser resurfacing, CO2 lasers are commonly beneficial in treating age spots, deep wrinkles, and enlarged pores that are caused by sun exposure. With the current technological innovations, thin skin layers are removed using devices that either use short pulsed light energy or employ continuous light beams. The procedure has minimal to no impact on the adjacent tissues and even though the downtime can take several weeks, the resultant effects can persist for many years.
Fraxel Laser Treatments
Fraxel lasers are suitable for several skin types and various skin problems such as sun damage, acne, crow’s feet, melasma, chickenpox scars, sun spots, lip lines, and stretch marks. About three to five sessions are usually enough, followed by yearly maintenance treatments, with an estimated downtime of about one week.
An increasingly popular non-invasive procedure, Ultherapy is useful in addressing skin laxity and not only texture and tone. It lifts and tightens loose skin with little to no associated downtime. It works with ultrasound energy which heats up the dermis of the skin, thereby creating micro-injuries. New collagen is produced as the skin heals, and this has a lifting effect.
Not only does Ultherapy have a firming effect on facial areas such as the brows and chin including the neck, but it also helps to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines that appear on the décolletage. This treatment lasts about 30 – 90 minutes, and this is dependent on the area treated. Full results can be seen in as long as 6 months and patients may choose to go for maintenance treatments yearly or every two years.
Intense Pulse Light (IPL)
IPL therapy is another gentle and effective way to improve the effects of sun damage including age spots, wrinkle lines, and uneven pigmentation. It works by the transmission of light energy in multiple wavelengths which is targeted against pigmented or damaged skin cells, heating them up and causing them to break down, after which they’re eliminated from the body.
Because of the capacity to deliver multiple wavelengths, IPL can treat a larger area of skin compared to laser therapy which typically delivers single wavelengths. However, a downside to this mode of treatment is that it is not suitable for darker skin tones, being more effective on light brown or white skin.
Therapy sessions usually last around 30-45 minutes depending on the targeted treatment areas and following a course of several treatments, your skin visibly brightens and smoothes out gradually.
IPL therapy is not associated with any downtime even though sun protection is highly recommended due to the increased sensitivity of the skin immediately after treatment.
This is a non-invasive aesthetic procedure that makes use of fine crystals to gently exfoliate the skin surface using a hand-held device, in order to remove the topmost layer, resulting in a younger and rejuvenated look. It can be used to treat sun-damaged skin, uneven skin tone and texture, dull complexion, age spots, and melasma, among others.
Treatment sessions typically last about 30-45 minutes and although effects can be observed shortly after, multiple sessions are needed for optimal results.
Microdermabrasion is an in-office procedure and as such, requires no anesthesia and has little to no side effects as well as downtime. As with most other cosmetic treatments for sun-damaged skin, sun protection is necessary following treatment.