I often see patients in my office who know they have visible sun damage but don’t know what to do to lessen the signs of this sun aging. Or, patients know of technologies available but are overwhelmed by all the options and need help navigating what will best address their concerns. The good news is that there are wonderful treatments and products available to make significant impact in this area of aging. I’ve put together below a guide for patients to help get them started on the path to reversing their photo damage. Hopefully this information will be helpful to you!
Protect the Skin with Daily Sunscreen Application
I can’t stress this enough with patients. Photo damage occurs when the skin is overwhelmed by harmful UV rays. While these rays are strongest during the sun’s peak hours (11am-3pm), they occur during all daylight hours. The damage that occurs is not just with pigmentation in the skin. These harmful rays deteriorate structure and function in the skin resulting in loss of elasticity, wrinkling, rough texture, discoloration, loss of collagen, loss of elastin, freckling, and skin cancer. If your makeup has sunscreen, that’s a great start, but it’s not enough to combat sun exposure all day. It is essential to use a topical sunscreen to provide stronger protection. The most important is broad spectrum sunscreen for the face. I often have patients that use their body sunscreens for their face which can lead to clogged pores, breakouts, and an overall lack luster look to the facial skin. My personal favorite face sunscreen for daytime is SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical SPF 50. It’s a fabulous protective sunscreen that is oil free. It dries matte on the skin leaving you feeling protected, not greasy.
Repair and Protect the Skin with Antioxidants
Antioxidants are an essential part of nourishing and protecting the skin, as well as helping to reverse the damage caused from ongoing sun exposure. If you think about it, what we’re basically trying to do is delay the normal aging of skin, which ages as all organs do. Did you know that our bodies are under continuous attack by free radicals (highly reactive atoms that damage cells in the body) every day? Over-exposure to sun, toxins in food, pollution, second hand smoke, car fumes, and even stress can all create free radicals. On the inside, free radical damage contributes to various diseases including cancers, degenerative diseases, and inflammatory illnesses, but these same free radicals are also responsible for the entire aging process itself! Free radical damage to the skin causes the visible signs of aging we see such as fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and hyperpigmentation. Antioxidants help the body protect itself from free radicals by inactivating them before they can cause cellular damage. There are hundreds of antioxidants that exist but on a topical level, vitamin C and E are powerful antioxidants that work synergistically to help keep the skin healthy. Patients ask me regularly about my recommendations with antioxidants. I most often recommend SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic. It combines vitamins C and E in an absorbent serum and stabilizes the antioxidants with Ferulic acid, a common plant compound. I have seen wonderful changes in the skin by using this product.
Reduce Current Sun Damage with Laser Treatments
Laser treatments, often referred to as “photofacials” are growing in popularity for their many benefits to the skin. Photofacials are a key treatment for reducing brown sun damage spots, diminishing broken capillaries as well as helping reduce redness from rosacea and reddened skin, and improving fine lines as well as pore size. They treat this type of damage by delivering a light pulse to the skin that is attracted to skin pigment. As the light is directed to these damaged areas it shatters and pulls the pigment to the surface of the skin where it will slough off, similar to how skin will peel with a mild sunburn. Photofacials require little to no downtime which is appealing to many who are unable to free their schedules for the significant downtime of harsher peels or fractionated lasers. These treatments can make incredible strides in reversing current environmental damage causing premature aging and discoloration. It is even more critical after use of these lasers to continue with a good skin care regimen. It will enhance the results of the laser treatment and help prevent further skin damage in the future.