BY CHRISTI BLEVINS
You probably grew up singing songs about sunny days chasing the clouds away, but there were no childhood songs about the premature aging caused by sun damage. It’s probably just as well, but if you’ve indulged in too much fun in the sun, there are some procedures that can help reverse the appearance of sun damage. Now, that’s a reason to sing.
It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
Finding yourself with visible sun damage is analogous to movies and sitcoms that portray a teenager throwing a party when mom and dad left town for the weekend. Just like spending too much time in the sun, the party sounded like a good idea at the time. Then things got out of control, and before you knew it, you were left to face the damage.
Here are some of the types of skin damage noticed by sun worshippers:
- Hyperpigmentation (better known as sunspots)
- Uneven skin tone
- Melasma (brown patches of skin)
- Collagen breakdown (noticed as saggy skin)
- Actinic keratosis (rough, scaly patches or skin growths)
A Pound of Cure
Since we don’t always choose an ounce of prevention, think of these procedures as your pound of cure.
Sunlight got you into this mess, and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments may help you get out of it. IPL (also known as photofacial) effectively treats dark spots and rosacea caused by sun damage, among other things. There is virtually no downtime after IPL, and treatment can be done in a short office visit. For best results, plan on investing in a package of two or three treatments and having an IPL “tune-up” every three to four months.
Another option is laser skin resurfacing. Different types of skin resurfacing lasers are used to treat sunspots, reduce the appearance of fine lines, improve skin elasticity and tone, and more. Multiple sessions are usually required, and downtime can range from very minimal, if any, to a week or so, depending on the laser and how aggressive the treatment is.
Chemical peels can treat discoloration and improve your skin’s texture by removing the top layer of skin. They vary widely in strength, ranging from mild treatments with an alpha-hydroxy acid or a glycolic acid to deeper trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels. Expect to experience some redness and peeling skin for a few days following the procedure. New skin will become visible after several days.
Cryotherapy is a freezing technique where liquid nitrogen is applied to actinic keratosis. Expect a little stinging sensation followed by some redness and swelling. A blister may form the following day, followed by a scab. When the scab falls off in one to three weeks, it will reveal new skin.
Retinol can even skin tone, fade sunspots, and diminish fine lines and wrinkles. It may even prevent precancerous lesions from forming. Retinol is available in many over-the-counter products as a topical cream or gel. If you’ve tried the drug-store varieties but didn’t get the results you were seeking, ask your medical professional if prescription-strength retinol is right for you. Unless you have extremely sensitive skin, retinol is an excellent way to lessen the effects of sun damage. Part of the beauty of retinol is that it can be a worthwhile addition to the procedures mentioned earlier.
Closely follow your skincare provider’s aftercare guidelines for all of these treatments.