Can you reverse sun damage to your skin?
Article medically reviewed by Dr. Gavin Chan (MBBS, cosmetic doctor, liposuctionist)
Templestowe Lower, Berwick and Beaumaris Clinics
Dr. Gavin Chan has a background in intensive care, anaesthesia, and emergency medicine. Since 2005, Dr. Chan has provided cosmetic procedures, including anti-wrinkle injections, dermal fillers, liposuction and laser treatments. He is a doctor trainer for various dermal fillers and anti-wrinkle injections. Read More
Soaking up UV rays on a hot sunny day sounds like an easy way to get a nice bronze tan. In just a few years, however, that tanned skin may start showing signs of sun damage, regardless of your age. You may find yourself noticing wrinkles and skin damage forming on your face, as well as dark spots and uneven pigmentation across your body.
Your skin’s health is important not only for your appearance, but also for your overall well being. Although sun exposure affects every person differently, the best way to start reversing sun damage is by preventing further damage. The next step, however, is seeing a nurse, skin therapist or doctor for treatment options.
How does the sun affect your skin?
As one of the most significant causes of ageing skin, excessive UV radiation should be avoided at all costs. UV rays not only cause damage in the top layer of skin, but can penetrate down into the dermal layer, where blood vessels lay and collagen production occurs. This means that the sun does not just affect your skin on the surface, but excessive amounts can cause damage to your skin’s structural support.
Through excessive UV exposure, you may find yourself developing:
- Uneven pigmentation
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Visible blood vessels
- Skin laxity and sagging
- Poor skin texture, including rough or dry skin
When the DNA of particular cells of the body are inflicted with excessive sun damage, your chances of developing skin cancers are greatly increased. Often, skin cancer looks like unobtrusive dark spots or red bumps, which can easily be mistaken for other less life-threatening skin conditions. In the case of you being unsure as to what extent the sun has affected your skin, it is best to book in with a skin doctor to get yourself checked out.
What does sun damaged skin look like?
Sun damaged skin commonly appears on the face, chest or neck, which are usually the most exposed parts of the body. Prolonged sun exposure causes redness and scaliness of the skin, often forming raised patches that, when peeled off, leave pink or red spots for several days.
While this kind of damage often occurs after frequent sunburns, it is not the only change to skin texture that can occur. Sun damage can also cause different types of spots, including:
- Freckles: The result of an overproduction of melatonin, these little dots of pigmentation are usually harmless.
- Seborrhoeic Keratosis: A benign wart that is often dark in colour and can appear anywhere on the body.
- Solar Keratosis: A scaly spot on the skin that is precancerous cells, therefore indicating a risk of skin cancer.
- Solar Comedones: Blackheads and whiteheads caused by sun damage.
- Brown Spots: Often also referred to as liver spots, this skin condition is more commonly seen in people over the age of 40. They manifest as patches of dark skin.
- Seborrhoeic Hyperplasia: Occurs when oil glands become enlarged, making the skin yellow and raised in small bumps.
Why should I treat sun damaged skin?
Sun damage significantly reduces your body’s natural healing properties, making it difficult for your skin to recover from sun burns or tanning the more time you spend in the sun. This makes it less effective at dealing with particularly malicious attacks, which leaves you open to developing skin cancer.
Additionally, by taking care of any sun damage present on your skin before it becomes malignant, you can significantly improve your appearance. Utilising sun protection prevents the development of age spots and broken capillaries, leaving you with healthier and more youthful skin.
How do you get rid of sun damage?
Most forms of sun damage can be prevented by using appropriate sun protection and avoiding overexposure to harmful UV radiation. In the case of your skin already being damaged, however, there are still various treatment options available for any type of sun damage possible.
Co2 fractional laser therapy focuses on improving skin texture and the signs of fine lines, utilising carbon dioxide to resurface the skin. The Co2 is used to remove dead skin cells from your face and body. While this is often used to treat acne scars, it can also even out pigmentation and remove sun spots.
Anti wrinkle injections
Anti wrinkle injections are commonly used to treat wrinkles on the face caused by the muscles of facial expressions. By targeting and relaxing the facial muscles, the lines are softened, creating a smoother appearance.
However, the lines and wrinkles caused by sun damage can also be treated with anti wrinkle injections. Your doctor can prepare a treatment plan for you to determine how much and how much you should be receiving anti wrinkle injections.
By gently exfoliating the surface of the skin with a precision diamond tool, microdermabrasion can improve your skin texture and tone. The treatment improves the appearance of most signs of UV damage, including wrinkles, uneven pigmentation, age spots, and redness, amongst others.
Focused on treating the visible effect of vascular conditions, the Gemini laser targets capillaries and blood vessels,, as well as any pigmentation concerns. This laser therapy can be used on the face, chest and neck to reduce redness, uneven skin tone, and some types of raised spots.
Differing from the Gemini laser treatment by emitting a differently coloured wavelength, the Ruby laser’s main uses are in tattoo and skin pigmentation removal. The laser therapy breaks up the uneven pigmentation caused by sun damage, which is then flushed out by the body’s immune system.
Infini RF needling
A combination of radiofrequency (RF) and microneedling, Infini RF needling stimulates collagen production to tighten the skin, improving skin texture, signs of lines and acne scars. The skin needling penetrates deeply, enhancing skin elasticity, which works well against the skin laxity prevalent in sun damaged skin.
There are numerous skin benefits to using chemical peels, as the exfoliation of several layers of skin allows for rejuvenation of collagen production and the appearance of your complexion. Chemical peels are known to work well on sun damaged skin, including pigmentation issues, redness, and any scaliness or superficial scarring.
Topical treatments for sun damaged skin
Alongside non-surgical treatments, you can also utilise topical treatments to help with treating your sun damaged skin. Please consult your skin therapist or doctor before using these topical treatments.
These topical treatments work to reduce the effects of the sun on your skin, exfoliating the damaged layers or changing the turnover of skin cells.
Vitamin A (Retinoids)
Vitamin A is an antioxidant and essential nutrient that supports several bodily functions.
Vitamin A can reduce the appearance of dark spots associated with sun damage by encouraging a faster turnover of your skin cells. This heightened renewal of skin cells will help your skin reduce redness and pigmentation, especially when used in the form of a pigmentation serum or retinol serums. Vitamin A skin care also stimulates collagen production, reduces the size of pores, and lightens the appearance of brown spots. Click here to learn more about retinol serums.
It should be noted that Vitamin A can be irritating to some people’s skin, so it is important to introduce a low dosage first before looking at more intense products. Knowing what skin type you have can also help you choose the right Vitamin A product for you. Vitamin A should always be used in conjunction with adequate sunscreen usage.
Antioxidants like Vitamin C slow the degeneration of your skin caused by harmful chemicals or free radicals. While it can be found naturally in fruits and vegetables, it can also be included in your skincare routine through Vitamin C serums. These products may cause a reaction in those who have sensitive skin. This can be tested through a patch test and can be overcome by using sensitive skincare products.
Vitamin C skin care is known to help slow down visible signs of ageing, as well as prevent the breakdown of collagen to minimise sagging skin and wrinkles. Click here to learn more about skin brightening serums.
Exfoliants are products designed to remove dead skin cells from your face and body, and can be done manually with a granular scrub or by applying chemical exfoliants. We do not recommend using a granular scrub as these can be quite damaging to the skin. You should not exfoliate too much, however, as you could damage your skin’s barrier, leaving you with irritation, redness and peeling. Always follow the instructions included with your exfoliant.
You may notice your skin becoming dry or dull after being damaged by the sun. This is due to your skin cells’ turnover rate being significantly slowed by the damage, leaving you with an uneven skin tone and blemishes. Chemical exfoliants can be used on affected areas to stimulate the turnover rate once more and renew your skin.
Lightening agents can help reduce the amount of melanin in the skin and reduce the appearance of skin discolouration. They are often used once or twice a day, but more potent products may require more time between applications. Furthermore, once the discolouration is gone, you will need to maintain its appearance by the occasional application every few weeks.
Lightening agents typically use the compound of hydroquinone, which can reduce the appearance of blemishes, sun spots, and uneven pigmentation. Kojic acid and arbutin can also help lighten your skin, but the best product will depend on your skin type.
Vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide can help improve an uneven skin tone, diminish skin dullness and also help with pore visibility. Implementing Vitamin B serums and creams into your skincare routine may help repair some sun damage to your skin.
They may help restore your skin’s health, decrease signs of pigmentation, redness and wrinkles, while also improving your skin’s elasticity.
Using sunscreen can help prevent UV rays from penetrating the skin. Sunscreen is also an effective treatment for existing sun damage. It stops further damage like fine lines or brown spots from forming, while also improving skin tone through its moisturising agents.
Including sunscreen in your daily routine goes a long way to protect you from harmful agents like free radicals and UV rays. It is best to use a sunscreen with at least SPF30. It is also important to look for sunscreens that effectively hydrate and moisturise your skin.
How can I protect my skin from sun damage?
Protecting yourself from the sun is not just a summer time necessity, but rather a year round affair. This is because UV rays can reach you even on cloudy or cold days. Therefore, you should ensure that you are suitably covered up and protected whenever you spend time outside. These measures are easy to undertake daily, but special care should be taken on days forecasted to have a UV index of 3 or higher. It is these days that chances for developing skin cancers are much higher.
Seek shade where possible
When outside, you can greatly reduce your risk of sun damage by ensuring you are not in direct sunlight. Staying under the shade of a tree, umbrella, or building lowers the chances of your skin being burnt.
Wear protective clothing
Clothing that covers your skin is another useful protective measure against the sun. This may be long-sleeved shirts or jumpers, as well as full length pants or skirts. Those that are made from tightly woven fabric are more beneficial than loose, but it should be noted that wet clothing will lose a significant amount of its protective qualities. This is important to remember when at the beach, but clothing brands that are created to offer UV protection can help in this matter.
Use a hat when outdoors
Caps and visors may protect your face from the sun, but hats with a brim all the way around will shade areas that you may forget about. Your ears and the back of your neck can still be damaged by the sun, so a wide brim will ensure they remain covered. Hats made of straw should be avoided as they have holes in them. Rather, hats should be worn when they are made from woven fabrics like canvas.
While they cannot get burnt, your eyes can still be damaged by the sun. Sunglasses block UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts, but they do also protect the vulnerable skin around your eyes from being burnt. It is best to choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
Perhaps most importantly, sunscreen should be applied daily before you go outside. While other options provide sun protection, they may still leave vulnerable places on your skin. Sunscreen both fills in these gaps and provides coverage across the entirety of your skin.
Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be worn on any exposed skin, but the higher the number the better this Sun Protection Factor blocks UV rays. It should be remembered that sunscreen will always work best in conjunction with other options. Always reapply every 2 hours, and especially when swimming or sweating, for optimal protection.
Where to get sun damaged skin treatment in Melbourne?
Considering seeking treatment for your sun damaged skin? It is integral to find a trained and skilled practitioner who can care for you and your skin. Here at the Victorian Cosmetic Institute, our team of Doctors, Nurses and Skin Therapists have over a decade of experience in treating sun damaged skin.
We can recommend the treatment that works best for you. To find out about the range of skin treatments we have available at our clinic, book online, or phone our friendly Customer Care team on 1300 863 824 to enquire about your consultation options.