Problematic Skin In-Depth: Sun Damage

Take a moment right now to think about the last time you were outside. Now ask yourself: were you wearing sunscreen then?

This may sound like a ridiculous question to ask in the middle of winter, especially since many people associate sunscreen with summer vacations at the beach. Unfortunately, the reality is that every minute we spend outside can add up over time and eventually lead to visible – or even permanent – skin damage; because of this, it’s important to know what can be done to prevent or treat skin damage year round.

Signs Of Sun Damage

Sun damage has the potential to cause a range of skin problems, which can be mild or serious depending on the severity of the sun damage itself. Most sun damage symptoms are categorized as photoaging symptoms, or unnatural aging that commonly manifests as premature wrinkling, freckling, skin discoloration, or coarse and dry skin. Other symptoms associated with sun damage include loose or sagging skin and the development of liver or age spots, moles, or even precancerous lesions or skin cancer.

Unfortunately, severe sun damage can actually affect the DNA in our skin and raise our risk of developing skin cancer. But while there are no surefire ways to treat this type of sun damage, there are skin resurfacing treatment methods available that will address the cosmetic effects of sun damage by improving the appearance of a patient’s skin.

Treating Sun Damage

There are several methods that dermatologists may use to treat the cosmetic results of sun damage in skin. Depending on the severity of a patient’s case, some professionals may recommend combining treatment methods for the best results. The following are the three methods you’d most likely discuss with a dermatologist if you were exploring cosmetic treatment options for sun damage:

  • Topical Creams: Depending on the severity of your skin damage, a dermatologist may prescribe a topical cream for you to use. Some topical creams only address wrinkles, blemishes and other imperfections caused by sun damage. Other creams, though, contain additional ingredients that encourage the immune system to produce interferon, a glycoproteins which can help the body destroy cancerous and precancerous cells. However, it’s important to remember that wrinkle cream may not effectively work on more severe sun damage symptoms; additionally, creams often need to be applied on a regular basis just to obtain minimal results. As a result, creams may help you to a degree but could still fail to give you the glowing results you want.
  • Skin Peels: When sun damage presents with mild cosmetic symptoms – including irregular pigmentation or superficial scarring – chemical peels can sometimes help improve affected skin’s appearance. The effectiveness of a chemical peel heavily depends on which type of treatment a patient gets, as different peels will affect different layers in the skin. Unfortunately, there are a number of negative potential side effects associated with chemical peels; for example, some patients experience persistent redness over a period of months, uneven skin pigmentation, and even scarring. Because of this it’s important to research the side effects of a specific chemical peel treatment, as well as to discuss your concerns with an experience dermatologist, before you undergo this treatment.
  • Laser Treatments: If you’re experiencing more severe signs of sun damage or you’re not pleased with results from other treatment attempts, laser treatments may be the best way to address your cosmetic needs. Lasers can safely and effectively treat a number of sun damage symptoms, including wrinkles and blemishes. Unlike chemical peels, laser treatments will gently vaporize moderate sun damage, resulting in a lower chance of experiencing negative side effects. However, it’s important to remember that the body’s natural aging process will still continue after a laser skin resurfacing treatment (as it will after any other skin treatment); because of this, patients who undergo laser treatments need to follow basic skin care guidelines continuously and year round after they finish treatment. There’s also a chance that additional laser treatments may be needed in the next 6 -18 months to keep your skin looking fresh and minimally damaged.

Taking Care Of Your Skin

While there are treatment options for individuals with sun damaged skin, ultimately the best way to treat this skin problem is to avoid it altogether. Following basic prevention guidelines and properly caring for your skin will go much further in preventing symptoms associated with damaged skin will be much more beneficial to your overall health than relying on cosmetic treatments.

If, however, you’d like to undergo a cosmetic treatment to complement your skin care regimen, we invite you to contact your doctor or dermatologist to see if a cosmetic treatment – including laser treatments – could help put a glow back into your skin.



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