How to Repair Sun-Damaged Skin

Summer typically has us giving more thought to sun protection. The topic is an important one, not only because of the dangerous potential for skin cancer, but also because of the visible damage that sun can do to our skin. In fact, experts believe photodamage, the technical term for sun-damaged skin, may account for a whopping  90 percent of age-associated cosmetic skin problems, including wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, broken capillaries, rough texture and poor laxity. Simply put, UV exposure, whether from the sun or tanning beds, is our skin's worst nightmare.

Skin damage is cumulative. In other words, the damage you see on your face today is the result of each time you've exposed your skin to UV rays, going back to your childhood. That fact may make photodamage sound daunting. But the good news is that it can be reversed to some degree. Here's how to repair sun damaged skin:

1. Stop the Damage!

Start practicing proper sun protection practices immediately to prevent further skin damage. Wear a  broad-spectrum sunscreen every single day - regardless of the weather or how much time you plan to spend outdoors. (Any time our skin is exposed to natural light - even when just driving in the car or sitting at your desk - skin damage can occur.) For added protection, be sure that all exposed areas of skin are fully covered.

When selecting the sun protection factor (SPF) of your sunscreen, consider that SPF 15 protects skin from 93% of UV rays, while SPF 30 protects against 96-97%. Sunscreens beyond SPF 30 offer only a minimum increase in protection. For example, between SPF 30 and SPF 60, there is only a .1% increase in protection. (Learn more in our post, " Is SPF 15 Enough?")

Beyond simply wearing sunscreen, ensure that you're using enough. One ounce - the equivalent of a shot glass - is the average amount most adults need to properly protect their body.

2. Exfoliate Regularly

To reverse the signs of sun damage, few at-home practices are as effective as  exfoliation. Sun damage causes the skin's natural process of cellular turnover to become inefficient, leading to a buildup of dead skin cells (keratin) on the surface of the skin and a thinning of the dermis layer, where beneficial skin proteins, like collagen, are created. By exfoliating regularly with an effective product like AloeGlyC®, the keratin layer thins, leading to improved skin texture and tone. Simultaneously, the dermis becomes thicker and stronger, which results in improved elasticity and overall skin health. 

3. Address Hyperpigmentation

Areas of brown, hyperpigmented skin are often called "age spots" or "liver spots" - nicknames that are misleading since the spots are most often caused by sun exposure, not age or related to the liver. To minimize hyperpigmentation, turn to a lightening product that incorporates effective ingredients like hydroquinone or kojic acid, such as Lexli  Lightening Lift. For stubborn or severe hyperpigmentation, you may need to ask your dermatologist about prescription-strength products.

4. Increase Your Antioxidant Protection

UV rays damage the skin by encouraging the production of free radicals that attack healthy skin cells.  Antioxidants help to prevent that damage by disarming free radicals. Because our bodies don't store antioxidants, it's important that we restore our supplies regularly. Eating a healthy diet full of antioxidant-rich foods like nuts, berries, leafy greens, beans and fish is the best way to keep your antioxidant stores high. Additionally, using topical products that feature antioxidants helps to optimize the skin's protection from the sun.

5. Incorporate Professional Treatments

While a comprehensive and consistent at-home skin care regimen can dramatically improve sun damaged skin, for optimal improvement, professional treatments may be necessary. During your annual skin exam with a dermatologist, be sure to ask him or her about treatments like chemical peels, laser therapy and microdermabrasion. Or, consult an esthetician who can make a professional recommendation regarding the treatments that are most appropriate for your skin.

Finally, while we can all agree that a tan gives our skin an attractive glow, keep in mind that tanning protects the skin from burns and is, therefore, the first sign that our skin is being damaged. Instead, opt for a glow that comes from a bottle. By doing so, you can keep your skin looking younger, longer.

Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A Back-to-Basics Approach Book

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