5 Treatments to Revitalize Your Sun Damaged Skin
Updated: Sep 8
Sunlight plays an important role in the skin’s production of Vitamin D, an essential nutrient that helps regulate calcium and phosphate and keeps bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. It also provides optimal support for your immune system. However, prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays can be detrimental to your skin. Below, we cover a few ways that UV radiation can affect your skin, methods of protecting your skin, and ways to treat your skin if it sustains sun damage. And remember if your vitamin D levels are low, you can take supplements like our Metagenics Iso D3 supplement for added support.
How does sun exposure affect your skin?
Sunburn is the skin’s defensive reaction to intense ultra-violet (UV) exposure. When you receive too much UV radiation, your skin initiates an inflammatory response that causes blood vessels to dilate and skins cells to lose hydration. That sensation of tightness you feel when you get sunburn is a result of moisture loss. Skin cells then begin to produce melanin to help protect from more severe UV damage, which can alter the DNA of your cells. DNA damage can lead to skin cancer, so it is very important to avoid sunburn if possible.
2. Dry skin / rough patches
Even if sun damage doesn’t result in sunburn, excessive sun exposure can still lead to dry skin and rough patches. As we age, our skin naturally gets drier, but areas with sun damage will be even drier. Dry skin is itchy and uncomfortable. As UV exposure depletes your skin of hydration, the dryness can become worse and more extensive.
When you receive damage from UV rays, your skin loses collagen and elastin, two important proteins that help your skin remain smooth and firm. A breakdown of collagen and elastin can result in the onset of wrinkles. In some areas, elastic tissue thickens, for instance on the upper lip, and this can contribute to those vertical lip lines that often develop around the mouth.
4. Sunspots / solar lentigines / age spots
As mentioned above, UV exposure causes the skin to produce melanin to help protect the deeper layers of your skin cells. An accumulation of melanin in clumps can lead to sunspots, also known as age spots or solar lentigines.
The pigmentation disorder, Melasma, leads to the appearance of brown or grey patches on your skin, especially on the face. Melasma has genetic origins and can be triggered by hormonal factors including pregnancy and birth control pills. The sun, though, is the ultimate trigger, and without aggressively avoiding sun exposure and protecting from the sun, Melasma can be very difficult to treat.
6. Actinic Keratosis (AK)
One of the most concerning results of UV overexposure is Actinic Keratosis (AK), which are precancers for Squamous cell carcinoma. Also known as solar keratoses, these scaly patches develop over time from chronic sun exposure and indoor tanning. They can take years to develop and are most frequently found on the face, lips, ears, hands, arms, scalp, and neck areas—the most sun-exposed parts of the body. Start using our SoCo Renew Cream—a moisturizing form of tretinoin for help in preventing these precancerous lesions.
Ways to protect your skin from harmful UV exposure
There are several steps you can take to minimize your skin’s exposure to harmful UV rays. First, wear protective clothing that covers exposed parts of the skin surface. Next, try to remain in the shade when spending time outdoors—get under an umbrella, a shady tree, the canopy on a boat, etc. Also, take the time to protect your skin with a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and reapply it as directed, typically every hour. Quality sunscreens make a huge difference—try a medical-grade sunscreen like Elta MD for optimal protection and also Heliocare pills for even greater sun protection and antioxidant support.
How to treat sun damaged skin?
If you find that you have gotten too much sun exposure that has resulted in any of the conditions listed above, it may be time to consult the SoCo Derm team! The following treatment options are available to help combat sun damage to your skin.
A professional chemical peel is a procedure that removes the dry, dull skin cells on your skin’s surface to reveal the more vibrant skin beneath. This process is beneficial for those dealing with Melasma, wrinkles, and/or sunspots, and it helps to brighten the overall skin tone.
2. Laser therapy
Laser therapy uses light energy to restore and revitalize the skin and helps combat Melasma, wrinkles, and/or sunspots. Sunspots or lentigines can be individually lasered, or diffuse areas of brown mottled skin can also be treated by other types of lasers to get your skin closer to being one color with a more even tone. It is very cosmetically enhancing.
3. Prescription creams/gels
Prescription-strength topical creams and gels can help treat Actinic Keratosis. This type of treatment is administered by the physician to address widespread AK. Renew, as mentioned above, as well as our vitamin C cream and serum all provide antioxidant support for the skin. We also have various topicals that can help to lighten sunspots and give a more even skin tone, such as Lytera and Cyspera.
4. Photodynamic therapy
This type of therapy combines a topical medication called Levulan which is activated by visible light to destroy precancerous cells. and light therapy to kill cancer cells. It is used to treat Actinic Keratosis.
Cryotherapy uses extreme cold, usually in the form of liquid nitrogen, to treat and remove precancerous Actinic Keratoses.
Don’t Delay Treatment for Sun Damaged Skin
We can’t survive without sunlight, but heightened exposure to ultra-violet radiation can result in serious skin damage. That’s why it’s important to take the necessary precautions to avoid sun damage entirely and to take steps to treat damage once it has occurred. If your skin has been impacted by sun damage, reach out to our front desk today to schedule an appointment to see how we can treat your skin condition.