What is sun damage?
Sun damage refers to the injury to the skin caused by the exposure to ultraviolet light. DNA damage can increase the signs of aging and the risk for certain skin cancers like melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Exposure to ultraviolet light accumulates over one’s lifetime.
What are the signs of sun damage and sun exposure?
Signs of sun damage appear in areas that are constantly exposed, like the face, neck, and back of the hands. In this short term, sun exposure results in the well-known sunburn and tanning of the skin. (Note that even tanning without a sunburn can cause damage to the skin!) Sun exposure can darken freckles and worsen a condition known as melasma. The skin will age faster and will have a greater tendency to wrinkle and lose its elasticity and youthfulness. Discoloration and skin thinning are common features. Further sun damage results in things like age spots or liver spots (solar lentigines). And the more severe sun damage results in precancerous lesions like actinic keratosis and full skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
What are the best ways to treat sun damaged skin?
The most important way to treat sun damaged skin is to never have sun damage at all. Wearing sun protective clothing and sunblock are critical, especially with prolonged sun exposure. Areas of the body that are constantly exposed to the elements, like the face, head, neck, and back of the hands, would benefit from daily sunblock. Even small amounts of sun exposure to these areas can add up day in, day out. And even on cloudy days, a significant amount of ultraviolet light reaches through the clouds! Physical sunblocks, ones that contain zinc or titanium (many that are labelled “baby safe”), are preferred over chemical sunblocks. This is because chemical sunblocks can irritate the skin and be absorbed into the bloodstream.
The supplement Polypodium Leucotomos (Heliocare ®) has been shown to help prevent some damage with sun exposure. However, this should not be used as a substitute for sun protection. Retinoid-containing creams, which are also used for the treatment of acne, can also help to reverse some of the signs of aging related to sun damaged skin. The chemotherapy cream 5-fluoruracil, used for treating precancerous lesions, targets damaged skin cells and can help improve sun damaged skin. Chemical peels can help rejuvenate the skin and stimulate cell growth. Neurotoxins like Botox ® and fillers can reduce wrinkles and provide a more youthful fullness.
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Schuering to explore your options for preventing and addressing skin damage.