Did you know that sun damage is the number one cause of extrinsic aging? Sun damage results in premature aging, which presents undesirable cosmetic concerns such as uneven skin tone, freckles, hyperpigmentation, sunspots, thickened skin, fine lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, under eye bags and more.
No one wants to appear older than they actually are. Fortunately, once the damage is done, you don’t have to live with it forever. Let’s explore options for reversing the unflattering effects of the sun’s harsh rays.
When it comes to treating hyperpigmentation and sun spots, topical prescription products that combine hydroquinone, a skin brightener, and topical Vitamin A tend to be an effective noninvasive approach.
Hydroquinone products typically work by intensely exfoliating the upper layers of skin, which can cause severe flaking for a few weeks before the skin adjusts. Results may appear within one to six months. This option primarily addresses sun spots, freckles and hyperpigmentation and will have little to no effect on improving the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles.
Chemical peels work by removing the top layer of skin. Chemical peels of various strength levels can be leveraged to rapidly improve the appearance of uneven pigmentation and smooth out skin texture, improving both the appearance of sunspots and wrinkles.
If you are trying out a chemical peel for the first time, your CSI provider or esthetician may recommend starting with the mildest option. A glycolic acid or an alpha-hydroxy acid is a mild peel treatment used to improve fine wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and acne. The results may not be as drastic as a stronger peel, but this is a safer option for determining your skin sensitivity and gauging your skin’s reaction to the peel while subtly improving the appearance of sun damage.
For a deeper chemical peel, your CSI provider or esthetician may perform a trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peel. TCA peels are also used to improve uneven pigmentation, texture and tone of the skin, but can achieve greater and more dramatic results than a mild peel. Recovery time after a TCA chemical peel depends on the sensitivity of your skin and the strength of the chemical solution.
After a peel, you can expect to experience redness, sensitivity, and a few days of peeling skin after the procedure. New skin will begin emerging after about five days. It’s very important to protect your face from the sun while recovering from a chemical peel.
Another option for reversing the effects of sun damage is with lasers. Laser treatments are intended to decrease the appearance of fine lines, even out skin tone, smooth skin texture and help improve the appearance of dark spots.
Nonablative lasers are minimally invasive and typically require little-to-no downtime. Your CSI provider may recommend an intense pulsed light laser (IPL) photofacial to target collagen beneath the skin and stimulate the growth of new collagen, while tightening underlying skin and improving skin tone and appearance. When opting for a nonablative laser treatment, no skin is removed, although you may experience some redness, swelling or sensitivity that goes away after a few days. Results after nonablative lasering tend to be gradual, rather than immediate and dramatic.
Another laser option is the Fraxel laser, which treats age spots and sun damage while also reducing fine lines and wrinkles. Fraxel offers multiple products at various strength levels in order to deliver the potency of ablative treatments (treatments that vaporize a portion of the skin cells) with the safety of nonablative lasers, which provides dramatic results and reduced downtime. Effective treatment usually requires multiple sessions. Additionally, Fraxel is gentle enough to treat brown spots and sun damage on the neck, chest and hands.
MicroNeedling with MicroPen
If you’re seeking a more youthful, glowing complexion without the use of lasers, microneedling is yet another technique that has grown in popularity over the past few years. Microneedling involves the use of a pen-like device that uses tiny needles to create micro-tears to the face, which then stimulates the production of collagen and elastin. This results in firmer, tighter skin with a reduced appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Microneedling is minimally-invasive and is typically very well tolerated. Your CSI provider will likely advise the use of a topical numbing cream to minimize discomfort. Other than some redness that subsides within 24 hours, there is no downtime needed after treatment and results can be seen within a matter of days.
Remember, the ideal way to prevent sun damage from occurring in the first place is with the application of sunscreen and covering your skin to protect against the harsh UV rays.