Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Improving Sun-Damaged Skin

September 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

sun damaged 1

When it comes to sun damage, the first line of defense is prevention. However, slipups happen and harm is done, so new treatments are available to restore skin’s healthy looking appearance.

Dr LinAlthough many people think that a red and peeling sunburn is the only indication their skin has been harmed by the sun, there are other symptoms of sun damage, says Dr. Michael Lin, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills, California. “Sun exposure over a prolonged period of time can cause dark patches, which are accumulations of melanin pigment in the skin,” he explains. “Sun damaged skin also is thickened and shows red spots, which are dilated blood vessels under the skin.

“Chronic exposure to the sun can also cause mutations in the skin cells. These cells first show changes that are only seen under the microscope. Eventually, the changes become more severe, and the cells start multiplying rapidly and can be seen clinically as scaly, red patches called actinic keratosis,” Dr. Lin continues. “Further changes may cause the actinic keratosis to grow deeper into the skin, turning them into cancerous papules and nodules, called basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.”

Skin cancer is something for boaters to keep in mind and discuss with their doctors. If it’s determined that the damage is solely cosmetic, there are a variety of treatments, according to Dr. Lin, who says he discusses available treatments and what conditions they are best suited for with his patients. Options discussed may include chemical peels for superficial discoloration and uneven texture, intense Pulsed Light (IPL) for brown patches and broken capillaries, and photodynamic therapy (PDT) for precancerous growths caused by sun damage.

sun damaged 2Peels can dramatically improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, skin tone and texture; they can benefit all complexions, even the most sensitive, and can be performed on any part of the body. Peels use a chemical solution to exfoliate and remove the damaged outer layers of the skin, revealing a complexion that is brighter and more vibrant. Glycolic (aka AHA) and salicylic (aka BHA) peels are the most common forms — they are often called lunchtime peels as patients can return to normal activity after leaving the doctor’s office. TCA and Jessner’s are two types of deeper peels that require a bit of down time. Dr. Yuly Gorodisky, a plastic surgeon in Ventura County, California, says these chemical peels take about a week to recover from and require avoiding sun exposure.

Prolonged sun exposure may result in accumulations of melanin pigment in the skin, causing dark patches. Unlike chemical peels, which work at the surface, the light energy delivered by the IPL reacts with red and dark pigmentation below the surface of the skin. These pigmented spots and associated growths will crust up and fall off over the course of one to two weeks. In addition, the light energy absorbed by the skin will stimulate collagen growth. The combination of removing dark pigmentation and stimulating collagen helps restore skin by evening out tone and making it appear smoother and more radiant.

PDT is used to treat actinic keratosis — scaly, crusty growths that are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. If left untreated, up to 10 percent of actinic keratosis will turn into cancer, so PDT not only improves the skin’s appearance but also prevents the cancerous cells from developing.

Other rejuvenating treatments may be used in conjunction with peels, IPL, and PDT, or by themselves.  Dr. Gorodisky recommends injectable treatments such as Botox, Juvederm, or other fillers to temporarily plump and improve the appearance of wrinkles. He says, “Treatments may begin after a few weeks of exposure. The sunburn should be healed and the tan should be faded.  The skin should be prepared for the treatment by healthy habits such as drinking adequate amounts of water and eating a balanced diet including vegetables and fruit.”

Most sun damage accumulates over a lifetime and cosmetic treatments shouldn’t be sought after each sunburn incident, advises Dr. Lin. Rather, he counsels boaters to practice good habits including wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. Everyday clothing is barely any protection at all. “A regular tee shirt has an SPF of seven, but if the tee shirt gets wet, the SPF decreases to three,” says Dr. Lin.

Both doctors urge avoiding direct and indirect sun exposure (the risk of sun damage is high since the water reflects the sun’s rays and also bounces it, making even shady spots susceptible to harmful rays).  Dr. Gorodisky recommends using a strong physical sunscreen with titanium and zinc oxide and reapplying it frequently, and Dr. Lin adds that it’s best to reapply as often as every 90 minutes to two hours. And each says getting screened by a dermatologist regularly and scheduling treatments in a routine and timely fashion keeps skin healthy and looking its best.

By Carly Zinderman

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