The sun’s rays make us feel good, and in the short term, make us look good. But our love affair isn’t a two-way street. Exposure to sun causes most of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces. Consider this: One woman at age 40 who has protected her skin from the sun actually has the skin of a 30-year-old!
We often associate a glowing complexion with good health, but skin color obtained from being in the sun – or in a tanning booth – actually accelerates the effects of aging and increases your risk for developing skin cancer.
Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily — taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you’re young, it will definitely show later in life.
How Does the Sun Change My Skin?
Exposure to the sun causes:
* Pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions – due to decreases in the skin’s immune function
* Benign tumors
* Fine and coarse wrinkles
* Discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation
* Sallowness — a yellow discoloration of the skin
* Telangiectasias — the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
Elastosis — the destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue (causing lines, wrinkles and sagging skin)
to see examples of sun damage
referred to in this article from the Mayo Clinic.
How Can I Help Prevent Skin Cancer?
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can somewhat repair itself, especially with on-going sun protection. So, it’s never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age — for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by staying out of the sun.
Follow these tips to help prevent skin cancer:
* Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater (for UVB protection) and zinc oxide (for UVA protection) 20 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter, more if you are sweating or swimming.
* Select clothing, cosmetic products, and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
* Wear sunglasses with total UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck.
* Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours (between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.).
* Perform skin self-exams regularly (at least monthly) to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
* Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.
Can Sun Damage be Reversed or Repaired?
This is THE most challenging request that we get. And as listed above, sun damage presents in various different ways. All freckles and brown spots are sun damage as are various lumps, bumps, wrinkles, uneven texture, tone, sagging, bagging, and broken capillaries. There is no “EASY” way for the patient to correct these issues. You will have “down time” of some sort in order to heal the skin and rid yourself of these issues.
The following are some of the most utilized treatments for correcting and healing sun damage:
1) Total Skin Resurfacing – is exactly what it says. The skin treated will be completely resurfaced but it will also be raw, and red and you will have to stay inside and follow a strict protocol while it heals which takes 7-10 days. Some will experience residual redness or pinkness for 1-3 months post treatment. These treatments can be done with various lasers such as the Portrait PSR that we offer here or certain chemical peels like TCA and/or Phenol or a combination. We offer those as well.
2) Laser and Chemical Peels – if you don’t like the total resurfacing option, then a series of laser treatments or chemical peels can be done to achieve nearly the same results. However, I must stress, using this option, you are going the course, meaning there is NO easy, fast way to achieve the goal. It truly takes a series of 5 laser treatments or chemical peels or more depending on the severity of sun damage. The laser will cause brown spots to get darker brown and flake off and the chemical peels will cause peeling. And everyone’s experience will be slightly different, so just because your friend did or didn’t peel or turn brown to X, Y, or Z treatment, doesn’t mean that you will have a similar experience. Genetics are a key role in the severity of sun damage that you experience as well as the road to correction for you personally.
3) Cryrotherapy – brown spots and lumps and bumps can be frozen, which will cause them to scab over and fall off. This process can take 3 weeks or more for the cycle to complete and it can cause hypo pigmentation. Deep dermis brown spots can also be frozen, however caution should be used to make sure the practitioner does not get too aggressive or you will experience hypo pigmentation.
4) Efudex – a topical chemo which is prescription only can be prescribed to use on various body areas and will target cancerous lesions, causing them to turn into ghastly scabby looking lesions that will heal in a few weeks resulting in beautiful clear smooth skin.
The name of the game is PREVENTION!!! This is why we preach sunscreen and good skincare products. There is NO gain without a little annoyance when it comes to correcting sun damage. So keep this in mind the next time you head for the tanning bed or the beach. I still enjoy the beach but with a slightly different approach – a 50 spf shirt, hat, and umbrella, huge but glamorous sunglasses and loads of sunscreen. That said, I STILL get tan due to my genetics. But, at my age I really want to avoid ANY sun damage. I prefer to head into my golden years looking somewhat preserved.
Hopefully, this information will help you gain understanding into why we preach sunscreen and prevention. Treatments are a wonderful thing as is the marketing which promotes them, I would like you to have a better understanding of the REALITY of what is involved. Maybe then patience and endurance will not be so painful but just part of the process to reclaiming beautiful and youthful skin!
Give us a call and schedule Your pampering time – 706-265-6467.
Until next time,