Six Ways to Repair and Even Reverse Summer Damage

Summer is over, but sun protection season is all year round.

New York, NY (September 23, 2008) - Overexposure to the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) light changes the texture and weakens the elastic properties of the skin, causing wrinkles, leathering, brown or "age spots," pre-cancerous lesions (actinic keratoses), and potentially skin cancer. Because this sun damage (photodamage) is cumulative, it is never too late to start a sun protection regimen. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun.

"Protecting your skin from the sun does not end with the summer months," says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, a New York City dermatologist and educational spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation. "Failure to maintain an effective post-summer skin care regimen, including continuous use of sunscreen, can weaken the skin and may even lead to skin cancer. But by carefully practicing sun protection, you prevent further damage and may even reverse some of the damage already done."

Dr. Sarnoff and The Skin Cancer Foundation recommend the following tips to help stop or even reverse summer damage:

  1. Use Sunscreen - Judicious use of sunscreen, even through the winter months, is one of the keys to more youthful, radiant skin. Studies have also shown that daily use of sunscreen can reduce the number actinic keratoses and may also decrease the long-term risk of skin cancer. By removing or reducing UV exposure, a proven carcinogen, you allow your skin time to heal and your immune system the chance to repair some existing damage.
  2. Exfoliate - The buildup of stratum corneum (the dead outermost skin cell layer) can make skin appear blotchy and uneven. In addition, remnants of self-tanning sprays or lotions collect in certain areas of the skin and cause them to lose their luster and appear "dirty." Use a loofah, scrub, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) cleanser or a home microdermabrasion unit to exfoliate skin.
  3. Bleach the brown spots - Unlike what detergent does to laundry, skin lightener will not make the skin white; it will simply help to lighten and brighten accumulations of unwanted pigment. Dr. Sarnoff recommends using an over-the-counter product that contains kojic acid in combination with Hydroquinone, Retin-A and a mild steroid cream, which is very useful for stubborn brown spots and blotchy brown discoloration.
  4. Hydrate - All the exposure to sun, chlorine and salt water can do a number on the skin, drying it out. Even your heels can suffer from dry skin due to wearing sandals. A hand and body cream works great for the skin and a moisturizing foot cream can help to correct damage on the heels. In addition, a moisturizer with AHAs or a facial serum with hyaluronic acid can plump up dry skin around the eyes, making skin instantly appear less dry, less wrinkled and less parched. Continued use may also help promote increased collagen formation.
  5. LED at home - There are new home units that consist of low energy diode light. Dr. Sarnoff recommends using a new unit called the Tanda. The "red" light on the Tanda machine helps promote collagen and reduces fine lines and wrinkles. The "blue" light is mainly used to improve acne, and continued use makes your pores smaller.
  6. Visit a dermatologist - Professional laser treatments for brown and red blotchiness and fractional resurfacing (ablative and non-ablative) for discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles can really improve your skin. Photodynamic Therapy -- laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) in combination with a topical substance known as Levulan (aminolevulinic acid) -- can remove scaly patches of actinic keratoses from your skin. The Levulan solution is applied to the skin for approximately one hour, then that area of the skin is treated with a laser or IPL, which results in the crusting and removal of the precancerous lesions.