It is possible to repair sun damage on the face, but as the well used saying goes, prevention is always better than cure.
Lazing under the sun during the summers may seem like a great past-time, but you’ll be paying for it years from now when your skin starts showing the signs of sun damage.
Different Types of Sun Damage on the Face.
The most common, and well-known side effect of too much sun is sunburn. Ranging from a mild sunburn, where your skin just reddens, to severe cases, where your skin starts to blister, all kinds are causing permanent damage to your skin that cannot be undone. You can treat mild sunburns at home. Remember to not use alpha-hydroxy on sun-burnt skin, even though it is a recommended treatment for skin dried out by the sun. Try applying a cool compress to your skin, and take a pain-killer like aspirin or Advil. If you have blistering of the skin, head to a doctor as they might want to prescribe a stronger medication.
Prolonged exposure of the sun on your face can cause your skin to lose moisture as well as natural oils, causing it to look flaky and dry. This will eventually cause wrinkles. If you can feel your skin getting dryer due to sun exposure, use a moisturizer with one of these ingredients: urea, sorbitol, lactic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids or glycerin. Avoid hot showers or baths to prevent further drying out of the skin.
10%-15% of actinic keratoses turn into cancerous cells. That’s enough to know that this is a very dangerous side-effect, and unlike a sun-tan or dried out skin, cannot be treated easily. A tiny bump that feels like a scaly patch of skin, you will need to get a dermatologist to freeze it off or chemically treat it. Drugs like fluorouracil, imiquidmod, or diclofenac sodium gel might be prescribed to you. Some doctors will recommend laser treatment, where a laser beam will target the damaged skin directly, while others will recommend shave excision, where the abnormal skin is shaved away. Once you have actinic keratosis, you will need to go in regularly for follow-up tests as you are at increased risk for cancer.
Changes in Skin Collagen
Your skin’s collagen is what keeps it supple, and keeps you looking young. Once sun damage sets in, it changes the way your skin produces collagen. In photoaging, the skin develops wrinkles and fine lines. In Actinic purpura, UV radiation damages the collagen that supports the skin’s blood vessels and their structure, causing them to bleed. Once your skin’s collagen production is damaged by the sun, you can’t reverse it. However, there are treatment options for wrinkles and fine lines. A prescription of tretinoin (Vitamin A derivative) or alpha-hydroxy acid can help. So can chemical peels, laser treatment, dermabrasion or cryotherapy – all of which target the outer layer of your skin. You can also get Botox injections to your wrinkles to reduce their appearance, or use fillers like Restylane or Juvaderm.
Of course, everyone knows prolonged exposure to the sun can eventually cause skin cancer. People with lighter skin are more at risk for this, as darker skinned people have more melanin which protects the skin – somewhat – from UV radiation. Once you have had a confirmed case of skin cancer, your doctor will remove the mole or growth, and give you your treatment options.
Liver spots also known as sun spots, are brown spots on the skin. The medical term for this is hyperpigmentation and another very common sign of sun damage on the face. Liver are very common on people aged 40 years and above, and appear on areas that have been most exposed to the sun, which is usually the face and hands. Liver spots are treatable with clinical treatments, but people have a decent amount of success with topical creams such as Meladerm.
Preventing Sun Damage
Before you head out, apply sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. An SPF of 30 or more is recommended. Re-apply if your skin gets wet, such as after a swim or heavy sweating. Don’t forget your lips. Buy a sun block for your lips as well, with SPF protection factor of 20 or more.
Limit Time Spent Outdoors
Limit the amount of time you spend under the sun between 10 a.m and 3 p.m, or whenever the sun’s rays are at their most intense.
Wearing the Right Protection
Wear sunglasses with UV light protection to protect your eyes. Long pants and full-sleeved shirts will protect your arms and legs. Wear a wide-rimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
Sun damage on the face isn’t something that you should take lightly. Protect your skin when heading out, and remember that it is a lot easier to prevent skin damage than to treat damaged skin.