You may have looked gorgeous with that tan when you were younger, but you’re likely seeing the damage ultraviolet-ray exposure has had upon your skin years later. Even if you thought you were careful, and limited your burns and tans, chances are you weren’t as proactive as you believed. Any time you stepped outside during daylight — even in the cold weather or an overcast day — your skin was absorbing UV rays and getting damaged. Sunspots, premature wrinkling and uneven skin texture are all evidence of sun damage.
Sun damage occurs at the surface of your skin. Beneath those outer layers is younger, healthier skin. If you choose laser resurfacing, you can expect two immediate benefits:
- Gentle removal of the damaged layers of skin. The laser removes only one layer at a time to minimize irritation.
- Stimulation of protein production. Lasers are effective in allowing collagen and elastin to grow naturally in your skin. These proteins, more common in our youth or before sun damage, smooth wrinkles and firm skin.
Also known as “chemical peels,” dermal peels operate through the same method of laser resurfacing by removing the outermost damaged layers of skin. When you entrust a cosmetic specialist to perform your peel instead of trying a home kit, you greatly reduce the risk of irritation or mistake in application. The type of peel your cosmetic specialist recommends will differ depending on the extent of your sun damage, but all of these peels will stimulate the layers of the skin and encourage growth.
Where sun damage has been extensive or combined with aging, there’s no avoiding wrinkles, particularly in the areas around your lips, eyelids and between the eyes. Skin resurfacing or peels can help take away the outermost layer of damage and reduce sun spots and some of the wrinkles, but if the wrinkles are layers deep, your best bet is to combine these procedures with Botox cosmetics over the course of treatment.
Botox makes sagging, creased skin fuller and tauter. Unlike resurfacing or peels, which involve a few days or weeks of slight redness and recovery, Botox gives almost instantaneous results. Rest for a few hours following the procedure and you can expect to see maximum results in a week. Repeat the process every four to nine months.
A cosmetic dermatologist speaking to NBC News suggested that people fight skin damage from the sun with antioxidants. Antioxidants are a natural way to protect your skin’s proteins from free radical damage. Incorporate an antioxidant cream into your daily beauty routine, but exfoliate dead skins cells away first for maximum effectiveness. Eat foods rich in antioxidants like blueberries, cherries and pomegranate seeds.
Sometimes, the best offense is a good defense — and that certainly applies to protecting your skin from sun damage. A combination of cosmetic treatment and vigilance about preventing further damage is essential to keeping your skin healthy and reducing your risk of skin cancer. Start these healthy habits today:
- Wear at least SPF 15 sunscreen on exposed skin anytime you go outdoors, even if just to run errands. If you plan to spend longer periods outside, go for a higher SPF. Remember it can take around 15 minutes for your sunscreen to start working, so apply it before going outside.
- Cover up as much skin as possible. Clothing provides even better sun protection than sunscreen, so if it’s cool enough that you can stand it, wear pants or a long skirt and long sleeves.
- Wear a hat with a brim. This will protect the skin on your head and shade your face from sunlight.
- Wear sunglasses with UV ray protection. That way, you’ll protect your eyes and the skin around them.
Of course, Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and you don’t want to shield yourself from sunlight entirely. Speak to your doctor about healthy levels of sun exposure for you. On average, fairer-skinned people should expect to expose themselves to sunlight without protection for only 10 minutes a day. Darker-skinned people may need up to an hour.
You don’t have to accept the damage sun exposure has done to your skin as unalterable. There are a number of cosmetic procedures that can reverse the damage, and you can start fighting it at home with antioxidants and sun protection. Start turning back the clock on skin damage today, and protect yourself the next time you go outside to keep your skin beautiful for years to come.
To learn about procedures such as laser resurfacing, contact a cosmetic specialist such as Dr. Kovak.