Can you reverse sun damage?

We have all been enjoying this beautiful sunshine now that summer has finally arrived but are you protecting your skin from those harmful UV rays?

 The sun gives off Ultraviolet light that damages your skin and causes sunburn. These rays over time can lead to wrinkles, dark spots and can add years to your skin. UV exposure is the reason behind 80% of skin aging. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to erase all of the skin damage but there are some steps you can take to help with some problems:


Sunburn – By the time your skin is pink and painful, the harm has already been done. Sunburn happens when the DNA in the skin cells are damaged. Over time, this damage can cause wrinkles and can lead to skin cancer. There are plenty of ways to ease the pain but there are only a few ways to counteract the damage before it causes lasting issues. Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen and make sure you are reapplying every 60-90 minutes. Staying in the shade is also helpful to protect yourself from further UV radiation and it will give your skin’s enzymes a chance to repair the damaged DNA.


Dry Skin – The sun really dries your skin out, leaving you with rough patches. Gently exfoliate with a scrub to remove the top layer of dead skin to reveal the new soft skin then moisturize well. Avoid petroleum based products if you are burnt as they can trap in the heat. Drink plenty of water during the day.


Wrinkles – UV rays can break down collagen and elastin, two of the proteins that keep skin firm and smooth. 

Some treatments that help smooth wrinkles include :

-Beta-carotene – This antioxidant makes skin supple and flexible and can reduce sun-related wrinkles. It is found in fruits and vegetables or supplements.

-Retinoids – These can boost the amount of collagen in the skin and can be prescribed or found in over the counter products (retinol, which is less potent). These are great for smoothing fine lines, fading dark spots and even making pores appear smaller. Retinoids defend against the damage caused by the sun to the collagen and elastin and improve existing signs of aging.

-Chemical Peels – This treatment removes damaged cells from the upper layers of your skin, these are available as creams you can apply yourself or treatments from a dermatologist.

-Microdermabrasion – This technique uses tiny grains, crystals, or diamond tips to remove the outer layer of skin. It also prompts the growth of collagen.

-Laser therapy – Short pulses of concentrated light remove specific layers or areas of the skin to reveal fresh, new skin beneath.


Sun or age spots – These can be known as liver spots or solar lentigines and are caused when the skin creates a chemical called melanin to protect itself from UV rays, too much sun can cause a clump of melanin to form, which can show up as a flat brown or black spot. To fight these signs you can try:

-Skin lightening creams –  Products with hydroquinone can lighten skin. Kojic and glycolic acids are two other ingredients that can help remove these marks, too.

-Retinoids – Along with smoothing wrinkles, these compounds speed up the turnover and shedding of pigmented cells.

-Cryotherapy – Liquid nitrogen freezes the area so that it peels away.

-Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser therapy – These treatments can remove outer layers of skin so new, clear skin can come to the surface.


Melasma – Although experts aren’t sure what causes the brown and grey patches, they do know that sun exposure causes melanin to go into overdrive and create the spots on the skin. Many of the same treatments for sun and age spots work well to reverse the patches. Avoiding the sun and using a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA, UVB and visible light are a must for treating Melasma.


Actinic Keratosis (AK) – Also called solar keratoses, this is formed from sun damage and looks like scaly crusty patches but it can turn into a bigger problem. If AK is left untreated, 10% of cases can turn into skin cancer. Many of the treatments for sun damage may also work for AK, your doctor can also prescribe creams or gels that treat pre-cancerous cells. You can also have photodynamic therapy which uses red or blue lights to treat AK.


Get Checked out by a dermatologist – If you notice any new or changed marks on your skin, you should have them checked. They could potentially be a sign of skin cancer. To avoid any future UV damage, avoid being out in the sun when it is at its strongest, between 10am and 3pm, wear protective clothing and a broad spectrum sunscreen of a SPF of at least 30. Apply a thick layer of sunscreen and remember to reapply every 60-90 minutes or more often if you are in water.


Get more sleep – Night time is when your skin does the most of its repairing, like shedding old damaged cells or making new cells. Your skin is warmer at night so this is the best time for applying lotions or creams as they seep in better and you can get better results. You should aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.


Eat better for better skin – Nutrition is just as important for your skin as it is for the rest of your body. Antioxidants offer UV protection from the inside out so foods high in lycopene (tomatoes), polyphenols (green tea), and flavanols (cocoa) can be great in helping to save your skin from UV damage and Vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds have a nutrient, a fatty acid called linoleic acid, which moisturizes skin.

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