Updated: Oct 16, 2018
For many the memory of laying out with tin foil and baby oil for that golden tan was part of the teenage experience, later it was the tanning beds that made it possible to have that west coast glow no matter where you lived. There is a notion in Western society that the glowing skin of a tan, is a sign of health. Unfortunately, by the time we realized that the reality is, it increases your risk of skin cancer. A tan regardless of the source actually results in the mutation of DNA, occurring deep within the skin after exposure to UV radiation. The color of our skin is a natural indicator and the body’s way of telling us to stop and protect ourselves and when we don’t we have all experienced the ‘oh so not fun, sunburn!’
We do have some naturally occurring protections in our atmosphere, which blocks 98.7% of the Sun’s UV radiation. The 2.3% that actually makes it through the atmosphere has both negative and positive effects. The negatives are, UV rays from the sun can cause skin cancer and compromise the immune system. The positive, is that these same rays help the skin produce Vitamin D, which is vital for immunity and can be used in the treatment of psoriasis and other skin conditions.
Likely you have seen sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB, so what does it mean? An easy way to remember the difference is that the ‘A’ in UVA stands for aging. These rays have long wavelengths that are capable of penetrating deep in the skin, affecting the connective tissue and cells. Over the years, this will cause a weakening of the elastin fibers and collagen, which will lead to hyperpigmentation, or brown-sun spots. UVB, you can remember that the ‘B’ is for burns. These rays are shorter in their reach, but are more intense. They are present all year and can pass through the clouds. On overcast days, there is a misconception that you can’t get burned, but this actually the time you may be exposed to higher levels. The amount of exposure varies based on the location and time of day, but it is advised to avoid the sun between 11am to 1pm when the UV rays are the strongest.
Summer tends to be a time that people are outside and participating in activities which expose them to more sun and therefore UVA and UVB exposure. Even those who are vigilant tend to get sun, even while not intending to. Many don’t think about driving in a car, which intensify the rays through the glass.
Through years of intentional tanning, inadvertent sun exposure there are signs of some of the unpleasant effects it can have on the skin. This is also seen as the warmer months of summer draw to a close, some of the visible signs of sun damage are hyperpigmentation and wrinkles. So, what can be done to reverse the signs of sun damage?
While some of this damage is irreversible and will be more apparent years after the burns and sun exposure happen, there is a multitude of ways we can treat the skin. Of course, any treatments will be dependent on the symptoms. Commonly those seen include, wrinkles, enlarged pores, red or brown spots, and textural changes, such as roughness, dryness, sagging, actinic keratosis (possible precancerous cell changes) and skin cancers.
Before proceeding with any treatments at a Medical Spa. (unless a physician, qualified PA or NP are present to diagnose) you should seek an evaluation from a board-certified Dermatologist for any concerning rough, shiny or dark patches that could be possibly be cancerous.
If you have the ALL clear, some of the topical treatment options are Antioxidants, such as a high quality Vitamin C. To help neutralize free radicals that cause DNA damage and to prevent further damages and changes to the skin. Retinols can help with collagen production and pigmentation issues in the skin.
Microdermabrasion and Microneedling help with the pigmentation and textural changes of the skin as well. These as with chemical peels are most effective when done in a series 3-6 in conjunction with a recommended homecare regimen.
There are various acids we can apply to help exfoliate the stratum corneum or top layer of skin, for smoother texture and reduction of pigmentation. Improvements can be seen even with mild chemical peels, which can reduce the look of brown spots, discoloration and roughness. Deeper chemical peels can also help with all of this, with a more improved clarity and smoothing of the skin texture.
We often explain to our clients that feel like these brown spots are the result of years of cumulative damage-likely from sunburns in our teens and 20’s, as most Americans acquire almost 25% of their sun damage by age 18 and around 10% more every decade thereafter. It is essentially years of damage coming to the surface.
We have the ability to reduce even more of the obvious damage with the use of photo facials with Intense Pulse Light, since it can specifically target brown spots, red spots and help with deeper pigment problems.
Treatments at the Medspa can help reverse many signs of sun damage with a knowledgeable provider and effective home-care. It takes years for this damage to occur to the extent that it becomes visible, it will not be gone in one visit. So, set reasonable expectations with multiple treatment sessions and treatment modalities for the best possible outcome. The most important tip is sun damage occurs throughout the year, so wear a broad spectrum sunblock of at least an SPF of 15 and apply several times a day for optimal protection.
After summer, exfoliation probably makes the biggest difference, here dermaplaning or a facial with a mild chemical peel can help skin to feel softer and appear glowing! Remember that skin types can change throughout our lifetime as well as season, so you many prefer a heavier moisturizer coming out of summer and going into the colder months. Visit Rain for post summer care and the skincare regimen best suited for you.