Sun Damage and How to Treat it

The skin is considered the largest organ in the body made of 3 significant layers, the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layers. Each of these layers are extremely active at the cellular level.  What people see most often are the changes that happen in the melanocytes, collagen and keratinocytes: the infamous dark spots, wrinkles and broken blood vessels. These changes arise from the sun, genetics, toxins (like smoking) and more.

As a physician, my most effective method of treatment for all these bothersome outcomes is prevention.  Sun exposure is often the cause of all of the above, dark spots, wrinkles and broken blood vessels, also known as telangiectasias. Most of the sun exposure and sunburns, about 70%, occur in the ages 10 to 18 years old. It is extremely important that children over the age of 6 months wear sun protection, either through sun-protective clothing or through sunscreen.  Infants under 6 months should be kept out of the sun. If the kids are going out to play it is essential that they wear sunscreen with SPF 30 and greater and with zinc and titanium. Always re-apply because these creams will wear off about an hour later, even if they say water resistant.

Unfortunately, many of us did not protect ourselves, but instead doused ourselves in baby oil and waited for 12 noon, when the rays would hit the sand and the water just right to reach our maximum sun exposure; therefore not only getting our first burn of the summer, but establishing the groundwork for an incredible tan. As we got older (some of us didn’t wait to get older) we took out our Virginia Slims and Marlboroughs and reclined on the beach with baby oil in hand; a perfect picture of an awesome summer.

Years later, and for some, not so many years later, they noticed dark spots, wrinkles and broken blood vessels on the face. This can be very scarring to a person’s self-image and can become a source of embarrassment. It is not too late to start using sunscreen and staying out of the sun when possible.  Good moisturizing and care of the skin is important. There are several bleaching creams that will diminish the dark spots to some extent.  If still these are not sufficient then consider IPL, also known as intense pulse light therapy, or nonablative laser therapy (Sublative Therapy) as methods to remove unwanted sun spots, wrinkles and blood vessels. Syneron and Candela has developed this state of the art equipment with Elos technology that will remove sun spots, diminish wrinkles and decrease broken blood vessels. It usually takes a series of treatments to achieve the desired results. Fall is the perfect time to have these done. After having IPL or Sublative Therapy, it is important to stay out of the sun to void hyperpigmentation, meaning increased discoloration.

Next time you visit the beach, remember to care for your skin so it can maintain its natural glow.