How to reverse common signs of sun damage

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These health practices can help delay the aging process
Aging is a normal part of life but there are things that you can do to keep your body, mind and skin feeling fresh. – Jul 28, 2018

We may be midway into summer, but some of us may already start to notice signs of sun damage from years before.

Sun damage includes everything from brown spots, to enlarged pores, to broken blood vessels, to fine lines and wrinkles, said certified dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll of Compass Dermatology in Toronto.

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“The sun can also create dullness of the skin or melasma which can cause darkness around the upper lip or around the eye,” says Carroll.

And if you’re not applying sunscreen, you’re more at risk to develop some of these common skin conditions, she adds. People also ignore sun damage for years which makes it harder to reverse. With skin cancer being quite common, it’s important to protect yourself.

READ MORE: Moisturizers with SPF aren’t as effective as sunscreen, study finds

It’s never too late to start protecting the skin, and experts will tell you, you can reverse some of the damage that’s already been done.

“Whenever you start protecting yourself from the sun, you will stop the process of additional damage and start to reverse, to some extent, what you’ve already accumulated,” Dr. Neal Schultz, a cosmetic dermatologist recently told Women’s Health magazine.

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Treatment options

Carroll adds if you have a type of sun damage, start by rejigging your beauty routine. For over-the-counter products, look for products with glycolic acid.

“This can reduce the earlier signs of brown spots, enlarged pores, and rough skin,” she explained. “And can be found in a toner, cream or peel.”

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Hydroquinone is another ingredient to look out for and this one acts like a fading agent. 

“It decreases pigments, overall dullness and brown spots,” she said. “It’s available over-the-counter, but Health Canada is reducing the percentage amount [found in products].” If you want to try this route, she suggests seeing a pharmacist or dermatologist.

READ MORE: Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer — here are the warning signs

Lotions, serums or moisturizers with vitamin C can also decrease the signs of pigmentation.

In the medical realm, there are a number of ways to treat sun-damaged skin. Chemical peels are popular in the summer, she noted, but can often cost a few hundred dollars (depending on how many sessions you have).

Laser treatments are also quite common and a dermatologist will be able to go through the best types that fit your skin’s needs.

“We do a lot of laser in the summer called Clear + Brilliant and it can last four to six sessions,” she said. Some lasers may also make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so protection is key after a procedure.

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“Lasers are good at picking up both pigmentation and broken blood vessels.”

Another procedure includes cryotherapy where doctors spray the area and eventually peel it off.

Everyday sunscreen use

But sun damage can be prevented if we properly protect our skin from the sun, Carroll adds. She recommends using a cream-based sunscreen in the morning and making sure you apply it all the way to your hairline and around the ears.

“People don’t put sunscreen far enough or they sweat it off and don’t re-apply.” she said. “If you put it in the morning, drive to work, sit in an office all day, you’re fine. But if you go outdoors or have lunch on a patio, you should reapply.”

READ MORE: Sunscreen pills won’t protect you from a sunburn, FDA says

She also recommends using mineral sunscreen tinted powder (not as a main source of sunscreen) to reapply over makeup during the day.

“And always, wear a hat, ask for a table with umbrella, walk outside in the shade and cover up exposed skin.”

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