How to Repair Sun-Damaged Skin

Sun exposure over your lifetime can account for up to 90% of skin aging. Damaging ultraviolet rays result in specific hallmarks of UV damage including wrinkles, age spots, fine lines, and a dull overall skin appearance.

Treating sun damage can reverse many signs of aging while additional lowering your risk of skin cancer. As a Board Certified dermatologist, Dr. Tina West is an expert in minimally invasive treatments to help reverse sun damage. Patients turn to Dr. West to address sun damage that has already occurred and to protect the skin from future harm.

Understanding the Effects of Sun Exposure on Skin Aging

Sun exposure is a major factor in skin aging, responsible for up to 90% of the visible changes we see in our skin as we get older. UV radiation from the sun damages the skin’s elastin fibers, causing them to break down and resulting in wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, and a dull, uneven skin tone. This damage can occur even on cloudy or overcast days, as UV rays can penetrate through clouds and even glass.

Sun damage can also cause long-term effects that may not be immediately visible, such as an increased risk of skin cancer. Prolonged or repeated exposure to UV rays can damage the skin’s DNA, leading to the development of precancerous or cancerous cells.

It’s important to note that the effects of sun exposure are cumulative, meaning they add up over time. This means that even if you don’t burn easily, years of sun exposure can still cause damage to your skin. The effects of sun damage can be seen as early as your 20s or 30s and become more noticeable as you age.

How Do You Prevent the Effects of Sun Damage?

There are several steps you can take to prevent the effects of sun exposure and protect your skin from damage. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Wear sunscreen daily: Sunscreen is an essential tool for protecting your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and apply it every day, even on cloudy days.

  2. Seek shade: Avoid prolonged sun exposure by seeking shade during peak sun hours, typically between 10 am and 4 pm. If you’re going to be outside, try to find a shaded area or bring an umbrella or sunshade.

  3. Wear protective clothing: Cover up with protective clothing like hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses with UV protection.

  4. Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation and can increase your risk of skin cancer. If you want a tan, consider using a self-tanning product instead.

  5. Be aware of medications that increase sun sensitivity: Some medications can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any medications you’re taking have this side effect.

  6. Get regular skin checks: Regular skin checks with a dermatologist can help detect any signs of skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable.

By following these steps, you can help prevent the effects of sun exposure and protect your skin from damage. If you do experience sun damage, seek treatment from a qualified dermatologist like Dr. Tina West at The West Institute


Laser Resurfacing for Sun Damage

Laser skin resurfacing is a highly effective option for treating sun-damaged skin. Resurfacing lasers work to improve skin health and quality by creating, inducing controlled wounding in the dermis, the layer beneath the surface, that stimulates the skin to rebuild and regenerate from within. As new collagen is produced, the skin appears smoother, brighter, and more even in tone and is additionally healthier with a reduced risk of skin cancer.

The West Institute offers multiple state of the art resurfacing lasers. Dr. West has been on the cutting edge of dermatologic laser surgery for over 20 years, having published some of the earliest studies on cutaneous lasers in the international medical literature. At the West Institute, we offer comprehensive laser options to provide our patients with the most effective and advanced options for skin restoration in Chevy Chase, MD. Dr. West works closely with each patient to create an individualized treatment plan that will provide the most overall benefit.

Dr. West may recommend treatment with one or more of the following lasers.

  • Clear + Brilliant(R): The Clear + Brilliant laser provides skin resurfacing with the least possible downtime. This treatment reverses and helps prevent sun damage. Dr. West often recommends Clear + Brilliant for patients in their 20s and 30s for preventing some of the changes associated with aging and to build collagen. Clear + Brilliant laser resurfacing is also ideal for maintaining results following treatment with the somewhat more aggressive Fraxel (R) laser.
  • Fraxel Dual: The Fraxel Dual laser simultaneously targets superficial and deeper layers of skin. Fraxel laser treatment represents a gold standard technology for reversing sun damage and has been approved by the FDA as a treatment that reverses pre-cancers. In addition, Fraxel laser resurfacing is one of the most effective treatments for scars, including acne scars.
  • AcuPulse: The AcuPulse fractional carbon dioxide (CO2) laser is ideal for reversing advanced aging changes (deep wrinkles, skin laxity and blotchiness) as well as tightening the delicate skin below the eyes that can become thin and finely wrinkled over time. Dr. West co-authored the first article in the medical literature on the use of carbon dioxide lasers for the treatment of acne scars early in her career and continues to utilize this advanced technology frequently in her practice. Each laser has unique benefits, which Dr. West will explore with you during your consultation.

Repair Sun-Damaged Skin at The West Institute

If you have sun-damaged skin, precancers, wrinkles and blotchiness; or scars from trauma, surgery or acne, laser resurfacing may be an effective treatment option for you. Contact Dr. West at The West Institute to explore treatment options for reversing sun damage. Call us at (301) 986-9378 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation at our Chevy Chase, MD, location.