It’s not too late to protect your skin from the sun, and even reverse the damage that’s already been done.
When we were young, our “sun protection” consisted of splashing on a layer of baby oil. Tans were considered the mark of good health, and the darker we got, the better.
Now that we know the toil of excess sun exposure – the wrinkles, sun spots, and potentially deadly skin cancers – we may be feeling tanners’ remorse. Though we can never go back and exchange our bottles of baby oil for SPF 30 sunscreen, it isn’t too late to protect our skin and even undo some of the damage we inflicted when we were young.
Having sun-damaged skin affects more than just appearance. It also means you’re at greater risk for skin cancer. Not everyone needs a full check by a dermatologist, but it is a good idea to know your own skin.
Examine your skin for any changes once a month by standing in front of a mirror or asking your partner to help you do a head-to-toe skin chek.
- Have an irregular border
- Have changed in color or contain more than one color
- are raised or have an uneven surface.
Reversing signs of sun damage
A variety of anti-aging creams promise to reverse the signs of sun damage, but only a few actually deliver. One of the best-studied ingredients in these products is a group of vitamin A derivatives known as retinoids – which go by names such as tretinoin and isotretinoin in prescription creams and retinol in over-the-counter products.
For more dramatic results, some women turn to laser resurfacing, which uses an intense beam of light to try to wipe years of sun-related damage from the skin. In the past, laser treatments removed the entire outer layer of skin. The new skin that grew back in its place had a smoother, more youthful appearance. The laser also triggered the formation collagen – the protein that gives young skin its elasticity – and removed precancerous lesions before they could turn into fu-fledged cancer.
This procedure uses chemicals instead of laser light to strip away sun-damaged skin. If you go to a med spa or aesthetician’s office, you’ll typically get a glycolic acid peel, which is the gentlest type of peel because it only removes the outer layer of skin (epidermis).