What Can I Do About Extensive Sun Damage to my Skin?

Doctor Answers 32

Treating sun damaged skin

There are several things to do to improve sun damaged skin:
1. Sunscreen daily
2. Topical retinoid (Retin-A) regularly
3. Topical Vitamin C regularly
4. Topical alphahydroxy acid (glycolic acid) regularly
5. Multivitamin with minerals daily
Additionally, a TCA peel may be beneficial to remove the damaged surface cells.
If very severe, you may need a more active treatment such as Efudex or Aldera.
Your doctor can recommend what you need after a thorough skin evaluation.

Austin Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 6 reviews

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Several options for sun damaged skin are available to you.

Light chemical peels, intense pulsed light (photofacial), ALA-PDT (aminolevulanic acid-photodynamic therapy), v-beam laser, microdermabrasion are some of the non-ablative procedures that can help. As far as ablative resurfacing treatments, medium to deep chemical peels, fractionated laser such as the Fraxel re:pair, Active FX, Pearl laser. I would consult with a board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon regarding your options and their potential side effects and complications.

Bryan K. Chen, MD
San Diego Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 reviews

Sun damaged skin

The first thing you should do is to protect your skin from the sun before your complexion gets worse. Wear a minimum 35SPF when you go out, cover up with clothing/hat and try to stay out of the sun at the peak hours of 10-4. 

Photofacial IPL is a great way to address sun damaged skin by correcting blemishes, rough textures, redness and fine lines. Chemical peels are also good, while filler and Botox can help serious wrinkles.

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Extensive Skin Sun Damage Treatment

Besides prevention with sunscreen daily and moisturizers, Retin-A is helpful as are treatments with some of the more impressive lasers such as the Sciton BBL/SkinTyte and certain Fractionated lasers. As you age, skin cells lose their ability to make collagen and progressively die off rather than reproducing themselves (“DNA programmed cell death with age”).The Sciton Laser Platform allows multiple laser types and wavelengths to achieve both dramatic improvements of your skin but also maintaining its youthful appearance by reversing this process. See below for more information.

Larry S. Nichter, MD, MS, FACS
Orange County Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 59 reviews

Treating Extensive Sun Damage and age spots

There are many different ways to treat extensive sun damage and age spots on your skin.  In general, if you have significant sun damage it is a combination of thinning skin, wrinkles, and spots - both brown and red - on your face.  It usually takes a combination approach to best treat this extensive damage.  Peels or lasers such as the YAG or Fraxel are best for the pigmentation.  V-Beam is usually best for the redness and broken capillaries.  It may take a filler to plump up the skin to restore volume.  It is really important to use sunscreen when this is all done and protect the beautiful skin that you now have!

Skin rejuvenation for extensive sun damage

You should first be examined by a dermatologist to make sure you do not have any skin cancers.  Sun protection with SPF 50+ daily, tretinoin cream and anti-oxidants should become your routine.  Levulan photodynamic therapy with blue light and IPL will remove sun damage spots.  You may require fractional CO2 treatments with a laser such as the SmartXide DOT to smooth the texture and stimulate some collagen.  Maintenance treatments will be necessary so establish a relationship with a dermatologist you trust.

Martie Gidon, MD, FRCPC
Toronto Dermatologist
5.0 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Sun Damage Treatment Options

 There are SO many excellent treatments available to reverse the effects of sun damage. A lot depends upon your skin type, degree of sun damage, willingness to accept recovery time, and, your budget. The most important factor is to have your skin care regimen supervised by a qualified individual such as a facial plastic surgeon, dermatologist or aesthetician under direct physician supervision. That way, your progress can be monitored properly ensuring good results and minimizing the risk of problems.  In any case, the first key is a good sunblock -- one that you wear every day. In general, makeup that contains sunscreen is not adequate. You really should apply daily a separate sunblock wit SPF of 30. The next key is to ask your skin care professional can guide you through the array of non-surgical options such as glycolic acids, topical anitoxidants and vitamin C based products. Retin A tends to sensitize your skin to the sun and, over time, loses its effectiveness at improving lines and wrinkles.  Best of luck!  Dr. Clevens

Ross A. Clevens, MD
Melbourne Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 41 reviews

Extensive Skin Sun Damage Often Best Treated with Laser Resurfacing

Thank you for your question. There are many good treatments for extensive sun damage to the facial skin. You need to have an exam by a Board Certified Dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon to check to be certain that there are no skin cancers or pre cancerous lesions.

Available treatments include:

  • Topical Retin A
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Chemical Peels
  • 5- Fluorouracil Cream for pre-malignant lesions
  • Laser Resurfacing

I prefer Laser Resurfacing because often only one treatment is needed unlike creams that often require months of red irritated skin.

There are many options including CO2 lasers and Erbium Lasers and Flat Beam and Fractional Lasers.

You need to see a Board Certified Expert who is experienced at laser resurfacing for the procedure must be done correctly. Today, Fractional Erbium Lasers 2940 NM are considered safer in that loss of pigment and other complications are less with the Erbium.

Conservative to aggressive chemical peels or fractionated laser resurfacing or dermabrasion

The first and most important thing you can is help prevent it from progressing by using a good sunblock as part of your skincare regimen.  

As part of treating the sun damage, there are a range of different treatments that you might consider, depending on the degree of damage and the amount of recovery time you can tolerate. This range extends from a more conservative approach with a series of chemical peels to improve fine lines and skin discoloration, to a more aggressive chemical peel for more extensive changes in skin pigment, texture and tone. For wrinkles associated with sun damage, chemical peels have only a minimal effect. 

A more aggressive treatment using laser or dermabrasion for resurfacing would be required in this case. A more gradual approach to resolving this kind of sun damage could involve a fractionated laser resurfacing such as the  Sciton ProFractional.  A more aggressive approach would be to use a resurfacing tool such as an Erbium YAG laser, such as the Sciton tunable laser or the CO2 laser for resurfacing of the damaged skin. Although there is  a more extensive recovery time for this more aggressive procedure, the results are dramatic in terms of the improvement in extensively sun damaged skin.

Michael R. Macdonald, MD
Bay Area Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 13 reviews

Extensive sun damage to skin...

You should start off with a visit to a fully trained medical aesthetician. Preferably one who is employed by a plastic surgeon so the plastic surgeon can monitor your progress. Some things that may benefit you are chemical peels, dermaplaning, and prescritpion skin care such as Obagi or Skin Medica.

Robert Heck, MD
Columbus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 32 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.