What Can be done About Extensive Sun Damage to my Skin?

Doctor Answers 35

Treating sun damaged skin

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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
4.6 out of 5 stars 10 reviews

Conservative to aggressive chemical peels or fractionated laser resurfacing or dermabrasion

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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
4.6 out of 5 stars 18 reviews

Several options for sun damaged skin are available to you.

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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

Skin Rejuvenation Laser Options

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Our skin is very susceptible to UV damage. It is important to make sure that there are no cancerous lesions. I use an Alexandrite laser for treating spots that have significant contrast to the surrounding skin. That is usually followed by an IPL treatment using my ICON with the MaxG hand piece.  The IPL targets sun-damage problems such as freckles, brown, and age spots. Unwanted facial veins including broken blood vessels, spider veins and rosacea are also improved with the MaxG treatment. After the IPL, treatment with the 1540 fractional nonablative laser can also be performed.  This unique treatment works by stimulating new collagen and elastin production in your skin. This results in a reduction of the fine lines, wrinkles, scars and other surface imperfections.

Gary Nackman, MD, FACS
Clifton Vascular Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 3 reviews

Sun Damage & how to help

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Sunspots form as a result of excess pigmentation due to too much ultra violet light, which obviously is of greater concern at the end of summer after long periods of sun-exposure. With that being said, it’s also important to note that sun damage can stay with you for more than ten years. I recommend 1-2 sessions of the Alexandrite laser. The Alexandrite laser uses thermal energy to destroy the brown spot. You will feel heat with each pulse. Post-treatment the unwanted sun or brown spots will become darker in color and flake off over the course of a week. To treat a full-face of freckles, we would recommend IPL (intense pulsed light) treatment to remove the superficial discoloration. The IPL focuses mainly on achieving an even tone to your skin, is gentler, and has less downtime. To actively treat sun damaged skin I suggest daily use of the Alpha Beta Peels and the Ferulic + Retinol Brightening Solution. This is a winning combination for anyone looking to even his or her skin tone and be proactive about anti-aging.

Dennis Gross, MD
New York Dermatologist
4.7 out of 5 stars 11 reviews

Management of sun damage starts with managing uv exposure

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Step 1: reduce exposure; improve sun/uv protecting

Step 2: implement reparative skin care and add adequate doses of vitamins A,C and E

Step 3: identify specific specific treatments for specific signs of sun damage ( thinness, laxity of skin, pigmentary changes and vascular changes are all likely to be present to varying severity).

The usual management plan involves multi modal treatments and lifestyle changes.

Chien C. Kat, FRCS
Birmingham Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 100 reviews

Sun damaged skin

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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.

Extensive Skin Sun Damage Treatment

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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.

Treating Extensive Sun Damage and age spots

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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

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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

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.