Sun damage (Photo-damage) is a tell-tale sign of aging. The effects can become evident as early as a person’s thirties. Photo-damage tends to be cumulative. The amount of sun exposure and your skin type both affect how easy it is to see the damage. But every skin tone is susceptible to the effects of UVB and UVA radiation. Sun exposure contributes to uneven pigmentation (including the development of age spots), the roughening of skin’s texture, and the appearance of fine lines. A decrease in collagen formation due to aging also promotes wrinkling and sagging. Skin loses its elasticity and does not renew itself as it did earlier in life.

Preventive Measures

Many of the effects of sun damage and aging can be delayed with appropriate lifestyle and skin care choices. The most important step you can take to keep your skin looking young is the regular use of sunscreen and sun-protective clothing. Most people fail to use sunscreen faithfully, apply too little, or do not reapply frequently enough when they are out in the sun for an extended period of time. This significantly limits the effectiveness of sunscreen both for preventing skin aging and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

Eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting sufficient rest has a beneficial effect on skin health and appearance (so does not smoking). Recent research indicates that long term beta-carotene supplementation may also improve resistance to sunburn. There are many topical cosmeceuticals on the market that claim to help prevent aging. Retinoids have a good track record for keeping skin looking fresh and even. Your dermatologist may be able to prescribe or recommend additional products based on your skin type.

Potential Treatments

What about damage that has already occurred? There are many minimally invasive treatments which are effective for reducing the appearance of fine lines, age spots, discoloration, and rough skin texture. Besides topical creams that can be applied at home, there are a number of procedures that you can have done in a dermatologist’s office.

  • Chemical Peels – These come in mild, medium, and deep varieties. A deeper peel will offer more noticeable improvement; but the recovery period is longer and the risk of adverse reactions is higher.
  • Laser Therapy – Lasers and pulsed light systems may be used to correct uneven pigmentation, leathery texture, and fine lines. Newer fractional resurfacing lasers are especially popular.
  • Microdermabrasion – This treatment uses a powerful stream of air carrying tiny abrasive particles to gently remove the top layer of dead skin to reveal new skin beneath.
  • Injectables– Botox may be used to relax facial muscles and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Dermal fillers are used to fill in wrinkles and fine lines to plump up skin and make it appear more youthful.

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