Sun Damage & Photo Aging

Medical Spa & Cosmetic Dermatology Serving Beverly Hills, Lancaster, Cerritos, Santa Ana & Nearby Southern California

Sun damage or photo aging presents itself as dark spots, rough skin texture, wrinkles, enlarged pores and collagen and elastin breakdown. Responsible for the premature aging that is most bothersome to those in their 30s 40s and older, sun damage correction often requires multiple procedures to come close to returning skin to a normal condition and appearance.

closeup of sun damaged skin
Source: New Zealand
Dermatological Society

Sun damage actually begins early in life from first exposure. Children are at high risk for permanent skin changes caused by lack of proper protection. Protective clothing and sunscreens can minimize future problems.

Protecting Your Kids

Chronic photo damage, either from direct sun exposure or from artificial tanning at tanning salons, not only causes many of the bothersome skin changes that are cosmetic in nature such as those noted above, but also is responsible for pre-cancerous conditions such as actinic keratosis and potentially deadly skin cancers.

Effects of UV (Sun) Exposure:

  • Weakening of connective tissues, which reduces the skin's strength and elasticity
  • Thinner, more translucent-looking skin
  • Deep wrinkles
  • Dry, rough skin
  • Fine red veins on your cheeks, nose and ears
  • Freckles, mostly on your face and shoulders
  • Large brown lesions (macules) on your face, back of hands, arms, chest and upper back (solar lentigines, or liver spots)
  • White spots (macules) on the lower legs and arms

Cumulative sun exposure over the years, whether on purpose or incidental to your day to day activities, will always create some type of visible negative effects on the skin. Surfers may have a "weathered" look all over; golfers may have multiple keratoses and skin cancers on the scalp, lips, forehead, ears and arms; runners and tennis players may suffer from blotchy and rough facial skin, arms and legs. Any outdoor exposure, whether for play or work, increases aging and alters the ability of your skin to stay youthful in appearance.

Ultraviolet light can and will damage all layers of your skin: the epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous tissue (fat). Your skin increases the production of melanocytes, which produce the dark brown pigment - melanin - in an effort to protect itself from damage. This additional melanin is what makes your skin appear darker or "tan".

Anatomy of a "Tan"

A tan is the body's desperate attempt to protect itself from the sun's harmful rays.

male patient with sunburn

The typical first response of the skin after being assaulted by the sun is to redden and "burn." (If you always burn first, you have a greater risk of developing skin cancer.) This "burn" is inflammation and very similar to what would happen if you touched a hot stove or were burned by fire.

Although none of us would purposefully burn our skin in those ways, millions of people will spend blistering hours seeking a "tan".

Most sunburns are actually first or second-degree burns. Skin cells have been damaged and your body is attempting to deal with the injury with increased blood flow and fluid retention that also causes temporary swelling.

The next step your body takes is to produce extra pigment called melanin. Melanin is a protector and the more you damage your skin with hours in the sun, the more your skin attempts to shelter it's fragile layers by building up melanin. This, in essence, is your sought-after "tan".

The entire process, when repeated over time, causes irreversible changes in DNA which alters how your skin renews itself. Your pretty "tan" causes your skin to lose elasticity, creates texture changes, thickens the keratinous upper layer to produce that leather-like look and feel, invites surface wrinkles and opens up the door to skin cancer. There is no such thing as a safe tan, but by limiting sun exposure and using a sunscreen of 30 or better, you at least limit the amount of damage that occurs. Early recognition of sun damage will provide a better chance of reversal of the cosmetic appearance as well as reducing the number of potential skin cancers.

"There has been an 1,800 percent rise in malignant melanoma since 1930."
Source U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Oct '07

Are Tanning Booths a Safe Alternative?

woman in tanning bedNot at all. Tanning booths use ultraviolet rays. Makers of the booths may claim that they use "harmless" UVA rays. But both UVA and UVB rays cause skin damage. While UVA rays take longer than UVB rays to damage the skin, they go deeper into the skin than UVB rays.

Still think you need a tan? Spray-on and sunless tan lotions can give you the bronze look you want without sacrificing your skin or your health.

Repairing Visible Sun Damage – The Skin Saving Options

  • Photofacial for resolving brown pigmentation, coarse skin and tiny broken vessels.
  • Cosmelan lifts and inhibits production of excess pigmentation. Cosmelan is a topical solution that does not rely on hydroquinone for its action. For those are sensitive to this ingredient, Cosmelan is an excellent choice. Initial results begin with an in-office treatment and are maintained with a simple at-home program.
  • Chemical peels are an effective customized method of removing damaged layers of skin. From light surface peels to deeper peels which soften wrinkles and bring new layers to the surface – glycolic, alpha hydroxy and polyhydroxy peels such as those from Neostrata, and other peels containing tricohloroacetic acid – the application of chemical exfoliants can produce rapid and dramatic changes to sun damaged skin.
  • Fractional laser to improve acne scarring and melasma. This laser treats your skin with tiny microscopic beams. The Starlux Fractional Laser is used anywhere on your body - face, neck, chest, arms and hands.
  • The LuxG Pulsed Light system is used to remove broken blood vessels and sun-induced pigmentation. A hot climate, exertion, skin trauma and UV exposure can cause fragile facial veins to break. A vascular laser will shrink and eliminate many of these tiny red or bluish vessels.
  • Microdermabrasion may be sufficient to smooth and brighten your skin if your skin has only minimal sun damage. Either crystal or crystal-free microdermabrasion exfoliates the surface skin and induces collagen production.
  • Precancerous actinic keratoses can be treated with photodynamic therapy. Screening can detect potential squamous or basal cell carcinoma or melanoma.

At  Beverly Hills Laser Institute, Inc., initial cosmetic consultations are complimentary. Learn about your treatment options for sun damaged skin by calling 888-333-2515 today.