As we age we start to become concerned with the effects of sun damage or photo damage to our skin. Photo damage is damage done to our skin due to sun exposure which causes us to show signs of aging sooner.  Sun damage begins with our first sun burn as a child and continues through out our life.  The effects of the damage caused to our skin and cells can begin to be seen even in our twenties, depending on our lifestyles.  Sun damage is caused by free radicals which attack cell membranes and interfere with normal cell functions.  These unstable molecules create a series of biochemical reactions that lead to and eventually cause the breakdown of major support structures of the skin such as: collagen and elastin.  The obvious signs of sun damage are hyperpigmentation (dark spots), and wrinkles.  Depending on the amount of damage we caused our skin we may experience more severe effects such as thickening of the skin, a leathery texture, a loss of elasticity and firmness of skin, redness in the skin due to broken capillaries, as well significant discoloration and splotchy skin tone, and deeper, more numerous wrinkles especially on the neck, cheeks and chest due to repeated sun exposure are common signs of severe photo damage.

Treating photo damaged skin is a process. It takes time and dedication.  You can’t just receive a treatment and think your problems are over.  To truly correct photo damage a program of treatment working with homecare must be followed. There are 6 major concepts that must be combined to treat and prevent photo damage:

  • Prevention- using daily broad-spectrum sunscreen protection
  • Use of AHA (Alphahydroxy acids) or an other exfoliating agent
  • Daily use of topical antioxidants
  • Use of topical peptides and collagen stimulants
  • Use of lipid based products to improve barrier function of skin cells.
  • Daily use of good hydrators which will attract and bind moisture to the skin.

Prevention is key to beginning to treat sun damaged skin. Even a skin that is extremely damaged will benefit with a daily application of broad-spectrum sunscreen because it will prevent further damage as well as give the skin a better chance to respond well to treatment. Wearing a daily sunscreen is the greatest action one can do to protect themselves.  Often people only wear a sunscreen if they are going to be out in the sun for many hours, such as when they go to the beach.  Unfortunately though people forget that sun damage occurs on a daily basis; while driving, running errands, or playing out side with our children. Honestly it is very important to start wearing a daily sunscreen to protect our skin.  

Exfoliation is the next step in fighting sun damage.  It aids the cellular turnover which naturally slows down with aging, but significantly slows with sun damage.  As the cellular turnover slows a build up of dead skin cells forms in uneven layers; causing a rough, dry, scaly appearance which aids in the development of wrinkles.  The use of alphahydroxy acids (AHA’s) by an esthetician is a great tool to fight photo damage. It is a deep exfoliation which helps to reorganize the skin, smooth out the skins surface, lessen the appearance of wrinkles, reduce uneven coloration, as well as improve hydration and firmness.  This treatment will not completely reverse the signs of sun damage especially in advanced cases but it will improve the skin.

Antioxidant Therapy is very important when correcting photo damage because they reduce visible signs of aging as well as help the skin cells work better.  Antioxidants fight free radicals, reduce production of damaging enzymes that can breakdown elastin and collagen, as well as prevent and treat sun damage. There are many types of antioxidants such as: vitamin C, Vitamin E, green or white tea or grapeseed extract. Most often antioxidants are produced as serums to apply to the skin before a moisturizer and sunscreen.  Many antioxidant serums also involve topical peptides and collagen stimulants which are wonderful serums or creams for homecare use that will aid in preventing loss of collagen and maintaining what collagen we do have in the skin. 

Hydration is key to having healthy, more youthful looking skin, so lipid based products and good hydrating moisturizers are very important to locking in hydration and maintaining the affects of exfoliation and antioxidant therapy. Lipid based products are often made of ceramides and fatty acids. They increase hydration, improve firmness and smoothness of the skin, as well as reduce inflammation from over dry, irritated skin.  When a lipid based product is combined with a good hydrator they should attract water to the skin, providing soft, supple, healthy nourished skin.

Along with these main steps in treating photo damage there are several treatments which can aid in the battle to reverse the effects of photo damage.  It is always best to discuss you options with your esthetician what treatments they have in the spa which can aid in the treatment and prevention of skin damage.


Stephanie Keenan

Please Visit: Healthworks Fitness


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