NEW YORK, N.Y. – Fall is officially upon us, and winter is just a chill away. Though summer is long gone, for many it’s guilty of leaving behind the leathery and sagging skin, brown spots and wrinkles that can result from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
More than 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to skin aging are caused by the sun. Though sun damage is cumulative, there are ways to repair, and even reverse damage done during the summer months.
“Practicing sun protection is important year round, not just during the summer,” said Skin Cancer Foundation Senior Vice President Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD. “When you adopt safe sun practices, you’ll go a long way toward preventing additional damage. You may even reverse some of the damage that has already been done.”
It’s never too late to adopt a complete sun protection regimen that includes seeking shade, covering up with clothing (including a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses) and wearing sunscreen daily with an SPF of 15 or higher.
To prevent (or even reverse) sun damage, Dr. Sarnoff and The Skin Cancer Foundation recommend the following:
1. Exfoliate – To achieve smooth skin, remove the dead skin cells that build up on the outermost layer of the skin. Try exfoliating twice a week with either a chemical exfoliant – containing alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs) or betahydroxyl acids (BHAs) – or a mechanical exfoliant scrub containing an abrasive material, such as sugar or salt crystals.
2. Treat brown spots – These spots, officially known as solar lentigos, occur as a result of sun damage accumulated over time. Treat them with an over-the-counter product that contains bleaching ingredients like hydroquinone and kojic acid. Or, consider a serum containing Vitamin C, a natural skin brightener.
3. Apply sunscreen daily – Using a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily on all exposed areas is one of the keys to keeping skin looking fresh and youthful. In fact, a recent study revealed a definitive link between sunscreen use and prevention of premature skin aging.*
4. Cover up with clothing – Clothing is one’s first line of defense against damaging rays. A broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses are great tools for protecting eyes and the delicate skin found on the face.
5. Visit a dermatologist – A dermatologist can recommend professional treatments, including laser procedures, which can improve the effects of sun damage. Or, he/she can prescribe a medication like Retin-A, which has been shown to have major anti-aging benefits.
* Adele C. Green, MD, PhD. Daily Sunscreen Use Slows Skin Aging. American College of Physicians’ Annals of Internal Medicine 2013.