Sun Damage 101: Can You Turn Back the Hands of Time?
Whether you accidentally got a few too many sunburns as a kid or worshiped the sun while dousing yourself in baby oil as a teen, chances are your skin has been damaged by the sun. Sun damage comes in many forms: from aesthetic damage like wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots to more dangerous damage like skin cancers. And, even if you’ve finally made sunscreen a daily habit, the unprotected sun exposure you subjected your skin to when you were younger may show up on your complexion today.
While you can’t actually go back to fix the errors of your youth, is it possible to turn back the hands of time when it comes to your skin? Can you reverse the signs of sun damage and reduce the appearance of dark spots, wrinkles, and other side effects of too much time in the sun? To find out, we turned to board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com expert, Dr. Michael Kaminer.
CAN YOU REVERSE VISIBLE SUN DAMAGE?
Short, albeit hypocritical, answer? Yes…and not in the slightest. Yes, you can diminish the visible appearance of sun damage—the wrinkles, the dark spots, the fine lines—thanks to a number of excellent products available. But, a lot of damage goes beyond the skin’s surface and unfortunately, cannot be reversed once it’s occurred. This is why starting safe sun habits early in life, and maintaining them, is so unbelievably important. For the sun damage you can’t see, be sure to visit a dermatologist yearly for a full-body skin check where you’ll have your skin examined from your soles to your scalp to ensure that the damage that occurred in your youth hasn’t developed into something more serious. When it comes to skin cancers like melanoma, early detection is key.
If I could get one message across to somebody in their teens and 20s, it would be the liberal use of sunscreen.
Now for that aesthetic sun damage that you can address. First things first, if you don’t already, make wearing a sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF of 15 or higher every day a habit and take other sun protection measures. Broad-spectrum means the sunscreen will help to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. “Sunscreens are a must and will prevent future sun damage,” Kaminer says. “If I could get one message across to somebody in their teens and 20s, it would be the liberal use of sunscreen. This is the absolute best way to prevent sun damage, there is no equal!” He also suggests other sun protection measures like wearing a hat, long sleeves, and seeking shade under an umbrella when at the beach, park, or anywhere with direct sunlight.
Aside from applying sunscreen and being extra cautious, you may also want to look into incorporating skin care products developed to address the signs of premature skin aging. One we love is a vitamin C serum, like SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic. This serum’s formula includes antioxidants that can help brighten the look of your complexion and may also protect the skin from environmental aggressors. In addition to applying a vitamin C serum, Kaminer suggests applying retinols and glycolic acid topically to reduce the appearance of surface-level sun damage on the skin.
SUN DAMAGE PREVENTION: 5 SUNSCREENS TO HELP PROTECT YOUR SKIN
If you ask us, a prevention plan is always better than a treatment plan. Take measures to address the sun damage that’s already there, but to also help prevent additional damage from taking place, arm yourself with one of our picks of the best broad-spectrum sunscreens from the L’Oreal portfolio of brands, ahead.
KIEHL’S ACTIVATED SUN PROTECTOR 100% MINERAL SUNSCREEN SPF 50
If your skin is prone to irritation (and you have big outdoor plans this summer), your best bet is turning to a mineral sunscreen that keeps sensitive skin types in mind, like Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50. This activated sun protector––formulated with UVA and UVB protection––is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. Be sure to reapply at least every two hours, if not sooner.
SKINCEUTICALS PHYSICAL MATTE UV DEFENSE SPF 50
If you can’t stand the greasy sheen some sunscreens can leave behind, reach for SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50. This broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 50 offers an oil-absorbing base with a matte finish.
LA ROCHE-POSAY ANTHELIOS DAILY SPF 50 PRIMER
Who said sunscreens have to be run-of-the-mill? If you want to tackle other skin concerns (like visible signs of aging, for example), pick up a bottle of La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Daily SPF 50 Primer. It doubles as a daily anti-aging primer and sunscreen. What’s more? The formula delivers UVA and UVB protection, in addition to antioxidant protection. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores.
KIEHL’S BUTTERSTICK LIP TREATMENT SPF 25
Your lips need all the protection they can get from the sun. After all, lip skin is still skin and is susceptible to burning, peeling, and other signs of sun damage! Give your pucker SPF protection with the Kiehl’s Butterstick Lip Treatment SPF 25. In addition to SPF 25, the formula boasts coconut oil and lemon butter, so consider it a sweet treat for your lips!
Kiehl’s Butterstick Lip Treatment SPF 25, $19.50 MSRP
LA ROCHE-POSAY ANTHELIOS SPF 50 MELT-IN SUNSCREEN MILK
Sunscreen that doesn’t absorb quickly can be a real hassle, which is why we like turning to La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios SPF 50 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk. Its formula is fast-absorbing (hence: “melt-in”) and dries to a velvety finish. What’s more? Keeping all skin types in mind, the formula also offers broad-spectrum SPF 60 and antioxidant protection.