The majority of sun damage, around 80 percent, occurs before an individual is 18 years old. Often termed “photaging” by physicians, sun damage can cause multiple dermatologic conditions from chronic exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sun damage can alter the DNA of skin cells, causing freckles, wrinkles, age spots and even cancers. While it’s never too late to begin protecting skin by using sunscreen and sun hats, for most individuals, treatment of sun damaged skin will require more proactive steps.
For patients who do not want to opt for laser surfacing treatments, microdermabrasion and chemical exfoliants with a 5 to 8 percent concentration of glycolic acid can be effective removing dead and damaged skin cells. The active chemical ingredient in these products is vital to remove the layers of dead cells that have clumped and accumulated over years of exposure.
For stubborn or persistent brown spots and discolorations, alexandrite lasers such as the Candela GentleLASE can be used as a powerful tool to restore the skin. These lasers have a high-melanin absorption rate and can treat a variety of pigmented and damaged skin. A typical course of treatment is 3 to 4 sessions at six-week intervals. Most epidermal damage will respond well to GentleLASE treatment and there is minimal recovery from the procedure. Technicians should explain to patients that the side effects are slightly stronger than general laser hair removal and the skin may redden and scab at the treatment area. One bonus side effect is the potential additional benefit of improving the skin’s texture and elasticity due to the collagen reformation capabilities of the Candela GentleLASE.