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Can Sun Damage Be Reversed?

By HERWriter
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ways-to-reverse-some-sun-damage Hemera/Thinkstock

Concerns about sun damage plague us all. The answer to this important question of whether you can reverse damage is — Yes and No. For the most part, it depends on what you mean by “skin damage”.

Skin damage that involves cosmetic appearance such as wrinkles, lines, pigmented spots from aging, fall more into the “yes” zone with the uses of specific treatments and creams.

Skin damage that involves your risk of developing skin cancer fall more into the “no” area, though there are things that can be done to prevent further damage.

The “yes” part involves topical improvement of our skin’s appearance with treatments such as the following:

• Regular exfoliation removes the dead outer layer of your skin:
Exfoliation can be done through the use of special scrubbing sponges like luffas, or through the use of products that contain alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) cleansers, or a home microdermabrasion kit, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Take special care using AHA products, which can increase skin sensitivity to the sun.

• Moisturize:
Find good moisturizers that you can use, not just on your face but also in other places of your body that become dried out, such a feet and elbows. A facial moisturizer with hyaluronic acid can help plump up dry skin around the eyes. (4)

• Hydration:
Summer exposure to the sun and other elements can dry out your skin so make sure you drink enough water to replenish it.

• Retinoids:
Creams or gels that use tretinoin or other retinoid formulations can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, excessively pigmented areas such as age spots and even acne. Some products are available over-the-counter and others are by prescription through a dermatologist. Sun exposure precautions are needed when using these products.

• Invasive treatments:
Other more invasive (and expensive) treatments involve the use of lasers, chemical peels, skin fillers and botox. All should be administered by a skilled knowledgeable dermatologist who specializes in skin rejuvenation.

And here is the “No” part:

“Sun damage is permanent and accumulative. Once sun damage has progressed to the point where actinic keratoses (precancerous lesions) have developed, new keratoses may appear even without further sun exposure” according to the Cheyenne skin clinic. The reason for this is that the damage took place over many years and the DNA in the skin cells has actually become altered.

It's important to remove actinic keratoses lesions to reduce the likelihood that they may turn into cancerous lesions and invade the deeper tissue. Treatment options include cryosurgery, levulon kerastick with exposure to a special blue light, and topical medications.

According to Skinbiology.com, collagen and elastin, which are often blended into cosmetics, have no effect, as they cannot penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin, despite claims from the cosmetic companies.

As we age, collagen and elastin deteriorates and our skin thins and sags. To build up these proteins, it's necessary that we take in a proper diet, though topical cosmetics can temporarily plump our skin through water-retaining properties mixed in the creams.

"There are 3 antioxidants that have been proven to decrease the effect of the sun on the skin and actually prevent further damage: selenium, vitamin E, and vitamin C." according to Medscape.

"Despite advertising claims, almost all available topical formulations contain very low concentrations of antioxidants that are not well absorbed by the skin," said Karen E. Burke, MD. Some studies have shown that topical application of vitamin E can “reduce damage caused by sun exposure and limit the production of cancer-causing cells."

Further Precautions:
Wear sunscreen daily, look for an SPF of 15 or higher and wear sunscreen all year around. Try and avoid the most intense rays of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Avoid tanning booths, as the bulbs project UVA rays. The Cheyenne skin clinic stated that UVA rays go deeper into the skin and contribute to more wrinkling and skin cancer.

Keep up those regular skin checks to look for suspicious lesions and report any changes to your dermatologist right away.


1. Sun and Your Skin. Cheyenne Skin Clinic. Retrieved Apr. 1, 2012. http://www.cheyenneskinclinic.com/Sun_Damage.htm

2. Few Vitamins Effectively Prevent or Reverse Skin Damage. Medscape Medical News. Retrieved Apr. 1, 2012.

3. Skin Biology Aging Reversal Sciences: The Biology of Skin and Aging Damage. Skin Biology.com. Retrieved Apr. 1, 2012. http://www.skinbiology.com/skinhealth&aging.html

4. Repair (and Even Reverse) Signs of Sun Damage. Retrieved Apr. 1, 2012.

5. Treatment For Sun Damaged Skin. Skincare guide.com. Retrieved Apr. 1, 2012.

Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.