What really happens to my skin in the sun? Can the damage be reversed?

posted October 7, 2015, 12:18 PM

We hear it all the time; put on your sun screen, the sun damages your skin, the sun ages you, etc… Yes, we hear it, but do we understand it? What is really happening to my skin when it is exposed to the sun?

Sunlight contains UV (ultra violet) rays. While these UV rays tan our skin and give us a nice, healthy, summer glow, the long term effects are harmful. Over time, UV rays break down the fibers in our skin known as elastin. Elastin is what keeps our skin firm. As it breaks down, we see sagging and yes, wrinkles.

In addition, the damage done to our skin weakens it, thins it, making it more susceptible to bruising and tearing. A simple wipe of a washcloth over your face can create a cut in your skin. That is from sun damage.

Other damage can include freckling, other brown/sun/age spots, uneven skin tone (hyper pigmentation), dilation of small blood vessels under the skin (telangiectasias), and of course, skin cancer.

The question then becomes, can any of this be reversed? The answer is yes. There are a variety of procedures that can be performed to reverse this sun damage. The great thing is that some of them actually use the self-repair mechanisms inside our own bodies to do the repairs. Below are just two examples.

IPL (intense pulsed light) uses photo rejuvenation to treat damage like hyper pigmentation, broken capillaries, sun spots and freckles. The pulses of light pass through the skin and are absorbed by either the hemoglobin (redness of broken capillaries) or melanin (brown appearance). They damage the tiny blood vessels or break up the melanin which are then absorbed by the body and flushed from your system naturally. Typically a series of IPL treatments are needed for full, desired results.

Microneedling (SkinPen) is a relatively simple concept in skin repair. Once again, it relies on your own body to trigger self-repair by using very fine needles to create a series of controlled, microscopic “injuries” to the skin. Once “injured”, your body goes to work by manufacturing new collagen and elastin, filling in these tiny channels, thus firming and bringing back elasticity to your skin. The result is smoother skin and less wrinkles!  Like IPL, a series of treatments is usually needed to see the desired result.

While there are solutions to sun damaged skin, the safest bet and preventative is to use a good sun screen. If you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and sun bathed with baby oil, you may be all too familiar with what we just covered. Never fear! Solutions are here!