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Repairing Sun Damage: I Had a Great Summer -- Now How Do I Help My Damaged Skin?

Dec 25, 2007
The kids are back in school, the summer sun is mellowing into autumn. What a wonderful time of year! But every fall, my patients come with the same plea for help. Is this your story, too? You had a great summer -- but it took a toll on your skin! You were careful to limit your sun exposure, you faithfully used sunscreen, but there's no perfect protection. And now you can see the discoloration and freckling, redness and blotchy brown spots, the fine wrinkles that come from the drying effects of sun and wind and you may know there's also damage you can't see: damage to the collagen that keeps your skin youthful. What can you do?

Well, we're lucky to live in a time when the science of cosmetic dermatology just keeps coming up with more and better solutions to reverse the aging effects of sun damage on skin! Here are 5 of the best.

Let's start with the antioxidant vitamin creams. Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is a precursor to Retin-A, which most people know as an acne treatment. Now Retinol is available as a topical cream preparation that helps the skin to exfoliate dead, damaged cells. It also works to fade sunspots and freckles, and with regular use, it will erase fine wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. Best of all, Retinol's action thickens the middle layer of the skin by stimulating fresh collagen production. This preserves your skin's elasticity and fights sagging.

And now there's a newer antioxidant vitamin cream product on the market that brings the restorative powers of vitamin C directly to your skin. Studies show that UV damage actually reduces the presence of vitamin C in your skin, and that applying vitamin C cream restores its ability to protect itself from the free radicals that damage collagen. Other studies show that vitamin C plays a part in your skin's formation of new collagen and elastic fibers.

Used correctly, in the proper formulations, these two antioxidant vitamin preparations rejuvenate your skin with no downtime or harmful side effects. The same is true for three cutting-edge cosmetic dermatology procedures that can reverse the effects of sun damage.

Fraxel laser treatments target laser energy to thousands of tiny MicroThermal Zones, destroying damaged cells below the surface layer of the skin. But the surrounding tissue remains unaffected and intact, leaving healthy stem cells to create your own, new, fresh collagen and elastic tissue in just a matter of days. Your skin is tightened and toned, and the Fraxel laser helps to erase discoloration.

GentleWaves, a non-heating non-invasive technology, uses the low-intensity light energy of LEDs in specially coded pulses. Like the Fraxel laser, GentleWaves causes no surface injury to the skin, so there's no pain and no downtime for recovery. The effect of the GentleWaves light therapy is to modulate cellular activity, increasing the creation of fresh collagen but decreasing the production of enzymes that age and break down skin cells.

Finally, microdermabrasion works on the outer layer of the skin to remove the dead surface cells, cleanse and smooth the skin, refine the pores, and give you a healthy glow. In the process it will obliterate ugly, blotchy brown spots. As a bonus, it also assists in product penetration, giving your skin better access to preparations like those antioxidant vitamins. Since the products don't have to go through the dead surface skin layer, your results are accelerated.

And now that you know how to help your sun-damaged skin, make sure you do it the right way! You'll want to consult with a cosmetic dermatology professional about the best, personalized choices for your particular skin type and condition. When you're choosing an antioxidant vitamin preparation, make sure you're getting medical grade products, meaning that they are dispensed only through a medical professional's office. That's the only way to guarantee the strength and formulation of the ingredients.

What's available in the mall or in the drug store simply doesn't measure up! Some of those products don't even list the ingredients, and (especially in the case of vitamin C, which is naturally unstable) if the formulation isn't correct, the product can lose its potency even before you buy it. It will be ineffective, and a waste of your money! Finally, with professional guidance, you can decide which procedure or combination of techniques is right for you. Then you can remember your great summer without feeling bad about sun-damaged skin!
About the Author
James C. Fairfield, MD has established the oldest and most respected dermatology practice in the Delaware Valley. For more free cosmetic dermatology information and resources and to sign up for his
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