Spending time basking in the sun’s warm rays may improve your mood but could also be causing a lot of damage to your skin. While there seems to be many warnings about the potential for skin damage from tanning beds, not as much focus is placed on the large impact being out in the sun has on our skin.
At The Dermatology & Cosmetic Laser Center in Huntington, NY, we offer diagnosis and treatment of sun damaged skin for patients in the Huntington, NY area.
How sun damage affects the skin
The sun’s UV rays can age the skin by destroying collagen and elastin tissue. This tissue is vital to keeping the skin tight and firm and when it’s lost it can leave the skin prone to lines and wrinkles. The sun can cause a yellowing of the skin, which can make you look sickly, as well as dilating the blood vessels, which results in threaded veins.
As if these physical impacts weren’t bad enough, sun exposure is also the number one risk factor for skin cancer. Skin cancer affects millions of Americans and can be potentially fatal if not caught early.
You should contact your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Moles that have changed shape, size, or color
- Itchy or bleeding moles
- Scabs or lumps that will not heal
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Two groups of people are at a high risk of skin cancer: those who have fair skin that burns easily and those who spend prolonged periods of time in the sun. People with blue or green eyes, red or blonde hair, and those with freckles are also at an increased risk for developing melanoma.
Treatment for sun damaged skin
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) has emerged as a popular solution for addressing multiple skin issues including: mild to moderate acne, sun damage, actinic keratosis, and rosacea. The treatment works by utilizing a photosensitizing drug that is activated by light. When the solution is exposed to light, the damaged area of the skin absorbs that light and gives way to clearer, more radiant skin.
How it works:
Prior to treatment, the area of skin is pretreated with the photosensitizing solution. The solution is absorbed by the abnormal areas of skin as well as precancerous skin cells, and pores. After the solution is left to sit on the skin for a period of time (typically 30-90 minutes), the light is used to activate it. This reaction causes the destruction and reduction of abnormal cells, leaving the skin healthier and clearer.
The advantage of PDT:
Other forms of skin treatment such as laser therapy, can have long periods of downtime, and may also leave spots or scars on the treatment area. PDT requires minimal downtime (usually only two to four days) and rapid healing. PDT can treat the problem spots on the face while also improving the entire complexion of the face.
Number of treatments:
Most patients need a series of three treatments spaced two to four weeks apart for maximum improvement in texture and tone. Maintenance treatments can also be done as necessary.
Side Effects of PDT:
Because PDT is a strong treatment, there can be side effects such as red, peeling skin, which can last for up to a week. Some patients may have swelling around the lips or eyes. The pigmented areas of skin will appear darker at first before peeling off and leaving the skin clearer.
Preventing sun damaged skin
While the effects of sun damage are irreversible, there are ways that you can reduce your risk of skin cancer and prevent further damage. These include:
- Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen daily with an SPF of at least 30
- Reapply sunscreen every few hours, especially if swimming
- Avoid the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
- Wear long sleeves and pants to block the sun’s harmful rays
If you have noticed that your skin appears aged due to the sun, there is hope. At The Dermatology & Cosmetic Laser Center, we offer laser treatments that can minimize the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and spots caused by sun damage. If you are in Huntington or the surrounding area, call us today to learn more about the various treatments offered.