After last week’s heatwave, this makes for very interesting reading from international skin expert Laura Schirmer.
90% of ageing is caused by sun exposure. Yes, ninety percent! The remaining 10% of ageing stems from simply growing older. We come face to face with UV radiation everyday. In rain, clouds, or shine, our skin is exposed to the greatest cause of ageing. We all know the healthy benefits of UVA and UVB rays. The sun improves our mental health, produces a golden glow, and most importantly provides our bodies with essential vitamin D. The sun also has the power to damage the skin, produce burns, cause pre mature ageing, hyperpigmentation, wrinkling, abnormal cell development, and skin cancer. In our lifetime, we have all suffered at least one bad sunburn. That one bad sunburn is all it takes to begin the photo-ageing process. Take a moment and look at the parts of your body that have never been exposed to the sun. What do you see? Smooth, soft, undamaged, imperfection free, skin. Although it’s impossible to completely reverse sun damage, by incorporating at-home clinical skincare containing active ingredients, and in-clinic professional treatments, results are in fact attainable to reverse photo-damaged skin.
WHAT IS PHOTO-AGEING?
Photo-ageing is caused by exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) light. Commonly known as sun damage. The effects of photo-ageing can reveal itself in many ways. Skin conditions such as Melasma, freckles, Solar Lentigines, Actinic Keratoses, and texture changes are all signs of photo-damaged skin. Photo-damaged skin appears uneven, thick, leathery, wrinkly, basically a raisin! A raisin, grown as a grape- smooth in texture, flawless, round, then BAM! Spent too much time in the sun and has aged into a raisin. I’m not implying that we all look like raisins, rather slightly aged grapes with potential to become raisins without the use of daily photo-protection.
Shining a light on SUN DAMAGE BELOW THE SURFACE
To better comprehend the impact of what the sun leaves behind we need to understand what exactly is happening internally. The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It’s composed of three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layer or hypodermis. The dermis supports the skin’s structure by housing the elements that give us a smooth, youthful appearance- collagen and elastin. When UV rays strike the skin, collagen and elastin are damaged. DNA and cells in the dermis rush to produce melanin in the epidermis to stop further damage. Externally, this process looks like a tan. One of the many important skin functions is to protect. Tanning is skin’s attempt to shield UV radiation from penetrating the skin.
UVB rays are shorter and responsible for sunburns. Think ‘B’ for burning. UVA rays wavelengths are longer, reaching deep into the dermis. Think ‘A’ for ageing. UVA is the main culprit behind photo-damaged skin. It causes harm to collagen fibers, increasing production of abnormal elastin, creating irregular amounts of elastin which results in enzyme production called metalloproteinases. Metalloproteinase’s role is to rebuild damaged collagen. UVA impairs its full capability, equalling deteriorated collagen. Externally, skin that’s incorrectly built forms wrinkles and reduced collagen resembles leathery skin.
SUN RELATED SKIN CONDITIONS
Solar Lentigines, commonly known as age spots. You would think by its name, it has everything to do with the ageing process, however, they are in fact directly related to sun exposure-“sun spots”. These sun induced lesions are irregular shaped, appear dark, and prefer the comfort of multiple spot groupings. Commonly seen on the hands and/or forehead in elderly individuals. Overtime, they can gain in thickness and/or change of color, even becoming hypo-pigmented. Age spots are benign growths with no risk for development of skin cancer. They begin in the superficial layers of the skin from sudden increased pigment cells called melanocytes.
Freckles can be seen as cute, app filter inspired, also can be drawn on using brown eyeliner- apparently fake freckles is trendy. Freckles are the body’s way of alerting you, “Warning, you’ve had too much sun!” The number of freckles is related to the melanin receptor gene which gets triggered during exposure to sunlight.
Melasma, also known as chloasma or the mask of pregnancy. Sun exposure is not the ultimate cause to these symmetrical butterflied shaped brown patches, but the combination of hormonal changes, genetics, and UV exposure. Heat also contributes to the production of melanin.
Actinic Keratoses is formed from chronic sun exposure. Crusty, scaly bumps with potential to progress to skin cancer.
REVERSING SUN DAMAGE
Step one, PREVENTION. The key to youthful skin is sun protection. Sunscreen, SPF, sunblock- whichever you prefer, protect your skin! Why not, add a hat too! The most effective anti-ageing cream on the market is sunscreen. So, remember- SPF IS YOUR BFF.
Step two, REVERSAL. An at-home skincare regimen is crucial to achieve results and plays a HUGE part in the process of improving photo damage.
Step three, PROFESSIONALS. Leave it to the licensed, certified professionals to make a dramatic improvement in hyperpigmentation, photo-damage, and overall health of your skin.
- L-Ascorbic Acid, commonly known as vitamin C, is the most effective antioxidant to help prevent signs of premature ageing. It protects against photo ageing, relieves redness, promotes healing, and reduces hyperpigmentation. It also provides additional protection against damaging UV rays. Think of L-Ascorbic Acid as “SPF’s BFF.”
- Kojic Acid is derived from mushrooms and is a natural tyrosinase inhibitor. Suppresses melanin and fades skin discoloration.
- Azelaic Acid is a dicarboxylic acid naturally derived from grains. It controls abnormal keratinization and inhibits the skin’s excessive production of melanin. Improving hyperpigmentation, melasma, and age spots.
- Glycolic Acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid derived from sugarcane. It increases exfoliation of skin cells, refining skin texture, improving the appearance of uneven skin and protects against photo ageing.
- L-Arbutin is derived from bearberry extract and is a natural skin lightener by reducing melanin production. It prevents future skin discoloration.
- Hydroquinone is a skin bleaching agent that lightens pigmentation.
- Chromanyl Palmitate is a brightening ingredient that blocks tyrosinase inhibiting melanin production at both an enzymatic and environmental level in order to protect skin against UV damage.
- Retinoic Acid, commonly known as Retinol and a derivative of vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for generation and function of skin cells. It increases cell turnover and stimulates collagen/elastin production.
Chemical Peels cause the skin to shed its top layer while encouraging new skin cell formation and collagen production.
Microdermabrasion buffs off the top layer of dead skin with sand-like particles or diamond tip stimulating growth of new skin underneath.
Microneedling or Collagen Induction Therapy, is a procedure that creates a series of tiny, superficial punctures using sterile medical grade needles. The mechanical action allows the needles to puncture the skin to create a controlled injury at a controlled depth. Microneedling stimulates collagen production, reversing sun damage, wrinkles, acne scarring and hyper-pigmented skin.
Photo Facial, or Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) eliminates sun damaged skin by using a specific wavelength of broad-spectrum light to target pigment. The light energy is absorbed by pigment cells in the skin, then converted into heat. The heat destroys the unwanted pigment, diminishing sun damage. (Not suitable for skin condition Melasma)
LED Light Therapy, Light-Emitting Diode, uses a combination of light wavelengths that stimulate collagen and fibroblasts, improving damage and overall health of skin.
In conclusion, sun damage can never be undone. But it can be maintained with patience, consistency, and daily prevention.