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Photoaging — Managing Skin Damage

Photoaging - minimizing sun damage

Photoaging is premature skin aging resulting from prolonged and repeated exposure to sunlight. The changes of photodamage are superimposed on the changes caused by normal aging and are responsible for most of the age-associated features of skin appearance.

Features of photoaging include fine and coarse wrinkles, white and brown spots, and loss of elasticity in the skin. Photodamage can be partially prevented and reversed with proper sun protection and various prescription medications. In addition certain procedural techniques are available for the treatment of photoaging, including peels, laser therapy, and injection of soft tissue fillers or botulinum toxin relaxers.

Both UVA and UVB are implicated in the photoaging process; however, UVA is the major contributor to photodamage. UVA radiations are thought to have a larger role than UVB in photoaging because they are able to penetrate into the dermis deeper than UVB and are at least 10-fold more abundant than UVB in daily sunlight.

Sun-induced changes include fine and coarse wrinkles, freckles, blotchy pigmentation, actinic keratosis (pre-cancers), telangiectasias, loss of translucency and elasticity, dry skin, and washed-out color. Age, sex, geographic location, and skin type are factors influencing the severity of photoaging. In populations with fair skin atrophic and pre-cancerous changes are commonly seen and associated with fine wrinkles. In contrast, darker skinned individuals tend to see increased skin thickness, deeper wrinkles, and a leathery appearance.

Our office utilizes the Visia skin analysis technology, which allows us to obtain the most complete data set available for sun damage assessment and analysis. This helps us better assess our patients and cater to their personalized skin care needs.

The first step in the management of photoaging is sun protection measures, including sun avoidance and regular use of sunscreen and protective clothing. Daily sunscreen use has been shown to decrease the signs of aging by at least 25%. The best sunscreens are the ones that cover both UVA and UVB. Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are the only two non-chemical broad-spectrum sunscreens and the sunscreen ingredient we highly recommend to use. It is also important that sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours for maximum efficacy.

Topical retinoids are the mainstay of medical therapy for patients with mild to severe photoaging. Retinoids are related to vitamin A and when applied topically they increase collagen production, thicken skin, and decrease skin cell atypia (which can lead to skin cancer). A variety of other substances called cosmeceuticals, which include antioxidants, vitamins, or plant extracts, are incorporated in cosmetic preparations and have been used in conjunction with topical retinoids with added benefits. Dr. Scheel 5x smoothing serum is a great product that incorporates a topical retinoid with antioxidants and plant extracts. There are many studies that support the use of a topical Vitamin C serum to protect the skin throughout the day from photodamage as well as increase collagen in the skin.

An affordable and effective in office treatments for photoaging are chemical peels. This procedure involves the application of an organic substance to ablate the top layers of the skin leading to skin regeneration that tightens the skin and evens the color. Peels are classified by the depth of the peel; superficial and medium-depth peels improve mild or moderate photoaging, deep peels may be used for severe photodamage. Our office offers a wide range of peels depending on the severity of photodamage we are treating.

The gold standard treatment for photoaging is the fractionated CO2 laser. Our fractional CO2 laser tightens and resurfaces the skin and stimulates collagen production. Laser resurfacing can help decrease skin damage caused by photoaging as well as reverse the damage that has already been done, thus is an effective cancer prevention treatment. The benefits of the fractional CO2 laser include greater thickness and elasticity of the skin, decreased brown spots, reduced wrinkles and overall enhanced skin quality.

The most important thing to remember is to protect you skin with the right products as well as utilize the best treatments for your skin type. Call our office today to learn more about a personalized treatment plan for photoaging.