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9 Products to Address Sun Damaged Skin

Dylan Mustapich

Dylan Mustapich is a California-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things beauty, he is incredibly knowledgeable about ingredients, routine refinement, and closely follows emerging industry trengs.

The Sun: It provides us with light, can generate electricity, and makes everything it touches look positively radiant. Everything, that is, except for your skin. “The sun is responsible for 90% of the visible changes we see within the skin that are often attributed to aging.” warns New York City dermatologist Julie Karen, MD. Sun damage is one of the first things people notice as they begin the aging process. By the time we’re in our mid-twenties, years of accumulated UV damage can begin to show up on the surface of the skin. This often appears as excess pigmentation, sun wrinkles, white spots (hypopigmentation), and/or rough skin texture.

Prevention is Key

Everyone hopefully knows by now that providing skin (with) protection from the sun (meaning a daily SPF 30 like this De Mamiel Exhale Daily Hydrating Nectar) is key to keeping it looking its best. “There’s really no reason for photoaging,” claims Melanie Palm, MD, Medical Director of Art of Skin MD. However, if you already find yourself dealing with noticeable UV damage, rest assured that there are many ways to treat and even reverse these signs of photoaging.

Treating Sun Damage Face Skin

Glycerin – A powerful humectant that draws and binds water to the skin, glycerin provides a deep level of hydration that is especially beneficial when treating a sunburn. Keeping the skin hydrated and moisturised may help speed up the healing process and prevent excessive flakiness. The Absolution Antioxidant Day Care moisturiser pairs glycerin with lipid replenishing sesame seed oil and skin soothing aloe for the perfect after sun treatment. 

Exfoliants – Exfoliating is the process of removing the very top layer of the skin to reveal fresher, more even looking skin beneath. Regularly exfoliating can smooth out your skin texture and helps to lighten sun damage spots over time. Some people like to use scrubs or peels 1-2 times a week, while others prefer to use a daily leave-on exfoliant like a lactic acid serum. The Absolution Exfoliating Cream contains both scrubbing granules and exfoliating acids for a thorough yet gentle complexion refresh.

LED Light Therapy – Red and infrared light help to reverse signs of sun damage and burns by reducing inflammation, which in turn prevents stubborn red marks (PIH) from forming. LED light therapy is also able to boost collagen and elastin in the skin, helping minimize the appearance of the sun wrinkles commonly found around the eyes. Once only available in dermatologist offices, newer devices like the Light Salon Boost LED Mask allows users to treat the whole face at home in just 10 minutes.

Retinol – Famous for its myriad skin benefits, retinol has been used for decades to treat signs of sun damage such as excess pigmentation, wrinkles, and rough texture. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a form of exfoliation. Rather than removing dead skin cells, it helps regulate our skin’s natural shedding process. This means that new skin cells reach the surface faster, resulting in a smoother more even skin tone. Retinol may make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s important to apply (and reapply) SPF daily and avoid prolonged sun exposure while using. The Sarah Chapman Icon Night Smartsome moisturizer pairs this powerhouse ingredient with peptides to address the wrinkles common in sun damaged skin. There’s a reason you keep hearing about retinol – it really is that good.

Skin Damage Repair 

Even the most diligent sunscreen users end up a bit pink every now and again. With a mild burn, your skin colour should return to normal in about five to seven days.  “Mild to moderate sunburn will take about a week to fully heal. A severe sunburn with blisters can take longer, sometimes up to two weeks,” says Corey L.Hartman, M.D., of Skin Wellness Dermatology. Whether you forgot your SPF at home, or didn’t reapply in time, mistakes happen. When they do, it’s time to double down on the sunscreen, incorporate some skin soothing ingredients like aloe, and maybe spend a day or two in the shade.