Undoing summer skin damage

Sep 01, 2007, 4:00am

An arsenal of products, services can help repair the sun's harmful effects

Key Points

Every summer it's the same old line - you promise you won't get sunburned, won't spend hours on the beach, you will wear a sunscreen, etc. Yet, every fall, as your tan fades, you see the signs that you should have been more careful. As the years go by, these effects become more pronounced. The good news is that some of the damage can be repaired.

Even if you've been lucky and your sun exposure hasn't led to the development of skin cancer, you are probably still looking at varying sizes of brown spots and freckling on your face, chest, shoulders, hands and back. Unbeknownst to you, sun exposure has also led to the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the deeper layers of your skin, leaving your face with fine lines and the beginning or advancement of lines and wrinkles. It's definitely time to speak with your dermatologist. With choices ranging from new topical creams to lasers and microdermabrasion, you actually can repair some of the damage. Ask your dermatologist about several skincare lines that are sold only through physicians' offices. These include a line called NIA 24, formulated with a unique niacin molecule that has been shown to help repair some of the effects of sun exposure in clinical testing. It helps reduce and significantly lighten hyperpigmentation and helps to stimulate collagen and elastin production, giving the skin a firmer, more even tone. A new addition to the line, NIA 24 Intensive Recovery Complex, can also help repair the skin's barrier, aiding in the retention of precious moisture in the skin, giving it a younger appearance.

A new line called Hyalogy, also available only through physicians' offices, delivers hyaluronic acid deep into the skin's layers via nanospheres that are small enough to penetrate the epidermal barrier and reach the lower layers where collagen and elastin are produced. This can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles caused by excessive sun exposure.

If, in addition to brown spots, the summer sun has left your skin with a rough texture and fine lines, topical treatments with products like Retin- A, Renova, Tazorac, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, glycolic acid and stabilized vitamin C, such as that found in Active C Cream, may also prove beneficial. Microdermabrasion treatments and chemical peels can also do wonders to reduce the appearance of fine lines and rough texture. There is a large spectrum of peels available - from very gentle glycolic peels to TCA or phenol peels which usually leave skin looking very red for weeks.

So, if the lure of the sun was just too powerful for you to resist, take heart: There's a lot one can do to restore the skin's radiance. And always remember that a post-summer body check is essential if you're still a sun worshiper.

That freckle that seems to be changing shape and color may, indeed, be skin cancer and a hefty price to pay for playing in the sun!