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How to Prevent and Restore Sun-Damaged Skin

Thoughtful attention to skin health has become an increasingly common concern for health-conscious people who strive to be their best.

Not surprisingly, advice from skin care health professionals and the use of skin care health products have become extremely important in the prevention of sun damage, as well as the maintenance of healthy skin to minimize the effects of the aging process.

An essential component of proper skin care is having a good understanding of the negative effects that the sun can have on your skin.

Let’s begin with the basics. Skin wrinkling is largely the result of two processes:

  1. Intrinsic aging of the skin, which is caused by genetic factors and leads to fine wrinkling as time progresses
  2. Extrinsic processes such as sun exposure, which account for the most obvious skin changes

Sun-damaged skin develops deeper wrinkles and a leathery consistency. Some sun-damaged areas may even develop into skin cancer. Unfortunately, this outcome is all too common in the South.

To prevent sunburn and sun damage, like all medical professionals, I recommend reducing your exposure to harmful ultraviolet light. You can accomplish this by using or creating shade — think hats, clothing, umbrellas and tents — or applying a sunscreen or sunblock.

Shading your skin is easy — just throw on a wide-brimmed hat and a loose shirt or invest in a large umbrella or tent. But if you’ve ever stood in an aisle filled with an array of sunblocks and sunscreens, you know the choices are dizzying. Here is what you need to know to make a healthy selection.

Like the American Cancer Society and American Academy of Dermatology, we recommend using a sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. The SPF of a sunscreen indicates the product’s ability to protect against sun rays that cause skin to burn — i.e., ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The higher the SPF, the greater the sunburn protection, when applied correctly and regularly as stated in the directions for use.

If you will be in water, choose a sunscreen labeled water-resistant, which gives it extra staying power. Finally, always choose a sunscreen labeled as having "broad-spectrum protection," which means it will shield you from both UVB and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, both of which have been linked to skin cancer.

Sunblocks are specially formulated to protect the skin from burning UVB rays, which is why they are generally thicker and more opaque than sunscreens. They also may leave a white cast on your skin when applied. The higher SPF numbers of sunblock — think 50 and above — block more of the sun's UVB rays, but remember that no sunblock or sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun's UVB rays.

Learn more about sunscreens and sunblocks in Tanner’s Health Library.

No matter which method(s) you use, it is critical for you and your family members — especially children — to avoid sunburn in order to prevent the future development of skin cancers.

Once sun-damage or wrinkling has developed in the skin, specialists such as board-certified plastic surgeons have several methods to help reduce it and restore a more youthful appearance to the skin.

  • The use of Retin-A combined with other active skin care agents has proven to be a valuable method to achieve these ends. Active skin care products are easy to use and always have a positive effect on the skin. Our office can certainly recommend which products may be most helpful for your skin.
  • For more severe cases, other methods are available to provide definitive treatment. These may include various chemical peeling techniques or other skin resurfacing techniques for a refreshing, rejuvenating effect.

To schedule an appointment or to learn more about the skin restoration treatments and skin care products available at West Georgia Center for Plastic Surgery, call 770-834-6302.

Plastic Surgery, Women’s Care, Tanner Medical Group, Men's Health Care

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