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The Sunny Side: How to Reduce the Appearance of Sun Damage and Age Spots

By: Louis Silberman
Posted: July 30, 2013, from the August 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Many consumers have received conflicting messages about sun exposure throughout their lifetimes. For years, having a tanned glow was considered a sign of beauty, health—and even wealth. Sun exposure was something people craved. When I worked as a tennis instructor at a Caribbean resort back in the 1980s, getting a tan was considered an on-the-job bonus! However, in recent years, research has revealed the detrimental health and cosmetic effects of excessive sun exposure.

The dangers of skin cancer need to be taken seriously. As a skin care professional, you are on the front lines of skin safety. By getting an up-close view of the skin, you may see marks on a client that have gone unnoticed. If you identify irregular pigmented marks that look suspicious, refer the client to a medical professional for further examination. However, if your clients have cosmetic concerns about benign sun damage, this is where you can help!

A number of procedures can be used to fade sun spots—also called age spots and solar lentigines. There are also treatments that can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and soften leathery-looking skin. The following information can help you determine the best service—or combination of services—on a case-by-case basis.

How sun damage occurs

The culprit behind most extrinsic, or externally caused, aging is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. UV radiation is invisible to the naked eye, but definitely impacts the skin in multiple ways. To understand the full effect of UV radiation, it’s best to break it up into two subcategories: UVA and UVB.

UVA rays are long-wave solar rays that are able to penetrate the skin’s epidermal and dermal layers. They are main cause of sun spots, wrinkles and leathery skin—symptoms that are collectively known as photoaging. UVB rays are primarily responsible for damaging the epidermis and producing a sunburn or reddening effect on the skin. Scientists have long believed that UVB rays play the main role in the development of skin cancer but, in recent years, they have discovered that UVA rays play a significant role, too.

Learn the science behind aging skin from world-renowned dermatologist Zoe Draelos, MD, in the Aging Skin lesson, part of the Physiology of the Skin online video series from Skin Inc. Video Education.