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

Louis Silberman August 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
Sun spots

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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

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Treatment Protocol for Sun Spots

By Traci Norton, Instructor at National Laser InstituteSun+spots

Step 1: Begin with a chemical peel. Chemical peels are a great way to begin the treatment of sun spots. Some of the best peels for this condition are Jessner’s, TCA and salicylic acid peels.

Step 2: Add a light-based treatment. This should be a photofacial or a fractionalized laser procedure, depending on the client’s skin type. A photofacial treatment is great for lighter skin types; a fractionalized laser (1540 nm) treatment works well for all skin types.

Step 3: Alternate treatments bi-weekly. Alternate between chemical peel and light-based treatments every 2–3 weeks. This will help reach the pigment in different ways. Chemical peels help to shed the outer layer of skin, aiding in the sloughing of the pigmentation. Photofacials or fractionalized lasers will help reach the pigment deeper in the skin. The light also stimulates the skin’s natural healing response, which breaks up the pigment.

Step 4: Include topical products. During this process, it is very important to use a lightening product, such as a 4% hydroquinone, which is a concentration that requires a prescription. This product will help keep the sun spots in a dormant stage. Damaged cells have memory, so even after you have a series of treatments, these spots could return if you are not using a product to slow the development of melanin.

You should also alternate between hydroquinone and nonhydroquinone products every few months. If you treat spots solely with hydroquinone, the melanin may become accustomed to the treatment.

Step 5: Set up a schedule for maintenance. When treating irregular pigmentation, do chemical peel maintenance treatments every 6–8 weeks. Also, 1–2 light-based treatments per year will help to keep the skin bright and free of those pesky
sun spots.

Step 6: Emphasize the importance of sun protection. A quality sunscreen is very important in the treatment and prevention of sun spots and other sun damage.

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