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Treating Aged or Sun-Damaged Skin

What is photoaging?

Too much sun exposure early in life can make you look older. This premature wrinkling and skin damage from sun exposure is called photoaging. Photoaging is not like natural aging. It causes:

  • Coarse, dry skin

  • Freckling and skin discoloration

  • Leathery skin

  • Deep wrinkles

Treatment for sun-damaged skin

No one can avoid the natural process of aging, as the skin thins and lines and wrinkles appear. Moles, scars, and birthmarks also tend to change as we age. In addition, sun damage over the course of a lifetime worsens the aging skin. There are many anti-aging creams on the market. But sometimes advanced signs of aging and sun damage require more invasive dermatology procedures, such as:

  • Botulinum toxin type A. Injecting botulinum toxin into certain muscles blocks signals from the nerves to the muscles. The muscles that are injected no longer contract. This prevents the muscles from forming wrinkles and furrows. Using botulinum will also soften existing wrinkles. But it won’t prevent the signs of aging. It is most often used for forehead lines and the lines between and around the eyes.

  • Chemical peels. Chemical peels are often used to minimize sun-damaged skin, irregular skin color (pigment), and superficial scars. The top layer of skin is removed with a chemical applied to the skin. By removing the top layer, the skin regenerates. This often improves its appearance.

  • Soft tissue augmentation or filler injections. A soft tissue filler is injected beneath the skin to replace the body's natural collagen that has been lost. There are many different kinds of fillers available. Fillers are generally used to treat wrinkles, scars, and facial lines. They also treats wrinkles caused by volume loss and repetitive muscle contraction. Fillers are also used to plump up lips and enhance shallow contours. 

  • Dermabrasion. This may be used to minimize small scars, minor skin surface irregularities, surgical scars, and acne scars. It involves removing the top layers of skin with an electrical machine that abrades the skin. As the skin heals from the procedure, the surface appears smoother and fresher. It can be used for the whole face or for certain areas or scars. Microdermabrasion is a gentler version of dermabrasion. It uses small particles passed through a vacuum tube to remove aging skin and stimulate new skin growth. This procedure works best on mild to moderate skin damage. It may require several treatments.

  • Laser skin resurfacing. Laser skin resurfacing uses high-energy light to burn away damaged skin. Laser resurfacing may be used to minimize wrinkles and fine scars. It is also used to reduce enlarged oil glands, lighten up sun spots, and remove wart-like growths. A newer treatment option is called nonablative resurfacing. This type of resurfacing also uses a laser as well as electrical energy. But it does not damage the top layers of skin.

  • Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy. IPL therapy is different from laser therapy because it delivers multiple wavelengths of light with each pulse (lasers deliver only 1 wavelength). IPL is a type of nonablative therapy. This means it does not damage the top layers of skin.

  • Tretinoin treatment. This prescription skin cream can reduce wrinkles, rough skin, and discolored skin.

Online Medical Reviewer: Berman, Kevin, MD, PhD
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2017
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