Reverse the signs of sun damage
How to Reverse Summer Sun Damage
By: Dr. Gary Goldfaden, Dermatologist
Long, relaxed days in the sun can really add up. Years of daily exposure to ultraviolet radiation from that glorious sunshine take a toll on your skin. Damage comes in the form of dry, rough, uneven patches and dark spots, or even fine lines and wrinkles. Your skin loses its firmness and elasticity, often looking older than you may feel! But science is doing its part. Research has led to the discovery of natural compounds that can help support the structure of skin while minimizing signs of aging (think, crow’s feet, lines, sagging, and uneven tone). Many of these natural compounds come from the foods we eat, but dermatological research increasingly focuses on the value of exfoliation followed by a topical application of concentrated extracts of nutrient-rich foods to even out the skin tone...naturally!
Missing the days of baby-soft skin? They have a slight advantage because their skin cells are naturally replaced every few days. As you get older (groan), the rate of skin cell turnover slows dramatically. Dead cells on your skin’s surface hang around much longer, which accentuates those fine lines, increases the appearance of discoloration and makes your complexion look dull. By removing these dead skin cells, exfoliation helps make up for the gradual slowing of your natural skin renewal process, so you see improvements in the tone and texture of your skin.
The process of exfoliation is a lot like peeling away the dry, outer skin of an onion to reveal the living layers beneath. Whether exfoliating by using mechanical abrasion or a controlled chemical reaction, removing dead and damaged skin cells on the surface allows the fresh new skin underneath to become visible—skin that’s much softer and smoother. Its surface better reflects light, making fine lines and other small imperfections harder to see. Age spots and other areas of unwanted pigmentation are less noticeable because the dead skin cells containing the pigment have been removed. Exfoliation unplugs clogged pores and allows for the release of natural skin oils. Basically, exfoliation works wonders!
Regular exfoliation also helps to maintain open pores, decrease pore size, and minimize many types of superficial scarring. In addition, removing the top layer of dead and damaged cells allows moisturizers, antioxidants, and collagen-boosting ingredients to better penetrate the skin and work more effectively.
How to Pick a Good Exfoliating Scrub + Skin Lightening Product:
In general, choosing the right exfoliating scrub depends mostly on you—the thickness and sensitivity of your skin. It’s important to remember that all kinds of particles can be used for exfoliation, and mainstream products encompass a wide and varied selection. With that being said, particles that are perfectly round are the best bet. This can include: Amber Crystals and Conundrum/Ruby Crystals, to name a few. This lessens the likelihood of tears happening in the skin. It's also important to realize that certain ingredients, although natural, may not be appropriate for your skin type. Some natural products, such as crushed nutshells, sea shells, pumice, ground fruit pits and seeds, have uneven edges and irregular shapes that can damage sensitive skin. The best exfoliating scrub is the one that effectively removes your dead surface skin cells but, more importantly, is gentle to the rest of your skin.
The final group of compounds that can improve the health and appearance of aged skin are antioxidants and skin-lightening agents. These help reduce unsightly, mottled areas of hyperpigmentation where melanin has pooled underneath the skin.
Free radical damage to your skin is the leading cause of premature aging. The potent natural antioxidants found in white, green, black and red tea extracts help reduce the inflammation and oxidative stress that can destroy the health of your skin cells. Red Tea in particular possesses a seriously impressive antioxidant capacity. Tea extracts also enhance the powerful, free radical quenching capabilities of Vitamin E and provide protective strength to the skin that helps to protect against UV exposure and DNA damage caused by environmental stresses. Additionally, the Vitamin C levels found within tea extracts have been shown to help increase the formation of collagen, which helps to improve the overall skins structure and tone (no surgery needed).
It is important to select naturally based skin lightening agents so that you avoid further skin damage. Many all-natural, topical skin-lightening agents have been found to be quite beneficial in lightening hyperpigmented areas of the skin. These include alpha arbutin, kojic acid, which comes from berries, Gooseberry Extract, and Nicatinamide. Topical applications of natural, fruit-derived alpha-hydroxy acids, including glycolic acid, have been extremely beneficial in combination with the aforementioned bleaching agents.
There’s no doubt in my mind that regular exfoliation, followed by a topical lightening treatment including antioxidant-rich products and daily sunscreen use, is absolutely essential to maintaining smooth skin and keeping the appearance of hyperpigmentation and wrinkles at bay. With a little work, and even more care, skin can be beautiful, at any age.
Dr. Gary Goldfaden