Beautiful weather can be your body's worst enemy.
Unfortunately, those same uplifting rays of sunshine can have long-term side effects. Photoaging (think fine and coarse wrinkles, sagging skin, increased freckles, age spots and mottled pigmentation) is one such example.
The good news: innovations in technology can help treat such conditions.
To learn more, we asked a medical expert to explain three tech treatments. Dr. Michael Lin is a California-licensed physician and board-certified dermatologist. He is a Diplomat of the American Academy of Dermatology, ajunct professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California, and a Fellow of the American Society for Mohs Surgery.
Problem: Precancerous concerns
Recommended treatment: Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
This minimally invasive treatment pairs a photosensitizing nontoxic drug that is activated by light therapy, targeting both sun-damaged and precancerous cells.
"Actinic keratoses (AKs) are scaly, crusty growths that are caused by UV damage. If left untreated, up to 10 percent of AKs can develop into squamous cell carcinoma and, in rare cases, can turn into basal cell carcinoma," says Lin. "Photodynamic therapy can be used to treat AKs and prevent cancerous cells from developing."
How it works: The two-step process begins with the uniform application of a topical photosensitizing solution on the areas of sun damage. In most cases, the light treatment can be administered an hour after application of the topical solution to complete the treatment in one office visit, notes the doctor. In more severe cases, the solution is applied during the day, allowed to penetrate deeper overnight and patients return the next day. The next step involves rinsing and patting the area dry prior to the light treatment, which lasts approximately 17 minutes. When the skin is exposed to the nontoxic light, it reacts with the photosensitizing agent to target and treat sun-damaged cells, including AKs. "Protective eyewear should be worn during the treatment," Lin says.
The light treatment doesn't heat the skin, but the patient may experience stinging or burning sensations in the treatment area. The discomfort subsides anywhere from as soon as one minute after treatment to up to 24 hours later. Redness, swelling and scaling may occur after the treatment. This inflammation should completely resolve within four weeks after the treatment.
Problem: Sun damage and broken capillaries
Recommended treatment: Intense Pulsed Light
This is an FDA-cleared and patented skin treatment that is noninvasive (there is no damage to the epidermal surface of the skin) and is sometimes known as IPL. Unlike many lasers, it delivers multiple wavelengths of light with each pulse. It is an effective therapy for freckles caused by sun exposure and mottled pigmentation and has minimal recovery time.
How it works: Prolonged sun exposure over time can cause dark patches, which are accumulations of melanin pigment in the skin. The light energy delivered by the Intense Pulsed Light reacts with red and dark pigmentation below the surface of the skin. These pigmented spots and growths will crust up and fall off over the course of one to two weeks. Light energy absorbed by the skin also stimulates collagen growth. "The removal of pigmentation and stimulation of collagen will help restore skin to its natural beauty, evening out skin tone and making it smoother, vibrant and youthful."
Problem: Dark spots and uneven pigmentation
Recommended treatment: Chemical peels
Chemical peels can be used to treat sun-damaged skin by removing the top layer of skin, allowing it to regenerate. Chemical peels use a solution to exfoliate and remove the damaged outer layers of the skin, revealing a bright, healthy, more vibrant complexion.
How they work: When selecting a peel, choose either a glycolic acid or a trichloroacetic acid peel. The mildest option, glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, is suitable for the treatment of fine wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and acne. For a deeper chemical peel, trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels are used for uneven pigmentation and to improve the texture and tone of the skin. TCA peels achieve greater and more dramatic results than a mild peel. Glycolic (AHA) and Salicylic (BHA) are the most common forms of chemical peels and are often called lunch-time peels. TCA and Jessners are deeper peels that require a bit of down time. Chemical peels can dramatically improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, skin tone and texture. "Chemical peels can benefit all complexions, even the most sensitive, and can be performed on any part of the body."
Pre-treatment prep: Patients who are on photosensitizing medications such as doxycycline and the acne medicine Accutane should consult with a physician before getting any of these treatments, Lin advises. Those with darker skin types should consider pre- or post-treatment with hydroquinone to prevent hyperpigmentation, where patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. Patients on a retinoid, such as tretinoin, should consult with the physician before treatment, as treatment type and settings may need to be altered.