Can I Undo Sun Damage?

As summer gets into full swing, so does sun-related skin damage. Sunburn is the most common visible sign of sun damage, but did you know that by the time your skin is pink and painful (or tan!) that far more damage has already been done?

Most visible signs of skin aging are caused by sun damage, along with hyperpigmentation, hypersensitivity, and the big one—skin cancer. Many people claim that sun damage can be undone, but is there actually a way to return skin to its undamaged state, or are you just covering up the visible results of the damage?

First, a look at how the sun actually causes damage. The sun gives off three types of UV rays. UVA rays are directly related to skin aging, UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, and UVC rays are incredibly dangerous, but they thankfully are mostly absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere. So when we’re talking skin damage, we’re mainly talking about UVA and UVB damage.

Since different UV rays cause different damage (aging and burning), how does a sunburn mean that your skin will also show premature signs of aging? That’s because you can’t have one without the other! If you’ve been affected by UVB rays, you’ve also been affected by UVA rays. It’s as simple as that.

Research says that sun damage is responsible for about 80% of the skin’s aging. This number is often shocking to people, but it’s important to shout it from the rooftops since so few people know that their skin’s appearance is so directly impacted by sun damage! It goes to show that proper sun care doesn’t just keep you safe from the pain and short-term embarrassment of having a sunburn, but that it also greatly impacts how your skin will look one, five, 20, and 40 years in the future.

If you knew that the sunblock you applied today would keep you looking young at 50, would you be more diligent about it? Many people would. But beyond the desire to stay looking young is the real fact that sun damage is directly related to deep skin issues, including skin cancer. That alone should be enough to keep people slathered in sunblock and away from the tanning beds, yet many people still ignore the fact that sun damage is bad for your skin.

So, back to the original question: can sun damage be undone? The short answer is that some can be helped, but deep skin damage will never go away completely, which is why skin protection should start at a young age and always be a priority. But if you’ve allowed years of sun damage to creep in by way of accidental sunburn or purposeful tanning, there is hope for your skin yet.

First of all, your should visit your dermatologist. They can give your skin a full exam to target areas of concern, check moles for changes, and assess if any of your skin should be biopsied to rule out pre-cancer or skin cancer. At best, this will give you peace of mind that your skin is doing ok despite sun damage. At worst, you’ll discover that your skin is pre-cancerous or even cancerous, but you’ll be in the right hands to address treatment and move forward. It cannot be emphasized enough—visit your dermatologist to assess your skin’s health!

After visiting your dermatologist, you can begin an at-home regimen in order to address visible signs of sun damage, from sunburn to premature skin aging. Speak with your dermatologist about which ingredients or products will work best for your skin type, especially if they see something alarming during your exam.

Finally, take sun care more seriously. It’s not just a passing recommendation. It’s not only for those with fair or sensitive skin. Sun care is for everybody, and it is literally essential to your skin’s health. This summer, make sun care a priority. Your skin needs your protection.

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