Yes, it’s entirely possible to reverse superficial sun damage on your skin. You can address cosmetic concerns such as sun spots (hyperpigmentation) and the premature development of wrinkles.
However, it’s not possible to reverse UV-inflicted cellular damage to your DNA. So, although you can use these skincare ingredients and practices to support skin’s appearance, they aren’t a replacement for protecting the skin in the first place (read: still use sunscreen every day).
Treat your skin to daily vitamin C
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that fights the damage inflicted by UV rays. Applying it to your skin daily can help reverse sun damage, including hyperpigmentation. It can even help to slow the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
In addition, vitamin C aids in the production of elastin and collagen in the skin. You might already drink a daily glass of orange juice or take a vitamin C supplement, but these aren’t enough to improve your skin.
For revived sun-drenched skin, you’ll need to apply vitamin C topically. It’s best to use skincare products that contain it, such as serums, concentrates, and moisturizers.
Add retinol to your routine
If you aren’t already using retinol, the first sign of sun damage may indicate that it’s time to start—even if you’re too young to worry about wrinkles.
This is because UV light attacks the collagen and elastin in your skin. Retinol counteracts this, by stimulating collagen and elastin production and encouraging cell turnover. It also addresses discoloration, fine lines, wrinkles, and dull skin tone.
You can use over-the-counter retinol products, but if you have significant signs of photo-aging, you’ll get better results from prescription-strength retinol from a dermatologist.
Exfoliate your skin regularly
Another great way to reverse superficial sun damage is to exfoliate your face regularly. Most experts agree that exfoliation two to three times per week is ideal. However, if you have sensitive skin, you may want to do it only once per week (and use a gentler product).
Look for a serum or mask with gentle resurfacing ingredients, like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, AHAs and PHAs. These exfoliants work on multiple layers of skin, providing visible improvements in fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of sun damage.
Final words of caution
Certain skincare products can make your skin more sensitive to the sun (known as photosensitivity). Ironically, these include many with ingredients that diminish signs of sun damage.
That said, when using products that contain glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and all forms of retinol only use them in the evening, well before a day at the pool or beach.
Finally, be sure to apply sunscreen properly. Remember, prevention is the best medicine!
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