Excessive exposure to the sun early in life can make a person look older than he or she really is. Premature wrinkling and skin damage from sun exposure is also called photoaging. Photoaging, unlike natural aging, results in coarse, dry skin, freckling, skin discoloration, leathery skin, and deep wrinkles.
To minimize the effects of photoaging, several treatment options are available for aging skin. Specific treatment for sun-damaged skin will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Severity of the skin damage
Type of skin damage
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
Botulinum toxin type A. An injection of botulinum toxin (a complex type of protein) into specific muscles will immobilize those muscles, preventing them from forming wrinkles and furrows. The use of botulinum will also soften existing wrinkles.
Chemical peels. Chemical peels are often used to minimize sun-damaged skin, irregular pigment, and superficial scars. The top layer of skin is removed with a chemical application to the skin. By removing the top layer, the skin regenerates, often improving the skin's appearance.
Soft tissue augmentation or filler injections. A filler is injected beneath the skin to replace the body's natural collagen that has been lost. There are multiple different kinds of fillers available. The filler is generally used to treat wrinkles, scars, and facial lines.
Dermabrasion. Dermabrasion may be used to minimize small scars, minor skin surface irregularities, surgical scars, and acne scars. As the name implies, dermabrasion 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.
This gentler version of dermabrasion, called microdermabrasion, 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 and may require several treatments.
Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy. Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is different from laser therapy in that it delivers multiple wavelengths of light with each pulse (lasers deliver only one wavelength). IPL is a type of nonablative* therapy.
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. A newer treatment option is called nonablative* resurfacing, which also uses a laser as well as electrical energy without damaging the top layers of skin.
Tretinoin treatment. Tretinoin treatment, a prescription topical cream, can reduce wrinkles, rough skin, and discolored skin.
Prevention, however, is the key to retaining a youthful appearance. Practicing safe sun exposure habits, such as using sunscreens correctly, staying out of the sun as much as possible, and wearing protective clothing and hats, are essential to keeping the skin healthy. In addition, practicing sun safety may prevent the development of skin cancer later in life.
*Nonablative dermatological procedures do not remove the epidermal (top) layer of the skin. Ablative procedures remove the top layers of skin.