Sun damage can affect people of all ages and stages – however, for many, it may not be noticeable until later in life. Read on to learn about the causes and treatments of this common and cumulative Skin Condition of the Month: Sun Damage.
What Causes Sun Damage?
Your skin contains many different types of cells – the cells that create pigment are called melanocytes. When your body detects too much sun exposure, your melanocytes produce extra pigment in order to protect the deeper layers of your skin. Over time, this damage accumulates and surfaces as sun damage. Sun damage can present in many different ways but is most commonly observed in the form of photoaging. Photoaging often presents as dull skin, wrinkles, age spots & hyperpigmentation. However, sun damage can also present itself in a more worrisome form – melanoma.
Why Is Sun Damage Dangerous?
In short, yes. While photoaging caused by the sun is largely a cosmetic concern, as sun damage increases, the odds that it could turn into a dangerous skin condition such as actinic keratosis (AK), also increases.AKs are often a precursor to basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas. They most commonly appear on skin most vulnerable to the sun such as the face, ears, scalp, hands, neck, or lips.
What Precautions Prevent Sun Damage?
The best way to minimize damage from the sun is to prevent it! Here are some preventative measures you can take to stop sun damage before it starts:
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
- Wear protective clothing, hats, and UV-blocking sunglasses
- Reapply sunscreen regularly
- Stay out of the sun during peak UV hours (between 10:00 am & 4:00 pm)
- Utilize shaded areas including umbrellas, tents, and other coverings
- Avoid tanning beds
- Avoid the sun completely when undergoing cosmetic treatments such as laser skin resurfacing or chemical peels.
- Follow a preventative skin care regimen
How to Identify Actinic Keratosis
While AKs tend to vary in their appearance, here is a list of their most common signs:
- New patches or bumps, especially on commonly exposed areas such as the face, ears, scalp, hands, neck, or lips.
- Small, rough, or scaly patches of skin
- Warlike bumps with a hard, raised appearance
- Variations in color
- Crusting, burning, itching, or bleeding skin
If you find an area of skin that you suspect to be an actinic keratosis, please call and schedule an appointment with one of our dermatology providers immediately.
How Is Sun Damage Treated?
While we offer multiple treatments for sun damage, two of our newest treatments include Cartessa™ Tetra Cool CO2 Laser and LEVULAN® KERASTICK®. Cartessa™ Tetra Cool CO2 Laser is the first CO2-based laser treatment to utilize advanced CoolPeel® technology. The CoolPeel® system uses a high-powered short pulse laser and delivers a precise, fully-ablative treatment to the tissue in the affected area. The Cartessa™ Tetra Cool CO2 Laser also treats scarring, moles, and other imperfections in addition to sun damage. Next up, we have the LEVULAN® KERASTICK®. This treatment improves AKs by combining prescription medicine and red light therapy. This innovative treatment is covered by most commercial insurance and Medicare, is long-lasting, and only targets the layer of skin containing AKs. We also offer a variety of other laser treatments that help to improve the visible signs of sun damage.
One of the best steps that you can take to avoid sun damage is to book an appointment with a licensed dermatology professional here at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta. We can diagnose, treat, and help you prevent potentially dangerous sun damage! We look forward to sharing next month’s “Skin Condition of the Month,” so stay tuned! Don’t forget to follow us on social media and subscribe to our newsletter for regular practice updates, skin care tips, and more.