How to Repair Sun-Damaged Skin

September 22, 2020
How to Repair Sun-Damaged Skin

As we age, the appearance and characteristics of our skin changes. Aging is accelerated in areas exposed to sunlight; a process known as photoaging (sun damage). Chronic sun exposure results in deeper and more severe signs of sun damage. Signs of sun-damaged skin include dark spots, freckles, patches of discoloration, dullness, dryness, wrinkles, and even deeper cellular damage that leads to pre-cancers. The skin areas primarily affected are those regularly exposed to the sun including the face, the V-area of the neck and chest, the back and sides of the neck, the backs of the hands, and extensor arms. The neck and hands are some of the most visible signs of our age. These areas get excessive UV exposure and experience accelerated photo-aging.

Accessing Sun Damage 

The sun damage we can see is only the first layer and deeper damage can appear years after unprotected exposure. This chronic and deeper damage leads to DNA mutations in our skin cells and can cause skin cancer. Therefore, the most critical step in preventing sun damage is applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. It is also important to have your skin assessed by a board-certified dermatologist regularly to monitor for changes in moles and sunspots.

Ingredients to Use 

Prevention is much easier than reversal when it comes to sun damage or photo-aging. Using a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater can help reduce signs of sun damage and cellular damage that lead to skin cancer. Dr. Zenovia Skincare Vitamin C Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30 provides transparent nano zinc-oxide 360-degree mineral protection from harmful UVA/UVB rays, free radical damage, and environmental stress for radiant, even-toned skin. Other ingredients that can prevent and repair visible signs of aging including, antioxidants, AHAs, topical Retinol, and Hydroquinone.

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant that protects against free radical damage, encourages collagen synthesis, smooths fine lines, and fades dark spots. Dr. Zenovia Skincare Vitamin C Brightening Toner is formulated with Micronutrient Sea Salt, and Vitamins C and E to brighten the skin, calm redness, and neutralize the appearance of pore-clogging impurities.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids 

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA’s) such as Glycolic Acid work by gently exfoliating dead skin cells. AHA’s should be used at night and help the skin absorb more of the active ingredients in your regimen. Dr. Zenovia Skincare 10% Glycolic Acne Control Peel Pads are specially formulated with Glycolic and Salicylic Acid to promote the skin’s cellular renewal process, unclog pores, and accelerate the removal of dead skin cells. Dr. Zenovia recommends integrating AHA’s into your routine slowly (1-2x per week) to prevent excess sensitivity.

Topical Retinols

Retinoic Acid is a derivative of Vitamin A that works to increase cell turnover, decrease collagen breakdown, fade hyperpigmentation, and soften fine lines. Retinols should be used at night to ensure maximum benefits as they can degrade in the sunlight. Prescription retinol compounded is the strongest but active retinols can be found over the counter as well at lower concentrations. Dr. Zenovia Skincare Advanced Retinol Night Repair Treatment deeply penetrates the epidermis through a unique micro-polymer delivery system to support cellular turnover. Dr. Zenovia’s retinol formula is much gentler on the skin than a prescription formula but is still extremely effective and perfect for all skin types. With consistent use, it helps reduce the appearance of acne, acne scarring, and even helps improve skin texture.


Hydroquinone is a powerful skin bleaching agent that can help lighten brown spots caused by sun damage. At percentages higher than 4%, this cream is a prescription that requires an evaluation by a board-certified dermatologist.

In-Office Dermatologist Treatments 

In addition to topical skincare products, lasers and microdermabrasion can yield powerful results for those suffering from sun damage. At-home treatments may not resolve all sun damage, but a board-certified dermatologist can further assess the damage and provide personalized treatments including:

Photodynamic Therapy 

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a powerful eraser of cellular sun damage. It involves a two-step process. The first step involves the application of a photo-sensitizing agent, levulanic acid. This product is applied to the skin and allowed to incubate for 2-5 hours (depending on the location being treated). Levulanic acid is preferentially absorbed by the “bad”, metabolically active, cells. A laser or light source (blue light typically) is then illuminated on the skin which activates the levulanic acid and causes a toxic reaction in these “bad”, abnormal cells. Thereby, the skin cells with DNA damage are effectively eliminated. Essentially, PDT is an effective laser procedure that is a sun damage eraser.  


This treatment works as a thorough exfoliation by spraying fine particles to remove damaged skin cells and renew the skin’s surface. Deeper cellular damage requires chemotherapy creams or laser treatments like Photodynamic therapy.

Chemical Peels 

Chemical peels encourage the skin to shed its outer layer, revealing the new skin underneath. Since there are many types of chemical peels, a board-certified dermatologist will need to examine the skin and suggest the most beneficial one.

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