By Bernard I Raskin, M.D.
By now we all know how important it is to protect our skin from the suns damaging rays. But did you know that photodamage begins when the first UV ray strikes the skin?
Freckles may seem cute on a toddler, but they are in fact the first signs of sun damage, and all sun exposure is cumulative. Though photodamage may not be apparent on a younger person, special UV cameras are able to detect UV damage and can document progressive damage through the years.
There are ways to possibly reverse or reduce sun-induced photodamage including IPL or intense pulsed light. IPL reduces both red and brown signs of aging as well as improving the collagen degradation associated with photodamaged skin. The IPL hand piece delivers high intensity pulses of broadband light (different wavelengths and energies) that is different from the narrow band light of lasers. Because it is broadband, it can treat several problems at once. IPL is non-ablative meaning that is does not damage the surface of the skin. The intense light is delivered to the deeper parts of the skin (dermis) and leaves the superficial aspect of the skin (epidermis) untouched. For the IPL to be effective, it must be used at high settings best performed under physician supervision.
PDT photorejuvenation is another technique used to improve photodamage. PDT is a procedure where a photosensitizer cream is applied to the area followed by a light treatment such as IPL or V Beam. The photosensitizer commonly used in this procedure is called aminolevulinic acid. The substance is applied and absorbed by the sun-damaged skin and magnifies the impact of IPL
or V Beam light energy creating even more improvement than IPL or V Beam alone. PDT also destroys pre cancer cells, so beauty and cancer prevention occur at the same time!
Alternatives to laser/light treatments for the treatment of sun-damaged skin include microdermabrasion and/or chemical peels. Microdermabrasion is a superficial exfoliation. Most patients treated with microdermabrasion report improvement in acne, uneven skin color, and skin texture, however multiple sessions are needed. Chemical peels are used for the treatment of photoaging, wrinkles, scarring, acne, and discoloration. Different strengths of peels produce controlled injury to the skin promoting the growth of new skin with an improved appearance. Peels can be used with microdermabrasion. The beauty of peels is that many strengths and types are available providing your physician with a range of options to maximize improvement or combine with other methods for detailed facial enhancements.
Though there are many ways to treat photodamage, the best way to keep your skin looking young is with photoaging prevention. Careful sun protection begins with using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 everyday, wearing protective clothing when in the sun, and trying to avoid the sun between the hours of 10am and 4pm when the suns rays are the strongest.