Can You Reverse Sun Damage On Your Skin?

Although nothing feels quite as good as the warm sun on your skin, the glowing orb in the sky may be causing more damage than you realize. While it's true the sun provides us with important vitamin D that has been credited with promoting cognitive health and proper immune function, longer periods in the sunshine can really take a toll on our skin (via Medical News Today). Longer exposure to the sun can accelerate aging, discolor skin, and leave a leathery texture in its wake. In severe cases, it can even cause skin lesions and skin cancer.


So what should you do if you've spent the better part of your youth in the sun? Many have started taking precautions such as applying (and reapplying!) sunscreen, going out when the sun is less intense, and staying in the shade when possible, per Skin Cancer Foundation. But questions still linger: What do you do with skin that already carries damage? When do you see a dermatologist? The good news is the road to healthier skin may be more accessible than you think.

Over-the-counter options

One of the best products to use if you are trying to care for your sun-damaged skin is retinol. Retinol derives from vitamin A and can work wonders for your skin. Although it's not appropriate for all skin types, using retinol a couple of times a week will help to reduce visible sun damage (via Skin Cancer Foundation). If your skin can tolerate retinol without becoming irritated and red, then feel free to add a few more applications to your weekly skincare regimen. Retinol works by promoting cell turnover and increasing the production of collagen. It is the over-the-counter and cost-effective answer to your sun damage woes.


Serums that lighten and brighten your skin can also help to reduce the appearance of damage. Used in combination with retinol, these products can lighten skin that has darkened from too much sun exposure, per Scripps. Many of these products contain vitamin C, which is a great ingredient for skin that needs some TLC. It can be used alongside your SPF and it should be applied in the morning and at night. According to Healthline, vitamin C helps restore your skin's structure, much like retinol. These products are available in most department and beauty stores, and are effective options for at-home topical treatments.

When to see a dermatologist

Although retinol and vitamin C are great options for skin treatment, there may come a time where these creams and vitamins simply aren't enough. If you notice lesions on your skin, especially those that bleed or grow in size, you should make an appointment with your dermatologist (via Scripps). Doctors of dermatology have many options when treating your skin. For example, many dermatologists turn to lasers to promote regrowth. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, laser treatments cause controlled injury to the skin so our bodies will go into healing and repair mode after the treatment, making fresh skin cells to replenish the damaged ones. In addition to lasers, dermatologists may apply a chemical peel. These peels are non-surgical applications and their depth on the skin varies. There are options for one-time treatments or a series of them. 


Although it's recommended that we always wear sunscreen and protect our skin from extended periods of direct sunlight, the skin damage is already done for many of us. The good news is that over-the-counter treatments are available, but if you notice major changes in your skin, be sure to make an appointment with your dermatologist. There are so many options available to reverse sun damage on your skin.