If only I’d listened to my mother, I wouldn’t be frantically trying to fix sun damaged skin. She warned me relentlessly that some day I would regret my sun worshipping ways, but did I listen? Noooooo. No, I baked in the sun, smoked cigarettes and did tequila shots like nobody’s business. Damn, my twenties were fun. Sorry, I digress.
The thing is that now I’m starting to pay the price. I am getting the face I deserve and while there’s no doubt I had a fabulous time getting to this point, I’m not really loving the results on my face. The wrinkles are a little deeper and the “cute” freckles are now “age spots”. The good news though is that there has been amazing advances in skin care and I really can turn back the clock, sort of. So, while no one has discovered the fountain of youth yet, it is possible to un-do some of the damage caused by the sun.
How to Fix Sun Damaged Skin
Get Sun Smart NOW
Before you do anything to reverse the damage it’s time to get serious about protecting your skin. There is no point even reading the rest of this article if you’re not willing to take the necessary steps to prevent more damage. That means investing in sun hats, polarized sunglasses, seeking out the shade on the beach, and wearing sunscreen—every single day. I know wearing sunscreen under make-up can be a pain, so it’s important to find one that doesn’t make you look like a clown. I am a fan of two; Ombrelle Weightless Face Lotion 60 SPF and Obagi Sun Shield 50 SPF.
Get Retinol in Your Life STAT!
One of the best things I ever did for my skin was to start using a retinol. I really didn’t understand the importance of retinol until I met with Dr. Trefor Nodwell from The Ottawa Clinic. A respected and talented plastic surgeon, married to a respected and talented dermatologist (who is also a partner at The Ottawa Clinic), he’s a skin guru. According to Dr. Nodwell, every woman over 40 should be faithfully using a retinol in their daily skin care routine.
If you’re not sure what a retinol is, relax. It’s a fancy schmancy way of saying Vitamin A and because too much Vitamin A can harm babies, it is only recommended for women who are done having children, like you and I sister, because we are so done. *pops champagne*
Outside of women who are pregnant retinol is a miracle cream. I can’t seem to find any downsides to it! Here are just a few of it’s many advantages:
- Retinols are antioxidants that keep those pesky free radicals from doing serious damage to your face.
- Retinols help increase collagen production. Collagen is what gives you your youthful glow at twenty, but starts to decline as you age so that your skin starts to sag. Collagen hates the three S’s; sun, smoking and sugar. It’s basically the party pooper at this getting older party. Getting collagen to stick around is going to require work on your part. We’re going to come back to collagen, so remember that word.
- Because retinols help your skin cells turnover faster, they can help fade discolourations from sun damage and DING DING DING, that’s exactly what we’re after here.
Retinols can be irritating to skin at first, causing redness and flaking. Don’t let this discourage you from persevering, believe me when I say the benefits are worth it. Start with a low percentage like Skin Medica’s .25% Retinol Complex a few times a week, gradually increasing to every other day and finally nightly. As your skin adjusts increase the retinol percentage.
Use a Skin Brightener
What was once considered hot, it definitely not when you hit a certain age. Case in point, that brown tan you were chasing for so many years. Now that “tan” is permanent—not a golden glow over your skin but rather a bunch of mottled sun spots AKA age spots. So not sexy.
Thankfully you can lighten the appearance of sun spots using a skin brightener like Lytera. For a one-two punch buy the Skin Brightening System that comes with Lytera and Retinol. It’s a party in a box for your skin.
Here’s what I love about Lytera, and all the Skin Medica products; THEY WORK. I can’t even begin to tell you how much money I’ve wasted on products with grandiose claims only to be disappointed. There’s lots of snake oil salesmen in the world of skincare, a billion dollar industry, so it’s easy to be seduced by pretty packaging and empty promises. I’m done throwing my money at them. I’m sticking with Skin Medica now.
Get Serious With Fraxel
In the summer of ’85 my friends and I were seeking the ultimate tan and went for the big guns; Crisco!! Yup, we slathered ourselves in vegetable oil and literally fried ourselves in the sun. Sometimes, I genuinely wonder how I made it this far in life but that’s probably another blog topic, or therapy session, whatever. Needless to say, for me to expect topical skin creams to undo all the damage I’ve done isn’t reasonable. That’s why, I went for the big guns with Fraxel.
Fraxel is non-invasive laser therapy that is serving two purposes for me. First, it’s actually reversing the damage I did with the sun by removing the sun spots. Pfft, who says you can’t go back? Second, remember we talked about collagen? Fraxel, gets deep down and helps your skin produce more collagen resulting in skin that is fuller and more youthful.
What’s truly incredible about Fraxel though is that when it comes to sun spots, the results are permanent. The age spots you acquired in your youth are gone forever and because you’re serious about sun care now, you’re not going to acquire any new ones. The procedure is uncomfortable but not painful and takes about twenty minutes. I had my procedure on a Friday and by Monday, I was able to wear make up again. By the following Thursday, I was on television with no evidence of the procedure I had done a week earlier. The benefits of Fraxel continue for months after treatment as your skin produces more collagen and the age spots disappear.
Most people require between one to three treatments. At roughly $1100 per treatment, there’s no question that Fraxel is an investment and if you’re not truly committed to staying out of the sun, it’s probably not for you.
Botox and Fillers
Here’s a little known fact about me. I’ve had Botox for years now to get rid of the very prominent number eleven between my eyes. I wasn’t lusting after a more youthful appearance when I started. It was because people started to ask me what I was mad about; all the time. I wasn’t mad about anything but that stupid scowl certainly made it look like I was even when I was actually very happy. My closest friends knew but I never told anyone online because people tend to fall strongly in either the for or against camp when it comes to Botox. I simply don’t have the energy to debate or defend a choice that actually makes me feel better. Still, I have always avoided doing any more than that section between my eyes.
We’ve all seen the celebrity who has gone too far; totally and utterly void of expression. It’s enough to scare the bejeepers out of you. It’s why I’ve long avoided doing anymore than that little scowl. When I first met with Dr. Nodwell and we discussed how to fix sun damaged skin, we ended on Botox and fillers and I shared my concerns. I didn’t want to look frozen, I wanted to be able to still express myself. I didn’t want to look twenty, I wanted to look my age, just my age if I hadn’t been so stupid in my youth. He listened intently and then assured me that I would not look like a former version of myself. Dr. Nodwell’s credentials and understanding of the science impressed me so I agreed to try it.
Here’s the thing; I didn’t tell a soul. Not my husband, my mom or my best friend. I truly wanted to see if anyone would notice; the three closest people in my life didn’t bat an eyelash. The real test for me though, was what would I see when I looked in the mirror. At the end of the day, I wanted to do this for me, so I had to be happy. I can’t lie—I’m absolutely thrilled with the results. I still have lots of expression in my face and the lines are just a little bit softer.
I have not tried the filler Juvederm but after my very positive experience with Botox, I’m not dismissing it either. I do know this; I wouldn’t trust just anyone to put Botox or Juvederm in my face. I want someone who truly understands how the face works, how the muscles work together, and that listens to my end goal. The products work great, but in inexperienced hands, you may not get what you want. If you’ve been thinking about Botox or Fillers then I highly recommend The Ottawa Clinic in Ottawa. If you’re not in Ottawa, be sure to seek out a medical professional and ask the hard questions before you commit.
Finally, Botox and Juvederm are only temporary fixes, that require regular maintenance. They are great to complement the above procedures but will not actually undo sun damage.
I’m happy to answer any questions about the products or treatments mentioned above in comments!
I was contacted by The Ottawa Clinic to work with them for this post. All opinions are mine. This post contains affiliate links.