Comfortable in your own skin
Get ready for summer with these tips for achieving — and maintaining — healthy, beautiful skin.
We all know the ill effects of sun damage — wrinkles, leathery skin, age spots and even skin cancer. Today, new technological advances allow doctors to see this damage long before it surfaces, repair it and prevent future harm.
Machines such as the Visia Complexion Analysis machine at LOOKS Beauty and Wellness use standard white light, cross-polarized flash and UV photography to assess skin damage in patients, says Laurie Smith, LOOKS business development manager. Patients simply place their face into a scanner and the machine analyzes eight areas — visible spots, UV spots, brown spots, red areas, wrinkles, texture, pore size and porphyrins (bacteria in the pores). A customized report is then constructed for the client, which includes product and treatment recommendations.
Patients also can watch an age progression to discover what their face will look like in 10 years without any intervention or prevention.
“We’d like to do this on every client … (so) we can watch patterns and check progress,” Smith says.
For some, simply using a new product is enough to take away years of sun damage. One LOOKS client underwent the Visia scan and immediately took action to repair her fair skin.
“I have very, very pale skin that freckles easy, and over the course of my life, I have acquired some skin damage,” says the client, who wished to remain anonymous. “In high school and college, you tan like it’s your job.”
The clinic recommended she begin a skin care regimen using Obagi products, which transform the skin at the cellular level.
“Prior to Obagi, I would just wash my face every day and night,” she says. “I wasn’t doing anything to repair the damage. They told me it would take three or four months before I saw major improvements, but pretty much right away my skin felt soft and smooth, particularly around my eyes. Now I look like I have a fresh, clean palette that most try to achieve with makeup.”
For those planning to repair previous sun damage, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later, says Dr. Jeff Swetnam, of Face and Body, because chemical and laser resurfacing, as well as surgical procedures, require four to six weeks of recovery time.
What works for one person may not be the best solution for another.
“It really totally depends on the patient,” says Dr. Christina Kendrick, of Tulsa Dermatology Clinic. “The focus for all age groups is prevention.”
Here are a few options for repairing damaged skin.
A chemical solution, often composed of phenol, trichloroacetic acid and alphahydroxy acids, is used to improve and smooth damaged skin, such as wrinkles, uneven skin tone and blemishes. This treatment has a short downtime, Swetnam says.
Reparative skin products
Products such as retinols can aid in repairing damage done to the skin and pull out pigmentation. “There is probably more data on topical retinoids than any other topical cream,” Kendrick says. “It helps rebuild the collagen and has been shown to help minimize fine lines and wrinkles.”Retinol applications are recommended for those in need of fresher-looking skin, as they promote the skin to turn over more quickly. Other topical treatments, such as Obagi, can change skin at the cellular level.
Intense pulsed light (IPL)
Different wavelengths are used to penetrate skin to get rid of discolorations. Women tend to find more of these pigment alterations on their skin because of hormonal changes, Swetnam says.
Laser skin resurfacing
Laser skin treatments get below the surface to the transdermal layer and pull it up and out of the skin. This layer then sloughs off, leaving you with a new layer of fresh skin.
All those interviewed for this article agree — UV exposure is the largest facilitator of skin damage and the most easily preventable.
As skin is exposed to UV rays, collagen and elasticity begin to break down and skin cells turn over less quickly — the result is saggy skin, wrinkles and age spots. Skin on the chest and neck, called décolletage, also is likely to age at an advanced rate, as many forget to apply sunscreen to this area. Skin damage also increases the risk for skin cancer.
There are two types of harmful UV rays — UVA and UVB. Smith says an easy way to remember the damage each causes is: A is for aging and B is for beauty.
So, when looking for sunscreens, it’s important to find one that protects skin from both harmful rays, such as broad-spectrum sunscreens, zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. The SPF in a sunscreen is based solely on UVB rays and offers no protection from UVA rays.
Even driving daily to work can cause damage because car windows protect from UVB rays but not UVA. This holds true even for some fluorescent lighting.
“Sunscreen is not an ‘I’m going to the pool’ way of life; it’s an ‘I’m taking out the garbage,’” Smith says, encouraging people to wear sunscreen no matter when they are outside.
“Sunscreen is a lifelong commitment,” he says.
Someone with a dark complexion requires less protection than a red-headed, Irish person. Someone who freckles or burns easily needs to wear at least SPF 30 or SPF 40 daily.
“When you’re 40, you are paying for what you did as a teenager,” Swetnam says. “The earlier you begin to protect your skin, the less problems you’ll see as you age.”