Long-term exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, especially around the face, is the No. 1 cause of skin damage. This photo-aging, unlike natural maturing, speeds up the aging of your skin by as much as 12 years, and you’ll look it! UV exposure also increases your risk of developing skin cancer.

Some signs of sun-damaged skin are dry, rough, leathery-looking skin; broken capillaries; wrinkles; brown spots; freckles; or other discoloration of your skin.
Some people develop dry, scaly spots called solar keratoses. It’s a good thing to have your dermatologist check these or any abnormal changes to your skin. For one thing, you’ll have peace of mind knowing your symptoms aren’t cancerous. Or if they are, you’ll obtain immediate attention for the problem. Help is here. Chose from a wide variety of products and treatment options to help the appearance of your skin — maybe even reverse the damage.

General maintenance: Do-it-yourself and over-the-counter creams

Exfoliate to create smooth, bright skin, using exfoliation serums containing 5- to 8- percent concentration ofglycolic acid for removal of dead skin cells — better than granules or rough exfoliates.

Use a skin-bleaching product to lighten the brown spots. Anything you select should have a 2-percent concentration of hydroquinone. One such product is Murad Age Spot and Pigment Gel.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 15 SPF (30 is better) every day to fight off both UVA and UVBrays.

Apply topical antioxidant creams at night to protect your skin’s DNA, collagen and elastin from free radicals, which cause wrinkles and sagging. Vitamin C-based products are excellent. Those containing alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid and lactic acid) and other types of antioxidant cream or serum will help.

Facial treatments offered by spas

Massage is considered an anti-aging tool by many. It’s sometimes called a “workout for our facial muscles” because it helps keep our skin firm. Gently kneading the muscle tissue improves blood circulation, causing oxygen and nutrients to hurry to your face. This allows the collagen fibers in your skin to retain their elasticity.

Various types of facials are offered at spas around town to help sun-damaged skin and treat other skin problems. Just as in makeup and other skin care substances, products containing natural ingredients such as algae, seaweed and vitamins are desirable. For example, at the new-to-the-area Eilan Hotel spa,ESPA products are used. These skin care products contain a high percentage of the active ingredients found in plants (like cucumber and gotu kola) to work on the superficial layers of your skin, or marine-based supplements (with names like sea amber and Irish moss) to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin for hydrating and toning. The essential oils in aromatherapy are absorbed through the skin as well as through the nose for calming or stimulating both the mind and the body. The combined use of plant, marine and aromatherapy treatments is known as a triactive treatment. Many spas offer their own version of hydrating and toning facial treatments, using their preferred product line or perhaps a “signature” facial. Other facials offered may be designed to address specific problems. Examples include:

Purifying facials for treating oily or problematic skin and for refining pores.

Microdermabrasion facials involving the use of small particles that are passed through a vacuum tube to remove aging skin and stimulate new skin growth. This treatment or series of treatments is best used for mild skin damage.

Targeted facials aimed at specific areas needing extra attention — around the eyes, on the hands — for firming or smoothing or dark spots.

Noninvasive and minimally invasive treatments for sun-damaged skin are provided by dermatologists and other medical professionals. These are considered cosmetic procedures and are not usually covered by health insurance.

About skin

Skin is made up of three layers. The epidermis (the top layer) controls the loss of water from tissue and cells. The second layer, the dermis, contains blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles and protein and collagen, which support the structure of the skin. The third and lowest level is the hypodermis, comprising fat, connective tissue, larger blood vessels, nerves, sweat glands and collagen cells. Sun damage just adds to and speeds up the normal breakdown of the collagen support and elastin brought about by the aging process. To correct sagging, wrinkled skin, more stringent measures must be taken. Things like:

Non-ablative laser surgery involving the use of a broad-spectrum intense pulse light rapidly firing on the skin to heat the dermis, which encourages collagen production.

Prescription topical medications containing vitamins A, C, E or other ingredients that have proven to be effective in reversing sun damage and smoothing the skin.

Chemical peels usually used on the face, neck and hands to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, to treat some forms of acne, to remove age spots and other dark patches, to improve skin texture and color and to minimize mild scarring.

Injectable fillers, sometimes called “liquid face-lifts.” These minimally invasive cosmetic fillers are materials injected under the skin to plump up wrinkles and structural breakdown, giving you a more youthful appearance.

Following are some of the most common fillers used for these purposes:

Collagen injections are given to replace the skin’s natural collagen and restore the structure. (Creams containing collagen cannot actually restore lost collagen.)

Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance in the body, said to absorb more than 1,000 times its weight in water, thus helping maintain skin volume and hydration. The following fillers are based on hyaluronic acid:

Juvederm is used to lift and contour deep wrinkles and folds.

Restylane is recommended to fill more moderate facial lines.

Perlane has a thicker consistency, making it useful for plumping the face and lips and the deeper folds of the skin.

Other popular fillers, each with a specific purpose, used for plumping, for recontouring the face and for rebuilding collagen:

Radiesse uses microspheres, which are calcium-based rather thanhyaluronic acid-based. These tiny balls, suspended in a water-based gel, stimulate collagen production and tissue growth for both immediate and extended results. It is often injected to fill those deep lines around the nose and mouth and for plumping the cheeks.

Sculptra has a substance called poly-L-lactic acid as the main ingredient. Instead of producing immediate results, Sculptra builds collagen over a period of months. Injected to replace the loss of fat in the cheeks and facial areas, results can last up to two years.

Artefill builds a more permanent support structure. It is FDA-approved with results that are both immediate and long-term.

Fat. Not usually our favorite word. However, when our own body fat is harvested and injected, the risks of allergic reaction or rejection are eliminated. Since some of the fat will be reabsorbed into the body, the physician may overfill the area, possibly causing a temporary abnormal appearance.

So fake it, don’t bake it. Tan skin may look healthy, but fried skin does not — not now, not ever. Just say “no” to the rays and tanning booths. Instead, along with your daily shot glass full of sunscreen, slather, spray or wipe on the artificial tanning solution.

You WILL be glad you did.