21 Sep 2023 | by Leonard Miller, MD, FACS, FRCS

Brown spots and areas of hyperpigmentation are one of the first signs of sun damaged skin. There are a number of different procedures to diminish these sun spots.

As humans, we need the sun to survive both physically and mentally. Not only does it allow plants to grow so that we can pursue one of my favorite activities, eating, but exposure to the sun’s rays encourages our bodies to produce Vitamin D and elevates our serotonin levels, which can help to stave off anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, UVA, UVB and UVC rays are not kind to the skin.  The most common symptoms of sun damage are:

  • Brown spots
  • Redness & broken blood vessels
  • Crepey, uneven skin texture including fine lines & wrinkles

Hopefully, you are diligent about using sunscreen, but even the most avid sunscreen user will experience some sun damage over his or her lifetime. So, the real question is: Is sun damage reversible? Here is my guide to the best procedures for erasing those tell-tale signs of, perhaps, too many hours spent at the beach.

Best Procedures to Diminish Sun Spots

Brown spots and areas of hyperpigmentation are one of the first signs of sun damaged skin. There are a number of different procedures to diminish these sun spots. The right one for you is going to depend on your skin type, the severity of your damage and your tolerance for downtime. This is why I always encourage patients to schedule an in-person consultation. I love the fact that patients today do their own research online. However, what worked for your friend or someone you follow on social media may not be right for you. My job is to take my years of experience and training, and find the right procedure or combination of procedures to best address your unique issues and lifestyle needs.

For a mild to moderate degree of hyperpigmentation, IPL or intense pulse light is often my go-to procedure. It can also address redness and  telangiectasias which are small, broken blood vessels. The advantage of IPL is that there is little to no downtime. The disadvantage is that it requires multiple sessions, spaced 4-6 weeks apart, and is not a good choice for patients with darker skin or those with more severe sun damage.

Lasers & Chemical Peels for More Severe Hyperpigmentation

While IPL may be my first line of offense, the next step up the laser skin rejuvenation ladder is Clear + Brilliant. This is a fractional laser with a setting that delivers precise micro-beams of light to create columns in the skin in order to address texture changes caused by sun damage, and a setting that addresses more diffuse areas of hyperpigmentation. The body’s response to this “damage” is to produce more collagen and elastin. Since these are the two fundamental building blocks of youthful looking skin, the end result is glowing skin that is plumper, more lifted and which has a more even texture. The nice thing about Clear + Brilliant is that there is minimal downtime. For patients with more severe sun damage, I may recommend either a chemical peel or a laser peel. The latter two require more of an investment of time for recovery, but they can also deliver serious results without the need for multiple sessions.

Best Procedures for Redness

The other most common side effect of sun exposure is redness. This may manifest as small, broken blood vessels or more disperse areas of redness. In patients with a “ruddy” complexion, the issue is typically a combination of brown spots, redness and broken blood vessels. IPL can be a great choice for addressing all three. However, for patients with a more intense “redness” issue, I will typically recommend a laser such as the Excel V. As many of you may know from reading this blog and/or meeting me in person, lasers are one of my specialities. I love how effective they are and that each one is unique. The Excel V is great for treating sun damage concerns such as:

  • Rosacea
  • Diffuse redness
  • Broken blood vessels

Age & Uneven Skin Texture

With age, the damaging effects of the sun’s rays on your skin grow exponentially. Not only does sun exposure speed up your body’s natural decline in collagen and elastin production, but your old damage seems to suddenly become more visible. The end result is deeper lines and wrinkles, sagging skin, and enlarged pores along with increased areas of redness and hyperpigmentation. Since the human eye is hardwired to perceive smooth skin as more youthful, this uneven texture is incredibly aging. This is when I typically combine procedures such as IPL with Excel V or an ablative fractional laser or a chemical peel. My goal is to rejuvenate your skin so that you feel more energized, youthful and vital because when you feel better in your skin, you look better.

To find out more about procedures to combat sun damage at the Boston Center for Plastic Surgery, contact us today or call (617) 735- 8735 to schedule a consultation.

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