In most of the U.S., it’s not-so-slowly becoming closer to the holidays and further away from a calendar filled with weekends spent at the pool.
For many dermatologists, it’s also the perfect time of year to treat sun damage.
“Once the tan fades, these are the months patients may notice new or more obvious sun spots from a harsh summer sun,” says Greenwich, CT dermatologist Kim Nichols, MD, who stresses that sun damage is preventable and—this is a big one!—there is no such thing as a base tan.
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But, even if you were diligent with your protection and you are still in need of a solution, she has a few options to help treat the damage.
“We have the Laser Complexion Saver package to treat sun damage,” she says. “It’s a trifecta—a combination treatment of a Fraxel Dual, microneedling with PRP and a Custom DOSE skin care product by SkinCeuticals.”
Greenwood, CO dermatologist Joel Cohen, MD is also a big proponent “the laser cocktail.”
“I like using the HALO hybrid fractional laser or the LaseMD thulium laser for post-summer sun damage,” he says. “These lasers work to break-up areas of hyperpigmentation, while also making skin feel smoother and giving it a nice glow from light reflection.”
“However, we do not recommend these lasers—or really any laser for that matter—be used when patients are tan or are not being diligent about using sunscreen and practicing sun-protection measures,” he says, adding that for isolated benign-appearing brown spots, it’s always best to have a dermatologist evaluate first with a dermatoscope device to make sure a focal lesion is not a melanoma.
On the flipside, Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD prefers to give the thumbs up for topicals and says he’s “not a fan at all for laser for post-summer sun damage, as the results are often short-lived and, occasionally, lasers can actually cause worsening of brown spots.”
“There is a sweet spot where some brown spots and sun damage can, indeed, respond to laser, but that is rare. Instead, I often use skin care products to achieve the same exact thing that lasers are being touted for and they do this easily and more effectively and without down time.”
His favorite: the Obagi Nu Derm System with 4-percent hydroquinone, used in conjunction with Retin-A. “It can be a great treatment for a multitude of aging-skin concerns,” he says. “One newer product that we are loving is the SkinMedica Lytera 2.0, which contains tranexamic acid. This product is as close as it gets to a product that can match 4-percent hydroquinone results.”
“But there is no magic wand here! Sun damage isn’t something that can be fixed forever,” Dr. Schlessinger warns. “Eventually, the damage is going to be permanent. So the best thing to do is to be careful and avoid sun whenever possible and use a great sunscreen on a daily basis and wear lots of sun protection clothing and sunglasses when out in the sun. This will be a much wiser choice than assuming this can all be fixed with a laser.”