The Skinny on Sun Damage: What You Can Control and Correct
If you’re reading this article, chances are you already have sun damage. We rarely think about things like dark spots or white spots (yep – missing pigment is a form of sun damage) until it’s staring back at us in the mirror. Improving the appearance of sun damage is possible, though, but let’s start from the top because you may be able to help someone else avoid it before it happens.
Know Your Fitzpatrick Level
A lot of factors come into play when determining a person’s propensity for sun damage. The Fitzpatrick Scale was developed in 1975 and ranges from I through VI, with individuals with light skin and blue or green eyes at the beginning of the spectrum and ending with dark eyes, skin, and hair at the other end. So, the fairer your skin, the greater your risk.
But here’s the rub. The Fitzpatrick scale is only one factor in the mix. Lifestyle choices, altitude, and unprotected sun exposure can tip the scale … and not in your favor. Research has shown that “ambient UV dose varies according to the amount of atmosphere it must pass through, making UV doses higher nearest the Equator (where sunlight strikes the Earth most directly), at higher altitudes and in conditions of minimal cloud or particulate cover.”
Types of Sun Damage
When and where you grew up, as well as your skin’s natural protection factors, all play a role in future sun damage. As much as we’d like to believe that a tan is “healthy,” any time the skin changes color due to sun exposure, it’s damaged. Period. That pigment, known as melanin, does its best to protect your skin when you’re exposed to the sun. Sometimes, the pigment occurs evenly (like in our younger years) but a lot of time it impacts the small blood vessels close to the skin’s surface, giving it a reddish, dappled appearance.
Over time, further damage surfaces as idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH), which causes parts of the skin to stop producing pigment. Actinic keratoses, “the most common precancer that forms on skin damaged by chronic exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and/or indoor tanning,” as well as reduced elasticity and fine lines and wrinkles round out the list – none of which will earn you bonus points with your dermatologist.
Steer Clear of Tanning Beds
Think indoor tanning beds are less harmful than the sun? Think again. “Tanning beds can be up to ten times more powerful than sunlight.” In layman’s terms, their cancer-causing potential is a documented reality. In fact, “At least 44 states and the District of Columbia regulate the use of tanning facilities by minors”– regulations that didn’t start going into effect until 2012 when California became the first state to pass legislation to protect minors.
Think Prevention First
Sun damage is real, but there’s a lot you can do to prevent it, starting with one simple product: sunscreen. Long known as the best anti-aging product on the market, today’s broad spectrum sunblock not only prevents skin damage but often protects skin from pollution, environmental stressors, and harmful free radicals. The FDA recommends using a broad spectrum product with at least SPF 15 for daily use, but the American Academy of Dermatology Association says that protection should be “SPF 30 or higher.” Incidental damage from small doses of sun exposure throughout the day adds up, and that cumulative damage will eventually show on your skin.
Sun protective clothing is a great investment, especially for days when you’ll be near the water. Sunlight reflects, and if you like to sail or sit seaside under an umbrella, make sure you’re protected even in the shade.
How to Undo the Damage
If you’re dealing with sun damage, you have better options today than ever before. Vitamin C, which takes center stage in our C+ Brightening Booster, works to break up hyperpigmentation, and ingredients like arbutin and licorice root in Lorde + Belle’s Spot Reducing Booster can help brighten the skin and even out its tone. To get the best results, we recommend combining one of these targeted boosters with your Repair Serum and RegenPen routine. With the RegenPen, you’ll enhance your skin’s ability to absorb these pigment-busting serums while evening out your skin’s tone and texture. Ask your Brand Partner for a customized recommendation to target your sun damage.