If you spent any time at the beach, or outside running around with your kids, you likely collected some, if not many, new sun spots: meaning, sun damage. Two words: not good.
Little Black Book sat down with deme esthetician Danielle Causey to get the down-low on how to treat summer-kissed—again, damaged—skin now that we’re in Fall’s full swing.
LBB: How can sun damage be treated—and what, exactly, is it?
DC: Excellent at-home skincare makes up 50 percent of the success of your skin’s health. But at deme, we also can treat sun-damaged skin more aggressively with chemical peels, micro-exfoliation, IPL, or Pixel laser therapy. Unfortunately, what some women and men are battling, thinking it is typical sun damage, is really melasma.
Danielle Causey: deme esthetic skin care specialist extraordinaire
LBB: What is melasma?
DC: Melasma is defined as dark patches of hyper-pigmentation on the face. Where sun damage can appear as spotty pattern, melasma is more hazy and clustered. Melasma does appear in both men and women, but it is more common in women—only about ten percent of men get melasma. Also called “the mask of pregnancy,” melasma can be triggered by pregnancy, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, hormonal fluctuations, the Sun, and heat.
LBB: How can we protect our skin from worse sun damage?
DC: Simple. Do not ever leave the house without sunscreen. Especially for those with melasma, a physical block—meaning, a protective hat—is recommended in the Summer, while a cream-based block is okay in the Fall and Winter. We know way too much about the sun, UVA—aging rays—and UVB—burning rays—as well as the effects of the Sun on our bodies to walk out of the house without sunscreen daily.
LBB: What in particular can you incorporate into your routine to improve your skin’s appearance, post sun damage?
DC: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again: topical Vitamin C is key to your regimen. It not only protects your skin from free radicals: unstable molecules that damage collagen. That alone should be enough to convince you to run out and get it immediately! However, if you’re still not convinced, Vitamin C brightens the skin and lightens brown spots. It also boosts the efficacy of your sunscreen by 30 percent, and it can prevent the consequences of long-term sun exposure. There is also new evidence that Vitamin C can help reverse DNA damage. Vitamin C is a no brainer!
LBB: Can sun damage be reversed?
The hazy “mask” of melasma
DC: There are a few ways you can help mitigate the damage that melasma has caused to your skin. Products with hydroquinone in them used to be the course of treatment in our office, but now studies have shown that ingredient can be unsafe. Since May, we have stopped using hydroquinone and have replaced it with Arbutin, also known as Arbutase. Products with this ingredient will help to break down the melanocytes in the skin and, over time, will lighten it. Our Brillante cream, which contains glycolic acid, Vitamin A, Arbutase, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, is a great alternative to hydroquinone products.
Retin A Tretinoin are also used in conjunction with products such as our Brillante cream. Tretinoin is used on the skin, topically in the treatment of skin that has been damaged by excessive exposure to the sun. Tretinoin irritates the skin and causes the cells of the skin to grow, divide, and die more rapidly, increasing the turnover of cells. The number of layers of cells in the skin is actually reduced. Tretinoin can reduce some wrinkles, which will form new cells and replace old cells areas of darkened skin, also known as hyperpigmentation, as well as rough areas of skin, all of which occur in sun-damaged skin.
LBB: But can melasma ever be reversed through special treatments?
DC: A common misconception with melasma is to treat it like we treat all other hyperpigmentation in the skin, most effectively with a laser. Unfortunately, heat can aggravate melasma. In some cases, a patient has both melasma and sun damage, so the suggested protocol is to proceed with caution. I recommend starting with our Melanage peel. Of course, while every case is different and all results vary, I have seen great results with this peel. We have a “full” version of the peel and a “mini” version.
But, no, melasma cannot be reversed, though it can be managed very effectively. Melasma is chronic. If you’re not careful, it will come back. For those dealing with chronic melasma, don’t leave the house without vitamin C, SPF 30 or above, and try to wear an opaque barrier at all times.