Ask Dr. K: Protect skin from further sun damage
DEAR DOCTOR K: I’m in my 60s and already have a lot of wrinkles. What can a dermatologist do for me that will make a difference but not be hugely expensive?
DEAR READER: Age isn’t kind to skin. Years of sun exposure leave their mark in the form of fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration. I spoke to my colleague Dr. Kenneth Arndt, clinical professor of dermatology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He assured me that some of the damage can be reversed.
The first step is to slow the pace of further damage. Do this by staying out of the sun and by wearing adequate sun protection whenever you are outside. Completely cover exposed skin using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher. And wear sun-protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat.
Besides protecting yourself from the sun, to minimize existing wrinkles and age spots, consider dermal fillers and neuromodulators.
Neuromodulators (Botox, Dysport, Xeomin) are injections that relax the muscles that create the appearance of wrinkles when you smile, frown or laugh. These products diminish frown lines and forehead lines and sometimes crow’s feet.
Dermal fillers are injections that plump up sagging areas of skin. Dermal fillers are often used to soften the “laugh lines” that run from the side of the nose down to the mouth.
You mentioned cost, and these treatments can be pricey. For example, Botox injections range from $300 to $700 per session. If this is out of your budget, consider these options:
Chemical peels use chemicals such as glycolic acid to strip away the outer layer of damaged skin. A glycolic acid peel can cost as little as $80, but it needs to be repeated every few weeks or months to continue showing an effect.
Microdermabrasion uses tiny exfoliating crystals to buff off the top layer of skin and reveal the smoother surface below. Although the technique is different from a chemical peel, the results are similar. The cost is around $100.