7 Ways to Nourish Sun-Damaged Skin

No matter how good you’ve been about wearing sunscreen, it’s almost impossible not to have soaked up some ultraviolet (UV) damage along the way. And since the sun causes most skin aging, chances are you’re paying the price with wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging skin. But don’t worry: Sun damage doesn’t have to end your hopes of complexion perfection. Try these remedies to get to a healthy glow.

1. Hit the Sunscreen Bottle

Sunscreen doesn’t just protect you from UV rays. It gives skin time to heal and your immune system the chance to repair some sun damage. Choose an SPF 30 sunscreen labeled “broad-spectrum” -- meaning it guards against the rays that cause wrinkles and brown spots -- and use it every day.

2. Join the A Team

When it comes to reversing sun damage, no skin care ingredient is better than retinoids, a form of vitamin A. They do everything from smoothing fine lines and fading dark spots to making pores look smaller. You can start with an over-the-counter form -- look for retinol on the ingredients list. Or ask your doctor for a stronger prescription. Use the product at night since sunlight makes retinoids inactive. They can irritate your skin, so it’s best to ease them into your skin care routine. Apply every third night to start, and slowly work up to nightly use. During the day, use a cream with antioxidants like vitamin C, coffeeberry extract, or green tea. They defend against the sun’s damage to collagen and elastin, the proteins that keep skin firm and supple, and improve existing signs of aging.

3. Catch More ZZZs

The idea that you can sleep away your skin troubles isn’t far-fetched. Nighttime is when skin does the bulk of its repair work, such as making new cells and mending or shedding old, damaged ones. This is also when it makes the most of any creams and lotions you apply. Skin gets warmer at night, so products seep in better and yield faster results. Aim to snooze for at least 7 hours a night. In one study, women who slept 7 to 9 hours a night looked younger, had more hydrated skin, and were happier with their looks than those who slept only 5 hours.

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4. Eat to Beat Skin Aging

Nutrition is just as important for your skin as it is for the rest of your body. In one study, people with sun damage who ate more vegetables, olive oil, fish, and legumes -- and less butter, meat, dairy, and sugar -- had fewer wrinkles. The results were similar for women with diets high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries, and leafy greens. Vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds have another nutrient, a fatty acid called linoleic acid, which moisturizes skin. And since antioxidants offer UV protection from the inside out, foods high in lycopene (tomatoes), polyphenols (green tea), and flavanols (cocoa) can be part of your skin-saving strategy.

5. Get Moving

When you boost your heart rate and blood flow, you help your body undo skin aging by delivering more nutrients to cells that repair damage. A sweat session also makes your skin more taut and toned. Want proof? In a recent study, researchers found that people over 40 who were active for at least 3 hours a week had skin that was similar to that of people in their 20s and 30s -- even in someone up to age 65. As a bonus, exercise also helps you keep a healthy weight, which is key since extra pounds weaken your skin’s support structure and lead to sagging.

6. Slash Stress

Inner turmoil takes a huge toll on skin. Part of the reason is that stress increases the hormone cortisol. It keeps skin from holding on to water and triggers a spike in blood sugar that damages collagen and elastin. Any type of exercise can tame tension, but yoga seems to be an especially good way to lower cortisol levels.

7. Back Off the Booze

Sure, alcohol has antioxidants that help protect skin from damage. But it’s high in sugar, too.  When you get too much, it triggers a process called glycation that destroys collagen and elastin. It also saps skin’s hydration, which makes wrinkles more noticeable, and causes spidery capillaries to show up on your face. For most people, a daily beer or glass of wine won’t have a visible effect on skin. 

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on August 11, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology, at Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.

Skin Cancer Foundation: “Repair (and Even Reverse) Signs of Sun Damage.”

Arielle Kauvar, MD, clinical professor of dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York.

Oyetakin-White, P. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, January 2015.

Cosgrove, M. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, October 2007.

Fruits and Veggies—More Matters. “Best of: Vitamin C.”

Patricia Farris, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans.

Crane, J. Aging Cell, April 2015.

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