Got a little toasty over the summer? Dark spots looking ... darker? Noticing uneven skin texture and a deepening of fine lines that weren't that prominent before? UV rays are no joke, and our skin is an easy target. When they zap the skin, they cause collagen breakdown, DNA damage, and an increase in free radicals, resulting in premature aging, hyperpigmentation, and sometimes skin cancer. We know all this, and yet sometimes that wide-brimmed hat gets left behind, or the 80-minute SPF reapplication window comes and goes ... and keeps going (you know this is a judgement-free zone, friends!). So here we are. The final sultry days of summer. A time for us to assess the damage and look ahead to repairing our body's largest organ, strengthening its parched, compromised lipid barrier (while practicing being kind to ourselves 🥰).
Here are 7 skincare steps to reverse sun damage, according to Derms.
Step 1: Cleanse and Exfoliate
Begin your natural skincare routine by thoroughly cleansing your skin to remove impurities and dead skin cells that can worsen the appearance sun damage. Opt for a gentle cleanser like Indie Lee's Purifying Face Wash, enriched with antioxidants to fight free radicals. Follow up with a mild chemical exfoliant containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) (or both!) like the Fitglow Beauty Plant Active Peel Pads to help remove damaged skin layers and promote cell turnover. Regular exfoliation can significantly improve sun-damaged skin — (and no, all that sand you've tracked home from the beach and into your bed won't cut it) — by encouraging the growth of healthy new cells and aiding in the fading of dark spots. Avoid harsh scrubs or abrasive exfoliants that can further irritate sun-damaged skin.
Step 2: Incorporate Natural Antioxidants
Now is a great time to introduce potent antioxidant-rich products like Vitamin C into your natural skincare routine. Vitamin C combats the formation of hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles that result from exposure to UV rays. Look for a serum like Glow Jar Beauty's AM Vitamin C Serum that has a stable form of Vitamin C, a game-changer in repairing sun damage. As with any topical skincare product, you'll need to give your Vitamin C formulation a few weeks to really show what it can offer. We recommend applying your Vitamin C in the morning to defend against daytime UV exposure. Green Tea extract is another powerful antioxidant. Pop this Green Tea Water Bomb Mask from 100% Pure in the fridge, then apply it to dry, sun-damaged skin for a refreshing, healing treatment.
Step 3: Target Dark Spots
Focus on fading those pesky dark spots - an unfortunate consequence of sun exposure. Incorporate products with ingredients like Vitamin C, Kojic Acid, Niacinamide, and our personal fav - Matsutake Mushroom, which can help fade discoloration, even out your skin tone, and brighten your complexion. These ingredients work by inhibiting melanin production and promoting a brighter complexion. For stubborn sunspots on the skin, sometimes we turn to a medi-spa for next-level correction. Consider an IPL treatment. This in-office cosmetic procedure uses intense pulsed light therapy to improve the skin's texture. It's a safe and effective treatment for sun-damaged skin (just don't do it while sunburnt) and is typically well tolerated by all skin types with few side effects. GK ProTip: Soothe post-treatment skin with CV Skinlabs Calming Moisture, formulated to calm redness and deeply hydrate post-op skin.
Step 4: Repair Your Moisture Barrier
It's time to replenish the moisture our skin lost over the summer and strengthen your skin's natural barrier (oh hi, Slugging!). Your moisture barrier is the gatekeeper to plump, hydrated skin. It's the outer layer of the skin that provides protection, retains natural oils, nutrients, and moisture, and prevents moisture loss. It keeps the good things in and the bad things out, bad things like environmental stressors, bacteria, pollutants, and other known irritants. Once this delicate natural balance has been disrupted, it will take some time to get it back to its protective best. Look for products with Ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid, or Peptides, like Josh Rosebrook's Ultra Peptide Cream. These ingredients help lock in hydration and support your skin's healing process. A well-hydrated and balanced skin barrier is crucial in repairing sun damage.
Step 5: Resurface With Retinol (...but gently!)
If you slacked on your sun protection this summer and want to reverse the damage, Retinol is key — but only when used correctly. Retinol is a potent topical Vitamin A, a powerful skincare ingredient that stimulates collagen production and improves skin texture after sun exposure has left you with a loss of collagen, resulting in fine lines. As your skin becomes more resilient (by following steps 1-4), you can slowly introduce Retinol by applying a gentle formula like Glow Jar's Beauty PM Retinol Serum every other night. (Note: other than pregnant women, this Retinol is gentle for all skin types.)
PSA: Retinoids seriously increase sun sensitivity. Spf, spf, spf!
Step 6: Protect and Prevent Future Sun Damage
With what, you might ask?... Well, SPF, of course! We are SPF megafans over here — it's our #1 product for damage control. Sunscreen is paramount to maintaining healthy skin, and protecting your skin from further sun damage is crucial for its recovery. Choose a mineral broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and apply it daily, even on cloudy days. Look for a lightweight formula that suits your skin type and won't leave a greasy residue. Avoid sunscreens with chemical UV filters like oxybenzone and avobenzone, and opt for those with mineral filters like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for safer sun protection.
Step 7: Restore Summer-Damaged Hair
Let's not forget about the beating your hair takes over the summer. Sun strips colour, moisture, and shine from your strands, leaving you frizzy and fried (the sign of a good summer, in our opinion). Coax your hair back to health with a deep conditioning treatment from Innersense to restore bounce and shine. For best results, gently comb hair in the shower while soaking in conditioner to detangle with the least breakage.
Of course, the smartest sun-damage strategy is to prevent it in the first place, but if that ship has sailed, reversing sun damage with a natural and effective skincare routine is possible (and a gradual process that requires patience and persistence). The signs of sun damage—from dark spots and uneven skin tone to wrinkles, rough texture, dullness, and oversized pores—can be treated and improved with the addition of actives and antioxidants in your skincare routine. Deep breath. We're here to help. For a personalized skincare routine that's right for your skin type and to revive and repair summer-ravaged skin, reach out to your knowledgeable Green Kiss Educator.