Had a little too much fun in the sun this summer and seeing the effects on your face? You're not alone—we've all been there and a little post-summer sun damage, while troublesome, can be rectified and stopped in its tracks. Whether you're prepping for your wedding day or recovering from a honeymoon sunburn, we've got you covered: We spoke to some of the top dermatologists to learn about the most effective ways to reverse sun damage and prevent it in the future—and yes, sunscreen is involved.
Get serious about wearing sunscreen daily.
Sunscreen is a must for every skin type and it's not too late to get into the habit of applying it every morning. "Sunscreen prevents sun damage that breaks down the DNA in your skin and causes skin cancer," says Dr. Lily Talakoub of McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center. "There are two main types of sunscreens: physical and chemical sunscreens. Physical sunscreens are the most effective at blocking all the UVA and UVB damaging rays, whereas chemical sunscreens only block portions of those rays." So how do you pick the right sunscreen? Each formula is made differently, says Dr. Talakoub, but choosing one with at least 6% titanium oxide or zinc oxide with an SPF of at least 50 is a good rule of thumb. Try Mineral Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+, $36, Avene at Dermstore
Go back to basics with your skincare routine.
"Keeping the skin barrier healthy and well-hydrated should not be ignored," tells us NYC dermatologist Dr. Melissa K. Levin. "Continued use of good moisturizers and cleansers keeps the skin texture and appearance healthy." Try Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser, $15, La Roche Posay and Facial Moisturizing Lotion, $8, CeraVe at Target
Add antioxidants to the mix.
"Sunscreen is essential in preventing future sun damage, but the role of antioxidants is often forgotten," adds Dr. Isabela T. Jones of McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center. "When UV light, pollutants, and other environmental factors interact with the skin they create free radicals, which damage our DNA, collagen, and elastic tissue. With time, this results in skin cancers and crepey, sagging skin." Dr. Jones says antioxidants are essential in order to neutralize these free radicals, thereby preventing damage to our cells. "Common topical antioxidant ingredients include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, ferulic acid, resveratrol, and many others." She recommends applying an antioxidant serum daily under your sunscreen. Try CE Ferulic, $165, SkinCeuticals at Dermstore
Dr. Heidi Waldorf of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics suggests taking your skincare regimen to the next level with the Vitamin A derivative to lessen the damage left behind by the sun. "To reduce sun damage that's already there use a topical retinoid, whether it's prescription or over-the-counter. " She adds that scientific data suggests retinoids can reverse photodamage than on any other class of ingredient. "Retinoids improve cell turnover, skin thickness, reduce hyperpigmentation and the quality of collagen." Prescription options include Tretinoin and Tazarotene. Try Renewal Retinol, $55, Alastin at Alastin
Reverse severe damage with in-office treatments.
Resurfacing laser treatments like HALO and Fraxel DUAL are the gold standard for treating the effects of sun damage, from wrinkles to discoloration, but Dr. Levin says they also help with cell turnover. One treatment can run anywhere from $1200 to $1800 so it's quite the investment. For a less expensive solution, Dr. Levin says, "Chemical peels are useful by removing the upper layers of dead skin cells as well as interfering with the production of pigment. An in-office treatment can go for upwards of $300."