Updated: Jan 8
Skin is the first barrier our body is exposed to countless things from UV rays to contaminated dirt particles every single day. It is essential to ensure that your skin is free of bacteria and damage; otherwise, you can be a victim of different diseases like eczema or even cancer.
Even though the sun is quite beneficial for the skin in several ways such as supplying it with vitamin D, long-term exposure to the sun is extremely harmful to the body. Sunburn is the most common skin disorder worldwide. It is often seen in people who enjoying spending long hours outdoors, even those who have sensitive skin. Tan lovers who spend hours under the scorching heat are more likely to suffer from sun damage. Regular tanning should be avoided if you do not want your skin to age early.
As a doctor, I get asked if there is a way to repair sun damaged skin naturally. I would say, perhaps, but if the sun-damage is extensive, expect subtle results and you shouldn't be too disappointed!
Let us look at some of the ways that are often recommended to repair sun damaged skin naturally.
What is Sun Damaged Skin?
When dealing with a problem, the first step is to know about it. Well, sun damaged skin occurs when the sun's rays start taking a toll on your skin. When your skin is exposed to scorching rays which include Ultraviolet radiation (UV), it damages and leads to sun spots, dryness, redness, wrinkles, fine lines, and dullness.
Two types of UV light are responsible for sun-damage i.e.
UVA Light: This affects the skin from the epidermis to the deep dermis. The rays negatively impact the collagen and elastin fibers, causing a loss of elasticity. This makes the skin appear less youthful.
UVB Light: The damage caused by these rays are limited to the upper layers of the skin i.e., the dermis and epidermis. But the results are very harmful as they lead to the formation of precancerous cells.
One of the major consequences of this is photo-aging. It occurs when the skin is exposed to UV radiation regularly for a long time, causing skin-aging ahead of your age. This is significant as it can eventually result in skin cancer. A study conducted by The Skin Cancer Foundation concluded that about 90% of skin damage and skin aging is due to high level of sun exposure.
The following are the signs of sun damage that should be addressed in the early stages:
Fine lines and wrinkles
Sun-spots like liver spots (solar lentigines) and freckles
Loss of skin elasticity
Uneven skin tone with rough texture
Broken blood capillaries around the nose and chest
Redness and dry patches
The above factors are a red flag and should be treated as they can be detrimental not only to the skin but to total health.
5 Ways to Repair Sun Damaged Skin on the Face... Naturally?
Sun damage especially in the early stages is easily dealt with in an aesthetic clinic. However for people who don't feel comfortable with this, they may prefer to look for other 'natural' ways to repair skin tissues and reverse the damage brought about by the sun-rays.
In a nutshell, these methods are about using common sense and adopting a healthy lifestyle. They are safe and can be done at home. If the sun damage is severe, moderate your expectations if you want to repair naturally.
Avoid the sun
The most important thing for sun-damaged skin, and the easiest thing you can and must do is to stay away from the sun. If you live in the tropics as I do, you likely get plenty of sun - and vitamin D - already, just from the UV rays that stream in through the glass windows of your home or in transport.
In addition, studies are confirming that visible light, blue light from screens and pollution also cause damage to skin in a way that may be as or more harmful than the sun.
The best protection for sun-damaged skin is therefore, to avoid direct sunlight, and regularly use a sunscreen like this one that protects not only against the sun, but also visible light from indoor electrical light sources, blue light from devices and from pollution.
Antioxidants are skin savers when it comes to skin damage. These are substances that protect the skin against oxidative damage brought about by environmental factors like UV rays and free radicals etc. They offer benefits that aid in eliminating the effects of sun damage. As a medical physician, I ensure that my patients receive anti-oxidants as part of their treatment against sun-damage.
Antioxidants possess anti-inflammatory properties that protect against sun damage and shield the skin from sunburns, photo-aging, and wrinkles. The application of a moisturizer rich in antioxidants is a good idea. These are commonly found in skincare products.
These are the benefits offered by antioxidants:
Help in skin lightening
Eliminate fine lines and wrinkles
Coconut oil is said to be magical when it comes to treating sunburned skin. I think it is a good idea if you don't mind the oiliness and walking around smelling like a coconut. It is easily available and is natural. It moisturizes the skin, which supports repair of tissues. It is also said to be beneficial for inflamed skin and to possess anti-inflammatory properties. I give my patients this antioxidant-rich sunscreen which contains coconut oil, sesame oil and Vitamin E.
Massage onto affected parts of your skin to hydrate. Be careful if you are acne prone though, as any kind of oil can trigger a flare up of acne!
Water is a must for skin hydration. It is the key to having beautiful, healthy skin. Medical professionals including myself, advise drinking plenty of water every day as it provides countless benefits.
Water helps in clearing out toxins from the body. It promotes oxygen transportation and may help to keep the skin and lips soft and smooth. People who drink a good quantity of water are more likely to have healthy, glowing skin.
If you want to change it a little, add a few drops of lemon as the vitamin C would help.
Use Moisturizer: A sunburnt skin suffers from redness and inflammation. This is why it is essential to keep your skin hydrated by soothing the redness with a natural moisturizer. Sun damaged skin is also usually dry.
You can opt for a moisturising sun-screen like the Skin Haven Pro Lotion which I give to my patients. It contains these antioxidants: green tea seed oil, pomegranate seed oil and red raspberry oil.
Eat Antioxidant-Rich Food
The food you consume has a significant impact on your skin. If you are suffering from sun damage, it is helpful to adjust your diet. Antioxidant-rich food can be beneficial in stepping up your skin game only if you consume significant amounts of them. Let's have a look:
Watermelon: Give your skin a refreshing treat! Watermelon is not only a tasty, delicious fruit but serves as a skin rejuvenating tool. Watermelon contains plenty of water and healthy substances that are great for your skin. From skin nourishment to anti-aging, it provides the following benefits:
Hydration: Watermelon is a summer fruit. It is largely made up of water (92%). Dry sun-damaged skin needs hydration and watermelon helps.
Healthy Skin: Watermelon is rich in carotenoids; we can tell from its pink-red flesh. It contains beta-carotene, which we convert to vitamin A. Often called pro-vitamin A, beta-carotene, helps repair sun damaged skin to give it back its health. Eliminates Redness: Redness and inflammation are a common complaint of people suffering from sun burn. Watermelon contains the carotenoid antioxidant called lycopene, which helps reduce inflammation. The type of lycopene in watermelon is more readily available to us, making watermelon an especially useful source of lycopene.
A study conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012 concluded that carrots are great photo-protectors as they are rich in beta carotene.
Beta carotene is an essential nutrient as it once absorbed by the body, it is converted into Vitamin A, which is beneficial for healthy skin.
Firm and Tightened Skin: helps repair dead skin tissues from sun damage. The same beta-carotene promotes glow, brightens skin, and reduces skin pigmentation. It also makes your skin firmer.
Adds Nourishment & Hydration: Carrots are loaded with potassium which adds nourishment and hydration to the skin. In addition, carrots remove blemishes and spots from the skin.
Blueberries serve protection against sun damage as they contain Vitamin C, which helps eliminate fine lines and wrinkles.
Anti-aging: These prevent premature aging as they contain anthocyanidin, a powerful antioxidant.
Increased blood circulation and hydration: Anthocyanidin promotes collagen growth which eventually leads to firmer skin. You can support repair sun damage by including this antioxidant-rich fruit in your diet. Green Vegetables:
Green leafy vegetables do wonders for people with sun damage. These contain antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein that shield the skin from UV rays and decrease the chances of skin cancer (Melanoma).
Rebuild Collagen: Green vegetables possess antioxidant properties that promote collagen production that was impacted negatively due to sun damage.
Improves Skin Tone: Green vegetables like Spinach helps in reducing blemishes and spots. They are rich in vitamins and minerals that work amazingly and beautify one's complexion.
These are some of the fruits that can enrich your nutrition with antioxidants. These antioxidants can make a difference in treating sun damaged skin provided you eat them in sufficient amounts. Including them not only benefits your skin but also improves other body functions too!
Get Good Quality Sleep
It is essential for a person suffering from sun damage to get enough sleep. Sun damaged skin along with the rest of your system needs quality sleep to be at its best. The skin tissues are busy healing and restoring during the nighttime through increased collagen production and blood circulation.
While sleeping, skin makes new collagen as part of the repair process. More collagen means plumper skin and fewer fine lines. Sufficient sleep also means improved blood circulation which gives glowing skin. Too few hours of sleep also causes dry skin, gives you dark circles around the eyes. When you do not get enough sleep your total health suffers, which in turn adversely affects skin health. Get at least 7-hours of sleep to support the repair of sun-damaged skin.
Sun damaged skin is easily treatable especially in its early stages, using treatments prescribed by a doctor aesthetic medical clinic, a healthy lifestyle and a good dose of common sense.
Is it possible to treat sun-damaged skin naturally? As a medical doctor I would say the best thing you can do is to avoid the sun, use sunscreens and a hat. Other than that, you may like to try applying antioxidants to moisturise and repair the skin, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and eat foods that are antioxidant-rich. Maybe consider probiotics, or taking a probiotic supplement. If you are really bothered by pigmentation, fine-lines and wrinkles, purely natural remedies would probably be insufficient. Without treating the deep damage that has been caused by sun exposure it is difficult to see significant improvement. With both home care and help from a medical professional, it is possible to get your skin hydrated, healthy, and glowing once again.