How to Treat Sun Damage & Protect Your Skin When You’re Over 50

How to Treat Sun Damage & Protect Your Skin When You’re Over 50

Like most of our body parts, our skin really starts to show signs of aging after the age of 50, mostly brought on by sun damage that occurred in our younger years. I just turned 52, and it’s like someone opened up the floodgates… Age spots, melasma, crepey skin, you name it, it’s all happening to my skin!



I’ve been working diligently over the past few years to turn back the clock, so to speak, so today I’m rounding up some of the best ways I’ve found to protect my skin from further sun damage and combat the signs of aging over 50.

Can sun damage be reversed?

According to Cleveland Clinic: “Once UV radiation changes your skin cells’ DNA, the DNA damage can’t be reversed. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t change the appearance of your skin. You can treat, reduce and/or repair the effects of sun-damaged skin.”

Treatments to Reduce and Repair The Effects of Sun Damage

There are so many treatments these days to remove spots, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, smooth out skin, and stimulate new skin and collagen production. Some are OTC creams and serums that you can incorporate into your daily routine, some are in-office procedures that vary in pricing and level of invasiveness, and some are at-home exfoliating devices and laser treatments. Let’s break it down!

  • Retinoids & retinols are Vitamin A based topical products that help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, age spots, rough texture, and the size of pores. They do this by stimulating collagen production and helping to slough off old, dead skin cells so new cells can come to the surface. You can buy OTC products with retinoids in them, or you can get a script from your dermatologist for Tretinoin, which is the strongest version of retinol. (I have a script, which I alternate with AlphaRet Overnight Cream, at the recommendation of my cosmetic dermatologist.
  • Vitamin C works to slow skin damage and promotes healthy cell turnover, which helps to brighten dull complexions and prevent uneven skin texture & tone. I’ve been using the Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum for years, as it seems to be the “gold standard” from everything I’ve read and been told. I apply it in the morning after I wash my face, and then I top it off with the Timeless Skin Care Coenzyme Q10 Serum. I adopted this practice many years ago from Angie at Hot & Flashy, and I credit the consistent use of these products with my skin’s improved appearance over time.
  • Alpha hydroxy acid is an exfoliant that promotes skin cell turnover. The AlphaRet Overnight Cream that I mentioned above is a retinoid combined with an alpha hydroxy acid, so that product kills two birds with one stone, so to speak! Another good option is the Alpha Skin Care Renewal Serum Concentrated with 14% Glycolic AHA.
  • Lightening agents can help fade sun spots and melasma. Hydroquinone is considered to be the most effective, but glycolic acid, Vitamin C, niacinamide, and retinoids can also be helpful. You used to be able to purchase hydroquinone creams over the counter, but they are now only available by prescription.
  • Chemical peels help improve your skin’s tone and texture, lighten brow spots, and treat fine lines and wrinkles by removing the outermost layer of your skin so new skin comes to the surface. These are probably the least invasive in-office procedure, and there is usually little to no down-time, or there can be some redness and light peeling afterwards, if it’s a stronger treatment. I get a glycolic peel every other month by my cosmetic dermatologist, and I feel like it my skin has improved dramatically since I started that practice several years ago. If you want to try an over-the-counter option, Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel comes highly recommended.
  • Lasers are usually an in-office procedure, but there are some new at-home laser devices that are supposed to do a pretty good job. Lasers reduce the redness and rosacea that is caused by sun damage; and they can also treat uneven skin pigmentation, age spots, fine lines and wrinkles, and more. They do this buy removing the top layer of skin and increasing collagen production. There can be some downtime as the skin heals, and results take a few weeks or months to fully develop. I haven’t done any in-office laser treatments, but I’ve been using the NIRA Laser on my crows feet, eyelids, and the lines around my mouth for about a month. I’d love to hear from you, if you’ve done an in-office laser treatment. Which one, and how did it work for you?
  • Photodynamic therapy uses a photosensitizing drug and particular kind of light to destroy precancerous cells. Treatment may cause a sunburn-like reaction that can take one to two weeks to heal.
  • Dermabrasion improves the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and more by “sanding” away the top layer of skin to unveil the smooth new skin underneath. You can have this done in a spa or dermatologist office, or you can purchase microdermabrasion devices to use at home. I’ve only done this at the spa, but the PMD Personal Microderm Pro Device is supposed to be really good for at-home use.
  • Dermal fillers such as Botox, JUVÉDERM, Restylane are in-office procedures used to treat fine lines and wrinkles and to restore volume to loose skin. I occasionally get Botox in my forehead, and I like the results. I’ve tried JUVÉDERM twice, but both times I had a good bit of swelling, as well as an itchy allergic reaction, so I’ve decided fillers just aren’t worth it for me.

How To Prevent Further Sun Damage

While most of our sun damage occurred when we were much younger, it’s still wise to try to protect our skin from further damage while also treating the existing fallout from the folly of our youth! Here are a few ways to do that, while still enjoying the benefits the sun has to offer.

  • Wear a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen every day, and reapply every two hours if you’re going to be out in the sun for very long. I apply the ISDIN Eryfotona Ageless Sunscreen Zinc Oxide and 100% Mineral Tinted Sunscreen SPF 50+ liberally to my face every morning, and I also put it on my décolletage, if I’m wearing a v-neck top. I also just started using the ISDIN Mineral Brush Powder, which makes it easy to reapply sun protection throughout the day over top of my makeup.
  • Avoid the peak UV hours, usually between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection. DIFF sunglasses are a good stylish option at a mid-range price point, and Maui Jim has the best polarized lenses I’ve ever tried.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat when outside for extended periods of time. I love my Eric Javits Hampton Sun Hat for the beach and pool because it looks stylish and also has sun protection. (It blocks 95% of UVA and UVB rays.)
  • Wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside, and if you’re going to be doing outdoor activities, invest in clothes with SPF.
  • Instead of tanning in the sun, try a spray tan or spray-on tanning product. I’ve always been a fan of the Clarins Gel for a buildable tan, but lately I’ve been using Dolce Glow products, and I’m very happy with them. I also really like the Tan Luxe THE FACE Self Tan Drops for my face.

Other Ways to Reduce Signs of Aging

  • Eat clean, healthy foods, and drink less alcohol, as it is dehydrating to your skin.
  • Get adequate sleep, which gives your skin time to heal, and also helps combat dark circles and puffy eyes in the mornings.
  • Exercise and get some fresh air every day.
  • Use a gentle hand when cleansing your skin, as scrubbing your skin can increase redness and irritation.
  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking is probably the worst thing you can do to increase premature aging, and it also causes wrinkles and a dull complexion.
  • Wear body lotion and face moisturizer every day, to keep your skin soft and supple. I apply the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion under my sunscreen every morning, and I use the Replenix Age Restore Nighttime Therapy Face Cream at night, as recommended by my dermatologist. It’s one of the only night creams I’ve tried that is rich enough for my very dry skin. I also like the Replenix Retinol Smooth + Tighten Body Lotion, but it’s very pricey, so I sometimes use the Alpha Skin Care Revitalizing Body Lotion with 12% Glycolic AHA. For a regular body lotion (not specifically geared for anti-aging), I love the Kiehls Creme de Corps Body Moisturizer; I buy one every year during the #NSale.

I’m sure this is not everything you can do to treat sun damage and protect your skin after 50, but I hope it hits the highlights. I am certainly not an expert, so let us know if you have any other helpful tips, or if you can recommend treatments that have worked for you!


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