The Picture of [Skin] Health
Jun 21, 2018 06:00AM ● Published by Alyssa McGinnis
Complexion Analysis of Dr. Richard Howard, his partner and son Tom Howard, MD, and his grandson Ben reveal higher levels of sun-related damage in skin with the longest exposure.
When it comes to the skin damage caused by a lifetime of UV exposure, the mirror often does not tell the full story. That is because the damage happens in the deeper layers of the skin and may not appear as lines, wrinkles, age spots or even cancer until years—or decades—later.
“There are natural effects of aging, but UV radiation penetrates deep into the skin and causes DNA damage,” says Richard Howard, MD, plastic surgeon and owner of The Body Garage Medical Spa in Sioux Falls. “It accelerates the entire aging process.”
To make the point, Howard and his team use UV photography to show clients the full extent of their own underlying sun damage. UV light has a wider spectrum allowing it to reveal surface and subsurface skin conditions (spider veins, hyperpigmentation, inflammation, etc.) invisible to the naked eye.
“With this tool, we can look for skin cancer, fine lines, do pore counts and, most impressively, perform a UV damage index,” says Dr. Howard. “Those can be frightening to look at, especially when people think they’re fine. But the UV damage is done. It won’t go away.”
Like many who grew up in the Upper Midwest, Howard remembers long, sunscreen-less days spent outside in his youth, in the days before the damaging effects of the sun were fully understood. His own VISIA scan (above) tells the tale and Dr. Howard says people of European and Scandinavian descent, as so many area residents are, should know they are at special risk.
“I think people tend to forget that much of Europe is as far North as Hudson Bay, Canada,” says Howard. “So we have essentially been transplanted into a more sun-intense area than our ancestors were used to. We have seen what happens when you take people from England and transplant them to Australia: They have the highest rates of melanoma skin cancer in the world.”
Although the damage revealed by a VISIA analysis cannot be undone, it’s visible expression may be slowed down with the right tool at the right time. The Body Garage can use the the information gleaned from a scan to determine skin type, texture, special needs, etc. to recommend a medical grade topical product to protect and prevent further damage.
Exfoliation procedures such as dermaplaning, microdermabrasion, or a mild to moderate peel may be used to help these products penetrate deeper and more evenly by accelerating surface cell turnover. To minimize damage from an acute sunburn, LED light treatment can help to calm reddened, reactive, blotchy skin.
For people who are already experiencing the results of decades of sun exposure or burns, such as fine lines, superficial blood vessels, and liver spots, Howard says three or four treatments with a fractional laser can help stimulate collagen production and revitalize the skin for a more youthful appearance.
The bottom line for the best-looking skin possible? Protect skin from the sun while you are young and maintain healthy skin care habits as you age.
“It’s just like exercise,” says Dr. Howard. “If you quit taking care of your skin, you lose the effects.”