- Use a high-quality, broad spectrum sunscreen, apply it liberally and re-apply regularly if you're out and about.
- Make sure your daily moisturiser and foundation contain SPF so your face always has some sun protection.
- Don't assume a high-factor sunscreen will protect your face all day - there are loads of variables including your skin type, time of day, time of year and how well you applied the sunscreen in the first place.
- In an ideal world, you'd stay out of the sun between 10am and 3pm. Clearly this is never going to happen, so be sure to wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Apply sunscreen liberally even on cloudy days, as UV rays can penetrate cloud cover and damage your skin.
I grew up at a time when we didn't know about protecting ourselves from the sun. Instead, we rubbed on oil and lay out in it for as long as we could to top up our tans. Years later, I'm paying the price.
What I realise now is that an even, bright skin tone is more youthful, provides a better base for makeup and simply looks healthier. While there are some great products to help lighten sun damage, the fastest and most effective way to fix it is a course of IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) treatments from a reputable practitioner or clinic.
I'm a complete wuss when it comes to pain, so when I turned up at the Skin Institute in Ponsonby, Auckland I was pretty nervous. Clinic oanager Sally Ellison reassured me that numbing cream would be applied to my face before the half-hour treatment began. In fact, the sensation of having IPL was uncomfortable rather than painful - it feels a bit like being flicked with a rubber band.
So how does IPL work? Well, pulses of light are aimed at the skin, they penetrate it and are absorbed by areas of irregular pigmentation. This raises the temperature of the brown spots and destroys them without damaging the skin.
After a treatment, the freckles and pigment go darker to start with and then gradually flake off. I was a bit worried I'd look freaky, but no-one but my husband spotted my freckles had suddenly popped out, and they flaked off very gradually without even me noticing. After two weeks, my skin tone looked much brighter and more even.
I was really impressed with the result and Sally told me if I continued to have more treatments, the effect would be increased. IPL can also treat redness and increase collagen synthesis so it results in smoother, firmer skin as well as reduced pigmentation.
The great thing is, it's non-invasive so there's no down time. There can be some mild swelling and redness after a session, which you treat with ice. And, of course, it's vital to protect yourself from any UV exposure afterwards as the pigmentation will return if you damage your skin again.
At the Skin Institute, the cost of full-face IPL is $495 and numbing cream is an additional $30. As with any form of appearance medicine, it's important to go to a well-trained practitioner.
Preventing future sun damage
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