How to assess and treat skin with sun damage
Sun damage can occur at any time of the year, even in Winter, a fact that surprises most clients. Many people toss their sunscreen under the bathroom sink as soon as the temperature drops lower than 50 degrees. With Summer right around the corner, you may be noticing more clients coming in with concerns of discoloration, dryness, freckles, uneven skin tone, or fine lines, which are all common signs of sun damage.
Sun damage occurs when unprotected, prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB rays rapidly harm skin cells in the epidermal layer. This radiation can permeate down through the other layers of the skin. Inflammation can occur, which is what we know as sunburn. For most, a sunburn will gradually fade into an appealing tan. The darkening of the skin tone is the body’s way of protecting itself from future damage. There are plenty of ways to help clients with sun damage, and introducing soothing facials to your service menu may be just what your business needs this Summer.
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Assess the Severity
Before choosing a suitable facial for your client, it’s important to identify if your client has a sunburn. Sunburns can be treated in the spa, but they need to be handled delicately. These burns can be painful, so avoid using any physical exfoliation, acids, heat, or hair removal techniques on clients with inflamed skin. Use caution if there is noticeable peeling or flaking. Your client may need to let their skin rest before receiving a professional service.
Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of parts of the skin in relation to the skin around it. This is a common sign of sun damage, but it should not be confused with melasma. Melasma is a more intense form of hyperpigmentation, often symmetrical on both sides of the face, and very stubborn to reduce. Sun exposure can trigger melasma, but hormone fluctuations, pregnancy, some medications, or illnesses are usually the underlying culprits. Although it can present similarly to hyperpigmentation, melasma needs to be treated by a dermatologist.
If there is any blistering or your client complains of nausea, headache, dizziness, or the skin appears swollen and puffy, they may have a case of sun poisoning. This is another more severe presentation of sun damage that is better left to the proper medical professionals.
Choose the Right Exfoliants
Not all chemical exfoliants are created equal. There are a few that have been studied to perform very well on sun-damaged skin. Many of the alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) have shown fantastic potential for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation.
Glycolic acid, for example, has been shown to increase the water-holding capacity of the epidermis. Over time, this chemical exfoliant will fade discoloration without drying the skin allowing it to remain supple. Glycolic acid is a popular AHA for fine lines, as it promotes the production of collagen and elastin, therefore producing an improvement in epidermal thickness.
Lactic acid is another AHA that functions similarly to glycolic acid. This chemical exfoliant is noted as being gentler on the skin, making it ideal for treating sun damage. It slowly loosens the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing for the brighter skin underneath to come to the surface. As a result of this turnover, the skin will thicken, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Research suggests that lactic acid has an anti-inflammatory effect, making it beneficial for soothing photo-sensitized skin.
Hydration plays an important role in balancing the skin’s barrier. Sun-damaged skin is more sensitive to harsh ingredients and treatments. Look for products containing ultra-hydrators such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or squalane. Restoring moisture with the aid of humectants, emollients, or occlusives can prepare the skin for the exfoliating treatments designed to fade your client’s hyperpigmentation and fine lines.
Aloe vera is the most recognized treatment for sun damage, making it an excellent addition to a soothing facial. Aloe reduces inflammation and by doing so, jumpstarts the healing process. This natural antioxidant calms the skin while increasing hydration. A chilled aloe vera mask would make an amazing addition to any facial.
Sea buckthorn oil is another fantastic ingredient to incorporate into a facial designed to soothe sun-damaged skin. It’s naturally rich in antioxidants, and its high content of vitamin C works wonders for irritation and discoloration. Sea buckthorn oil has been shown to increase circulation and induce cell regeneration; two things crucial for sun damage repair. This will pair excellently as a moisturizing agent in a facial largely because of its calming and rejuvenating capabilities.
While our job is to refine and perfect the skin, there is no harm in keeping an eye out for danger. During the skin analysis process, if something appears to be out of the ordinary don’t be afraid to encourage your client to seek advice from a dermatologist. The ability to catch irregularities in the common mole or freckle may be a lifesaving referral.
It’s increasingly important to educate clients on the importance of sun safety, as only 11 percent of adults wear sunscreen daily. Everyone needs to be using sunscreen daily. It’s much easier to prevent sun damage than to treat it. A broad-spectrum SPF should be recommended to all clients, regardless of gender, age, or ethnic background. In addition, UV-protective clothing like hats, gloves, sunglasses, and even shirts and pants, can keep the skin safe from damaging sun rays. Plus, they make a fantastic addition to any spa boutique!