woman with sunscreen drawing of the sun on her back

How to Treat Sun Damaged Skin

August 22, 2023

The biggest contributor to skin damage is the sun. While the sun’s rays may feel good, too much time in the sun can cause a lot of damage over the years. When the sun’s UV rays hit unprotected skin, they cause changes at the cellular level that can lead to premature aging and even skin cancer. The most common signs of sun damage are dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles, and a rough skin texture. While you can never completely reverse these skin changes, there are some treatments that can help undo some of the damage. If you’re wondering how to treat sun damaged skin, take a look at the following treatments.


man washing face in mirror

An easy place to start when learning how to treat sun damaged skin is with exfoliation. Exfoliation gets rid of dead skin cells. If you have an uneven skin texture or dark spots, an abundance of dead skin cells on the surface will make them look worse. Dead cells interfere with light reflection, making the skin look dull. They also interfere with your skin’s ability to absorb moisturizing creams and serums. Make sure you exfoliate gently once or twice a week to remove these dead skin cells. Choose a gentle exfoliating cleanser with glycolic acid or one with mild microfine particles to give your skin a gentle scrub.


A great way to treat sun damaged skin is with topical retinoids. Retinoids will help improve the appearance of dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. You can get prescription-strength or over-the-counter retinoids. The most common type of over-the-counter retinoid is retinol. This can help increase collagen production and smooth wrinkles to reverse sun damage. Your skin may need to get used to retinol creams, though, so go easy on them at first. It’s typically recommended to apply a retinol cream every other night for the first few weeks of use. If your skin is still sensitive to the retinol, you can try using a peptide cream instead to boost collagen production.

Laser Treatments

woman receiving photodynamic therapy

One of the most effective ways to treat sun damaged skin is with a laser treatment. A physician can perform photodynamic therapy, or PDT, which exposes your skin to blue light to activate a topical drug. This treatment is primarily used to target precancerous skin cells that have resulted from sun damage. Photodynamic therapy is non-invasive and can usually be performed by your dermatologist in under an hour with little to no recovery time.

Chemical Peels

A chemical peel can be performed in a doctor’s office to treat sun damaged skin. A chemical solution is applied to remove the outer layer of old skin. This allows new skin to replace the old, and it will usually be less wrinkled and have a smoother texture. This treatment option is more invasive than the others because it is essentially creating a controlled wound. Some people may experience pain during the procedure and recovery period. This procedure can be repeated after a few weeks or months to produce the desired results.

Healthy Diet

assortment of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains

What you eat is a major factor in skin health, too, and eating a healthy diet can actually help treat sun damaged skin. You should avoid processed foods and eat a variety of colorful, healthy foods that are rich in protein, omega-3s, antioxidants, and vitamins. These nutrients will help your skin fight off free radicals, boost collagen production, reduce inflammation, and create a better protective barrier. Some of the best foods to incorporate into your diet include salmon, avocados, walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil, blueberries, spinach, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, and other foods rich in healthy fats and antioxidants. A little bit of dark chocolate can also be helpful as it can help reduce inflammation and the appearance of wrinkles.

Ask a Pharmacist for Advice on How to Treat Sun Damaged Skin

These are some of the best ways to answer the question of how to treat sun damaged skin. There are a number of supplements and health products out there that can also help. Our expert pharmacists can help you decide what course of treatment will be best for you personally and can recommend various products for you to try. Stop by one of our pharmacy locations today to ask about treating sun damaged skin.

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