As much as I try to avoid the intense rays of summer making direct contact with my face—via my overapplication of 100-plus sunscreen and oversized UVA-proof hats—the sun inevitably wears my skin down, and every year I end up with damage no matter what. Fortunately, dermatologists are at the ready to tackle this come fall. From less-invasive lunchtime light treatments to more aggressive resurfacing offerings, there’s a light at the end of that sun damage tunnel.
The first question to ask yourself when choosing a treatment is: How much downtime are you willing to endure? If you’re looking to save face when it comes to choosing a treatment, opt for a lighter, less-intense procedure that gets you results, sans the time off. Many doctors are a fan of skin-brightening Clear & Brilliant treatments for that reason. “A series of the Clear & Brilliant improves fine lines and pigmentation, and patients can put their makeup on right after the procedure and go back to work,” says Dr. Anne Chapas, New York City dermatologist and medical director of Union Square Laser Dermatology, which makes the procedure a perfect (and easy) post-summer skin saver. A series of treatments are recommended four to six weeks apart, depending on your skin type (your doctor will tell you how many are right for you). Chapas also recommends the Excel V laser to tackle those pesky blood vessels that may have popped up in sweltering temperatures. “It’s my go-to laser for visible blood vessels on the face,” she says. “It’s great for those little veins around the nose.”
For those looking for a level up from the ground zero category (a.k.a. willing to experience a little redness and swelling for more aggressive results), the Vivace Fractional Micro Needle Radio Frequency treatment has a fan base of many doctors. This painless procedure (you can barely feel it if your doctor has applied numbing cream) combines microneedling with radiofrequency to stimulate collagen and elastin production for tighter, smoother skin and a refreshed appearance. It’s also customizable to suit your needs, whether they be to tighten or brighten skin, or reduce pore size. “It creates microchannels deep into the dermis layer of the skin to stimulate the natural production of collagen,” says Dr. Howard Sobel, cosmetic dermatologic surgeon and director of Sobel Skin in New York City. “It softens wrinkles and fine lines as well as tightens, creating a lifting effect, decreasing the appearance of the nasolabial fold. There is virtually no discomfort or downtime with this treatment, and the results are incredible.”
Christina DeMartino, board-certified and state-licensed physician assistant at PFRANKMD, recommends that patients select the Pigment Protocol, a procedure that combines treatments to combat sun spots and lighten melasma, which tends to worsen in the hot summer months. Bonus points for the little to no downtime associated with the treatment. “Typically, we do a series of these procedures combined with topical treatment, spaced two to four weeks apart for more dramatic results,” DeMartino says. This is especially great for those with sensitive skin and for pigment that’s resistant to traditional treatments.
Then there are those individuals who, if they go for it, want to go for it, meaning they want the most aggressive results, and downtime is worth it to them. If you don’t mind the downtime, Fraxel is the gold standard. “The Fraxel Dual 1550/1927 laser is hands-down one of the best available options for fractional resurfacing of the face, neck, chest, and hands,” Sobel says. “It’s very popular in general, but many of our patients start to request this right as the summer ends. It targets sun-damaged skin with microscopic laser columns that penetrate deep into your skin to expedite your body’s remodeling of collagen.” Sobel says that since the laser treats only a fraction of tissue at a time, “it leaves the surrounding tissue intact, which helps accelerate the healing process. It also resurfaces your skin and stimulates the growth of new, healthy skin cells.” Chapas is also a big fan. “Fraxel is a great post-summer treatment. It not only improves the appearance of the skin but also creates fresh cells that produce protective hormones, so skin is better able to resist future UV damage,” she says. “Research shows in addition to the photo-rejuvenation benefits, Fraxel may also help treat precancerous actinic keratosis.”
Regardless of which treatment you end up using, make sure you find a certified professional. “It is important these lasers be administered without a tan and by a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in laser surgery,” notes Chapas. “If these lasers are administered too aggressively or with poor technique, it can result in scarring and dyspigmentation.”
The Best Time to Start Laser Hair Removal
Dr. Will Kirby of LaserAway shares why this treatment is most popular in the fall. Laser hair removal is safe and effective year-round. That said, the treatment works best when the skin in the treated area hasn’t been exposed to the sun,” says Dr. Will Kirby, chief medical officer of LaserAway in Los Angeles. “Tan skin requires us to treat more conservatively or reschedule an appointment entirely. When proper sun avoidance is adhered to, laser hair removal works incredibly well. As a result, the unsubstantiated myth persists that treatment works best in the fall. Any treatment is actually a partnership between a clinician and a patient, so all experts in the science and art of laser hair removal agree that it’s the patient’s skin, not the weather or calendar date, that dictates a successful outcome.”