Sun Damage treatments At A Glance
- Best Results1-2 treatments
- Treatment Recovery4 -21 days
- Procedure Time30-60 min
- Skin SpecialistDavin Lim, Dermatologist
- Duration of Results1- 10 years
- AnaestheticNumbing, Sedation, Gas
- Back to Work1-12 days
Sun damage solutions
People who reside in Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast have an increased risk of sun damage compared to living in Sydney or Melbourne. The high UV index in the North can give rise to age spots, sun spots, brown spots, wrinkles, droopy eyelids & solar keratosis. Some form of sun damage such as rough, dry spots are pre-cancerous. Laser treatment is the preferred method as down time is short and the outcomes are excellent.
FactsFacts on sun damage treatments
- Sun damage can present in many ways including brown liver spots, premature wrinkling, droopy and wrinkled eyelids, as well as rough dry red and scaly areas on the forehead, nose, cheeks and temples
- Some form of sun damage such as solar keratosis, actinic keratosis and sun spots are precancerous and should be treated
- Other forms of sun damage can be classed as cosmetic (brown spots and dots that have no potential to be cancerous), wrinkles, and lines
- See your dermatologist for regular skin check ups if you are concerned about any lesion that could be a cancer
- Treatment of background sun damage will enable a Specialist to pick up any cancers at an earlier stage
- Treatments range from creams thru to PDT, and of course laser treatment
- Laser therapy treats all aspects of sun damage including pigmentation, wrinkles, and skin laxity and has largely replaced PDT and creams
What do Specialist refer to when we use the word ‘sun damage’?
As a laser and cosmetic dermatologist , I split sun damage into 2 subtypes.
Cosmetic sun damage. This means you can elect to have nothing done, and treatment is based upon improving your skin age and to freshen up dull skin, improve skin texture, tone and volume. Sun damage can manifest in many ways including – premature wrinkles, age spots, upper lip lines, droop eyelids, forehead wrinkles, loss of skin volume & altered skin texture.
Medical sun damage. This means you should consider treatment & close follow up by a medical dermatologist who does regular skin checks. This type of sun damage produces red, rough & persistent areas of solar keratosis, a pre- cancerous lesion. Some brown spots may also be pre- cancerous (HMF, or melanoma in situ). I treat both cosmetic and medical sun damage with laser. (NOTE- laser is not the only way to treat medical sun damage, however it is the preferred option as end results are better.)
This is pre-cancerous sun damage called solar keratosis. If left untreated skin cancer can result.
Why is it important to treat sun damage?
Sun damage can be pre-cancerous. A skin check with your local dermatologist can reveal if these lesions need to be treated or not. Solar keratosis present as scaly, stingy, rough, dry and persistent areas on the nose, cheeks, forehead, nose, upper lip, and temples. The use of creams, PDT or laser can reduce the amount of sun spots. Treating sun damage can also remove pigmentation and this enables your Dermatologist to find skin cancer at an earlier stage.
Does treating sun damage reduce my chances of getting a skin cancer?
The answer is yes, if sun damage is medical sun damage, namely sun spots or solar keratosis. The treatment of wrinkles and the majority of brown spots will not reduce the skin cancer rate. Sun damage removal also allows for earlier detection of skin cancer.
Laser therapy does not give absolute prevention of skin cancers like melanomas, however clearance of background sun damage makes it easier for your doctor to pick up suspicions lesions.
One typical Fraxel laser treatment- complete recovery is within 6 days.
What treatments are there for sun damage?
Creams for sun damage include Efudix, Aldara, Picato, & Solaraze. These need to be used for 4-60 days, depending on the cream and severity of sun damage. Cream management can be supervised by your GP, skin cancer doctor or your dermatologist.
Laser for sun damage is by far the best treatment- depending on what is requested I use either high density 1927 Fraxel or the newer LaseMD. Other options include full face laser ablation with either the CO2 or Erbium laser. Laser addresses all aspects of sun damage, treating both wrinkles, pre cancerous lesions as well as improving skin texture and skin tone.
PDT or photodynamic therapy. This treatment is an excellent method for the treatment of red, scaly solar keratosis and IEC or squamous cell cancer insitu.
Treatment is over within 3 hours, with most patients needing only one session. Your skin heals within 5-7 days of PDT. This treatment is covered under DVA (Department of Veteran Affairs) or if you have International health insurance. Some medical insurance companies give a nominal rebate for photodynamic therapy.
How do I treat sun damage skin?
The only 3 methods I use to treat sun damage skin are PDT, deep peels & or laser treatment. For topical creams, discuss these options with your dermatologist or medical provider.
If you have skin cover under DVA (Department of Veteran Affairs), then PDT is the treatment of choice because this treatment is 100% covered.
Laser treatment of sun damage skin has advantages of Photodynamic Therapy as it also treats the cosmetic aspects of sun damage as well as the pre-cancerous aspects.
Patients in the early 20s-40s will have ‘spots and dots’, and Fraxel laser is my preferred option. This laser will also improve skin texture, and fine lines.
Patients in their late 40s-70+s will have more age spots, but droopy eyelids, wrinkles, and skin laxity, in addition to possible pre- cancerous lesions. In this age group, I like using fully ablative lasers, including Erbium and CO2 combined. This gives amazing results, turning back time by 15-20 years. The downside of this laser is the recovery period. Note, if you want an improvement is fine wrinkles, as well as more even skin texture, you can still undertake Fraxel laser at any age.
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How long will I need to recover from laser or PDT treatment?
7-8 days with PDT
5-7 days with Fraxel 1927 High Density laser or LaseMD 1927
10 days with fully ablative Erbium and CO2 combination laser
Fraxel laser is associated with the quickest recovery time, whilst fully ablative laser resurfacing is associated with a downtime that is proportional to the amount/ level of wrinkling and sun damage. The greater the downtime, the better the results.
Recovery from Fraxel is fast- this is what your skin looks like 48 hours after laser
What peels are indicated for sun damage-sun spots?
Peels are other sensible options for sun damage. If you have mild field changes consisting of sun spots a series of AHA glycolic peels are a good starting point. My nurses & dermal therapists perform this peel.
More severe changes require deeper peels. My peel of choice for these patient is the Jessner-TCA peel or the Obagi Blue Peel. This is classed as a medium to deep peel. I also employ Phenol-Croton Oil in some cases. Downtime following these peels ranges between 8 to 14 days.
What have I shown regarding sun damage treatments with Fraxel laser?
My studies on sun damage and Fraxel laser commenced in 2012, and has now achieved World Wide recognition as one of the better treatments for solar keratosis with clearance rates approaching 95% at 12 months. This treatment is more effective than PDT, with a quicker recovery time than any other sun spot treatment. The flips side is that remission from fractional laser is shorter (14-24 months) compared to topcials such as Efudix (>18 months).
Centers in the United States, and NSW, Victoria and South Australia are using my High Density Fraxel method. Multicenter studies are now conducted with more scientific papers on this method coming out next year. Stay tuned.
Yes, fine wrinkles and age spots will improve with Fraxel laser or LaseMD, however if you desire marked wrinkle reduction (especially around the eyes) and tighter, more toned skin, fully ablative Erbium & CO2 laser is the treatment of choice.
How do I know what is the best treatment for me?
Your GP or Dermatologist will guide you as to the best treatment. As a procedural and laser dermatologist I only perform laser and PDT for the treatment of sun damage.
Creams such as Efudix, Aldara, & Picato can be prescribed by your skin cancer doctor, GP or a general dermatologist. These are also sensible options for sun damage.
|Fraxel 1927||5-7 days||From $990- 1290||Cost; may need two procedures if severe sun damage||One off treatment, very quick recovery time – less than 7 d.||Helps with skin rejuvenation|
|Efudix||21-28 days||$160+ including follow up||Downtime, follow up visit mid treatment||Cost effective, works very well||*Best option if downtime is not an issue and tolerable skin type|
|PDT –photodynamic therapy||7-8 days||$2500- $3500Face and scalp||Cost||Short downtime, very effective, one off application||Good treatment for smaller areas of sun-damage. Eg upper lip|
|Picato||5-7 days||$150 for 5 cm by 5 cm||Cost; variable levels of inflammation.||Shorter downtime||Variable inflammation; needs physician monitoring.|
|Aldara||4-8 weeks||$300-$700 including follow ups||Long treatment regime||–||Limited use|
How much does laser treatment for sun damage cost?
Fraxel or LaseMD laser ranges from $990 – $1590 * High density Fraxel blended to neck areas
PDT Full face ranges between $1390-$2500
Fully ablative laser resurfacing $4800 AUD + depending on surface area & depth
Are treatments covered under Medicare or Private Health insurance?
Medicare does not cover sun damage treatments such as PDT or lasers.
White & Gold Card DVA patients get 100% coverage for PDT.
Private Health insurance gives between $50-$110 back for PDT, depending on the health fund.
What policy covers sun damage treatments?
The Department of Veteran Affairs covers top line sun damage treatments such as PDT for solar keratosis of the face, and precancerous squamous cell cancers anywhere on body or face. Additionally they cover laser resurfacing for sun damage lips, and broken blood vessels. Ensure you have either a Gold Card or White Card covering SKIN.
Top cover BUPA International (Note – Not BUPA Australia), covers PDT to precancerous and skin cancer.
Davin’s viewpoint int on sun damage treatments
The vast array of sun damage treatments can make things confusing for patients. As a laser and aesthetic dermatologist, I place priority on the cosmetic aspects of sun damage- wrinkling, lines, droopy eyelids, crows feet, sun spots, age spots, and age warts. My aim is to turn back time, and reverse the years of sun damage. The upside is that laser or PDT also treats pre-cancerous cells, reducing the chances of certain forms of skin cancer.
Fraxel high density laser has revolutionised how sun damage is managed. Gone are the days of cream application associated with 4 weeks of redness, scabs, and itching. With Fraxel the skin completely heals within 5 days of treatment. Sun spots, age spots and pre cancerous cells are all addressed with Fraxel. The upside is fresher, younger skin with improved skin texture.
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