Extensive exposure to ultraviolet radiation or environmental factors early in life can cause immense damage to the physical properties and the visual appearance of skin.  This premature damage is called photoaging.

The appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, loss of firmness leading to sagging of the skin, loss of elasticity, loss of consistent pigmentation, liver spots, coarse surface texture and the appearance of spider veins (telangectasias) – all indicate damaged or aged skin.

Typically, even the collagen becomes highly inelastic, the production of elastin decreases or the elastin is not distributed properly.  These factors contribute to making the fibroblasts less active and also reduce the water content in the cells.

Skin cells have the natural ability to repair themselves, but age and environmental damage reduce this ability. Scientists have found that by activating or stimulating the fibroblasts metabolically, this damage can be reversed to some extent or controlled.  This renewal of the skin is called by doctors as “dermal remodeling.”

This can be quite depressing but you don’t have to let it be.  There are a variety of treatments to overcome and combat these problems, leaving your skin fuller and healthy, making you look years younger.

In the recent years, the market has been flooded with a variety of skin-care products and methods that addressed the aged skin problem, by attempting to promote epidermal cell renewal or dermal remodeling. Some of these treatments for cell renewal include chemical peels, intense light or laser treatments and physical removal of the stratum corneum (stripping).

The so-called hydroxyl acids and retinoids have been used to induce epidermal hyperplasia.  Retinoids have also been used to stop the formation of the enzymes that breakdown collagen and thus stimulate collagen genes to produce collagen.

How safe are these treatments?

It has been suggested by skin experts that chemical or physical changes to the skin results in cell renewal; however if the stimulation is too much, it will cause dry and flaky skin with poor regeneration of the skin.  But if done properly, the results can be positive and the skin will take on a healthier appearance, with improvement in the texture of the skin, greater capacity to hold moisture and lesser lines.

Let us take a look at some of these dermatological procedures

Chemical peels: They are used to reduce sun damage, clear irregular pigmentation and superficial scars.  The superficial layer of the skin is removed with a chemical application.  The skin then regenerates resulting in improved appearance.

Collagen injections: A collagen derivative from a cow is injected into the skin to replace the natural collagen that is no longer present. This is used to treat facial lines, scars and wrinkles.

Dermabrasion: This technique can be used to reduce small scars, both acne and surgical scars as well as other irregularities on the surface of the skin.  An electrical machine is used to remove the top most layers of the skin and the new skin that grows is fresher and smoother.

Microdermabrasion: This is a milder version of dermabrasion and a vacuum tube is used to send small particles into the skin to remove aging skin and stimulate the growth of new skin.  This is great for mild skin damage but several sittings may be needed.

Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL): IPL delivers multiple wavelengths of light with each pulse, unlike in laser therapy, where only a single wavelength is delivered. This is non-ablative.

Laser skin resurfacing: High energy light is used to burn away damaged skin.  This reduces fine scars and wrinkles.  There is a non-ablative resurfacing technique, which uses both the laser and electrical energy but does not damage the top layers of the skin.

Botulinum toxin type A: Injecting this protein into the skin immobilizes muscles in that area and prevents furrows and wrinkles, while reducing the existing wrinkles.

Although, there are several creams for anti-aging in the market, advanced signs of aging and sun damage may need these dematological procedures.  But some of these treatments do have some drawbacks, such as risk of scarring, pigmentation problems and significant skin irritation, which a dermatologist can help understand better.  Never ever undergo any these procedures without consulting a dermatologist first.