Six Treatments That Really Work on Wrinkles and Sun Damaged Skin

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Photoaging. That’s the term for skin changes that occur with sun and age. You know this as the fine and coarse wrinkles, brown spots, mottled pigmentation, loss of elasticity, and sallow color that happens as we get older.

Sun protection is the best way to prevent or improve photoaging, but other things also work. Many advertised wrinkle treatments have never been tested or been shown to be effective so don’t mess with those—go with something that works. Here are 6 things that do work.

  1. Tretinoin. These are topical retinoids available by prescription. Common brand name versions are Refissa,Renova and Retin-A which are the mainstay of therapy for mild to severe wrinkles and sun damage.  These are used every other night, and several weeks or months of treatment are required before real improvement can be seen. Tretinoin medications come in creams or gels, and the generic form of Retin-A (tretinoin) may be your cheapest bet.
  2. Tazorac. Tazorac (tazarotene) also comes in a cream or a gel. It is more expensive than tretinoin as it does not yet have a generic option. In studies it is as effective as tretinoin for photoaging and wrinkles.
  3. Efudex is topical fluorouracil, which can improve sun damaged skin. It does this by causing skin injury, wound healing, and then remodeling of the dermis (lower layers of the skin) which results in improved appearance. The warning here is that it’s a pretty intense reaction with redness, blistering, and peeling. Most folks think the results are worth it though.
  4. Chemical peels. Chemical peels involve applying chemical substances to remove top skin layers. Sounds gross, I know, but the subsequent regeneration tightens the skin and evens the color.
  5. Sunscreen and hats. That you know, but here is something you might not know. Factors that increase the UV protection in clothing are synthetic fabric (even polyester), tightly woven, thicker fabric and darker colors.
  6. Last, but not least. Though more expensive, Botoxinjectable fillers and laser therapy (aka ablative laser resurfacing) all work well for skin rejuvenation.

Dr O.

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