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Can you reverse skin damage?

When asking my friend if she wanted to borrow my sunscreen on a trip out to the beach she replied, “I used to use tanning beds, the damage is already done.” After explaining to her that she still needs to protect her skin, she reluctantly put some on at the mention of the word “wrinkles”. But it got me thinking, for those who used to tan frequently without protection, used tanning beds, or are known to stay beat red all summer long, is there a way to reverse skin damage or protect yourself from getting skin cancer even after the damage is done?

Unfortunately I got the cold hard truth: skin damage is more or less permanently documented in our skin and you may not even be able to see it now as it may take years or even decades for the damage to show.

But before you go and throw away your bottle of sunscreen in acceptance of your fate, its actually not too late. There are steps you can take now to prevent further damage, repair skins appearance, and ward off skin cancer. Since sun damage accumulates over time, it's never too late to start a sun protection regimen.

First, if you were a frequent tanning bed goer, or have suffered UV damage in the past, visit a dermatologist to get a skin cancer screening. The dermatologist will look you over for any signs of skin cancer as well as tell you how often you need to come back for screenings in the future.

Second, take better care of your skin. It’s a pretty general statement but could be the advice that will stave off skin cancers and minimize skin aging. What this means is limiting UV exposure now to give your skin a chance to heal and to prevent further damage. This means making sun screen application a part of your daily routine, and as the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends, “choose early mornings or late afternoons for outdoor activities, when the sun is less intense. Seek shaded areas whenever possible, or bring your own shade, such as a large umbrella. In the sun, wear broad-brimmed hats, UV-filtering sunglasses, long sleeves and other sun-protective clothing. Also, stay out of tanning beds, which can produce even more concentrated UV exposure than the sun.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends that you, “repair your damaged DNA. Skin cells are equipped with natural repair enzymes to help fix sun-damaged DNA, but with age these repair mechanisms weaken. Replace them with products containing DNA repair enzymes. These can help heal recent sun damage before it becomes permanent, and eliminate precancerous cells that could ultimately lead to cancers.”

Reader’s Digest has a unique tip as well: “A double-blind, controlled trial from 2002 concluded that eating antioxidants helps to protect skin from sun damage—certain foods contain nutrients that help it repair and rejuvenate itself. The amount of antioxidants in your blood decreases when your skin is exposed to sunlight.”

So, no matter what age you are or how much damage you have done, it is never to late to start a skin cancer prevention regimen.

Caitlyn