Will LED light therapy help reverse all over sun damaged skin?
August 24, 2009 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Old sun-damaged skin all over my body--is it tilting at windmills to consider light therapy?

I am older than most of you--I am 58. I used to live in Florida and I tanned a lot during my young adult years. I had always heard that sun damage was "cumlative" but I didn't really see the effects of all that tanning until last year when all my exposed skin turned wrinkly. It is kind of shocking. I feel like I only can look good now if I am covered practically head to toe. My hands are the worst, but the problem is everywhere on all exposed skin. My skin looks about 10-15 years older than I am...and I am serious that it accelerated during last year. I don't have a lot of money, but if there was any value in trying light therapy I would. In attempting to do an online search for correcting sun damage there are mountains of products and "advice" that I can't begin to determine as scam or hype. How can I find out the success rate on something like this?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (7 answers total)
It's always a good approximation to not trust any website which has hyphens in the name. My guess is that it's not a real treatment. A quick look on google scholar says that some laser therapies (with serious power output) might treat wrinkles. But if it's powerful enough to work, it's going to be restricted to licensed surgeons only.

I would spend the money on creams.
posted by gensubuser at 6:48 AM on August 24, 2009

I would go to a good dermatologist and see what he/she recommends.
posted by bunny hugger at 7:26 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to the efficacy of LED therapy, though it does sound fishy. I'd strongly advise setting up an appointment with a reputable dermatologist (not just one of those aesthetic medspa places) who can give you a realistic idea of what to expect from various therapies, and help you figure out whether you need to be on the lookout for skin cancer.

(My dad was diagnosed with melanoma around your age, and died from it earlier this year; today would have been his 63rd birthday. Without a doubt, his dermatologist's office can be credited with giving him some of those five extra years. So I apologize for this being an alarmist semi-answer; that's just where I'm coming from.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:37 AM on August 24, 2009

I have had two cancerous moles removed in the last ten years--the first one when I was 24--due to unprotected sun exposure with very fair skin and north European ancestry. My now fairly frequent contact with excellent dermatologists has been a great education about sun damage and taking care of my skin. What I have learned is a relationship with an excellent dermatologist with experience dealing with sun damage and cancers is incredibly important for learning about your options for improved appearance, texture, and most importantly, catching skin cancers early.

Spend your health care dollar on an awesome health care provider who can assess your concerns, create a treatment plan, and start you on regular screenings. Dermatologists have access to excellent products, regimens, and surgical options that are actually effective and often covered by insurance. And, I'll say it again, can monitor you carefully for cancers and dangerous skin changes.

I'm betting you'll be surprised at how helpful and willing a Dermatologist will be to to everything they can to improve your skin's appearance and health--in my experience they have a lot of excellent treatments at their disposal, are great at customizing, can recommend good OTC products and prescribe great stuff as well, and will know what is possible and what isn't as far as improvement and changes.

Good luck! Memail me if you have more questions!
posted by rumposinc at 7:41 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

n-thing the "Go to a Dermatologist" recommendations.
Just last week I had a benign basal cell melanoma sliced off my chest.
Sure it was the "harmless" sort, but it served as a wake-up call to go in and get checked from head to toe at least once a year and watch my sun exposure and start using sunscreen more prudently.

Like you, I live in Florida, grew up here, and bought into the whole "gotta get a tan to look good" mentality.

Your dermatologist will also be able to recommend good solid treatment(s) for your current condition that you wish to address.

Sorry if this is a derail, but it's a recent happening and it's freaking me out.
posted by willmize at 8:26 AM on August 24, 2009

nthing dermatologist; I've had great success with 50% glycolic face/chest peel; you can get higher powered ones from a doctor.

If anything, your skin will be healthier after sloughing off an outer layer and look brighter.
posted by dzaz at 11:39 AM on August 24, 2009

Definitely see a dermatologist. Non-prescription-strength topicals may help reduce the appearance of mild sun damage. But it's always best to consult a dermatologist to confirm that you don't have any actinic keratoses.

I'm not a doctor, but my understanding is that LED therapies give only a slight to moderate improvement to the appearance of sun damage over time. Facial peels and ablative treatments, such as dermabrasion or laser resurfacing are more traditional and give better results.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

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