How to Repair Sun Damage.

How to Repair Sun Damage.

As we say goodbye to another summer, we’re left with a fresh crop of memories outdoors to warm us through winter and, sadly but probably, some newly sun damaged skin. We’re all guilty of becoming a little slack with protective skincare on long summer days spent in the outdoors, so now that the damage is done, how do we soothe and restore? Our latest article explores how to repair sun damaged skin, plus our top tips for keeping your complexion protected in warm weather.

How does the sun damage our skin?

Before we get into the effects of sun damage, we must first understand how and why its rays pose such a risk to the health of our skin. In moderation and enjoyed safely, sunshine is essential for our well-being, naturally boosting serotonin and vitamin D levels. However, when we venture outdoors with exposed skin lacking the protection of SPF, it leaves us vulnerable to UV damage. Too much UV exposure can affect the DNA in our skin cells, triggering a combination of skin concerns and potentially cancer.

Does my skin have sun damage?

The most explicit form of sun damage is the classic sunburn - red, raw and downright painful patches of skin that were, in hindsight, in desperate need of a high-factor SPF, but not all symptoms of sun damage are quite so obvious. Subtle signs of sun wearing are common and often cumulative after years, or decades, of poor sun safety. If you’ve been skipping out on your skincare over the past summer, or maybe over a few summers, you might start to notice the following:

Fine lines and wrinkles

It’s well known that sun damage can age the skin prematurely, also known as photoaging. Fine lines and wrinkles can often be the product of decades of poor sun skincare, affecting the very deepest layers of your skin’s dermis and typically not appearing until the perimenopause years.

Broken blood vessels

Consistent, unprotected exposure to hot summer sun can enlarge the skin’s blood vessels, eventually thinning their walls and leading them to appear bruised or broken. These red, spider-like veins are very common around the nose area.

Hyperpigmentation and acne scarring

After spending a lot of time in the sun, you might notice your skin looks blotchy or patchy, perhaps with any preexisting scarring or marks seemingly more pronounced. Sun exposure can both cause and exasperate hyperpigmentation concerns, triggering an excessive production of melanin, which gives our skin a natural pigment.

Those who experience regular bouts of acne may also notice that spots take longer to heal or scar more deeply. This is because UV rays not only trigger hyperpigmentation and slower healing but also trigger an increase in natural sebum, encouraging an ongoing cycle of acne.

Dryness and dehydration

As anyone who’s sunbathed without a generous slather of facial SPF knows, time in the sun leaves your face feeling tight, dry and slightly raisin-like. UV exposure can damage and even kill skin cells, comprising your skin barrier and leading to moisture loss and longer-term dryness or dehydration. Sun damage can also thicken the outer layer of your skin dermis, causing a rough, uneven and flaky texture.


A chronic skin condition, melasma manifests in the form of patches of skin darker than your actual skin tone, and is often triggered by, you guessed it, sun damage. Although influenced by other factors like hormones and certain medications, it’s believed that inflammation from consistent sun damage is a primary cause of melasma.

Key skincare ingredients to help repair sun damage

So you’ve spent a little more time in the sun than you should this summer, but now what? Well, it’s time to enforce a targeted skincare routine, packed with actives that can help treat your concerns and promote healing for sun damaged skin. Here are 5 key ingredients you should get to know:

1.   Vitamin C

Topical vitamin C is often reached for when addressing hyperpigmentation concerns, a common byproduct of sun damage, as we discovered earlier. Often championed for its anti-ageing benefits and brightening properties, this vitamin is essential for those whose complexion is a little sun-weathered.  

2.   Retinoids

A derivative of vitamin A, retinol works to encroach skin cell turnover, boost collagen production and improve basically all sun damaged skin concerns. It’s important to note however that retinols are recommended for use after periods of long sun exposure as this ingredient can cause some sensitivity. Make sure to also be religious with morning SPF if you’ve applied a retinol product the night before to avoid further damage. If you struggle with retinoid reactivity, try seeking products with bakuchiol instead - a gentler, natural alternative that still yields great results.

3.   Niacinamide

A form of vitamin B3, niacinamide is another ingredient that ticks a lot of boxes when looking to repair sun damaged skin. A natural antioxidant with soothing properties, niacinamide has been found in studies to reduce the inflammation sun exposure causes to our skin.

4.   Hyaluronic acid

When looking to combat dryness and dehydration after a long summer in the sun, you should be dowsing yourself in skincare products packed with hyaluronic acid. Not only does it help strengthen and repair your potentially weakened skin barrier, but it also aids in attracting and retaining moisture. This will help to plump out the skin with a juicy glow, simultaneously minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Tips for preventing sun damage

Often we learn too late that it’s far easier to prevent than reverse sun damage. Likewise, seldom do we consider sun skincare outside of the hotter seasons, when in fact, we should be protecting our faces daily. Even on cloudy autumn days, UV rays can still penetrate and pose a risk to skin health.

Invest in a high-factor daily sunscreen

Your first line of defence in protecting against sun damaged skin is generously applying a high-factor, broad-spectrum SPF every morning. This acts as a barrier against UV rays, and the higher factor your SPF, the stronger this protection. Healthcare professionals recommend a minimum factor of 15 - yes, even throughout winter. Don’t forget about protection for your body too, make sure to protect any area of exposed skin, topping up when in water or on particularly sunny days.

Nurture your skin barrier

Outside of sunscreen protection alone, you can give your skin a head start against damage by keeping your barrier strong and healthy. The route to a robust skin barrier lies in lots of hydration, antioxidant skincare and simplicity. Taking the time to nurture your face also allows it to heal faster, nipping symptoms of sun damage in the bud.

Limit or avoid sunbathing

While feeling the sun on your face is undeniably blissful, try to avoid lengthy sunbathing sessions in harsh, direct sunlight. If you can’t compromise on your days in the sun, make sure to go out fully lathered up in SPF, reapplying every few hours and avoiding peak sun hours between 10 am and 4 pm.