The sun controls much of life on earth. We need the sun to grow plants and get our daily dose of vitamin D. But this powerful star can also wreak havoc on our skin. If you have been overexposed to sunlight, you may be experiencing symptoms of sun damaged skin. Thankfully, there are treatment options available.

Read on to learn the best ways to treat sun damaged skin.

What are the types of sun damaged skin?

sun damaged skin

Trekker with burned skin on face is smiling at camera in Khumbu valley on a way to Everest Base camp

Skin affected by the sun is different for each person. Damage depends on factors such as skin type, the length of exposure, and protection of skin prior to exposure.

In order to treat your skin, you first need to know which type of skin damage you are experiencing. Here are the types of sun damage:

Dried Skin

This is one of the most common results of overexposure to the sunlight.

Dried skin is a result of the lack of oils and moisture that occur when you are exposed to sunlight for extended periods of time.

This also occurs when you do not protect your skin from the sun by using SPF sunscreen.

Symptoms of dry skin include flaking and peeling of the skin. You may even experience bouts of itching.


Chances are you have been sunburned at least once in your life.

This painful reaction to the sun can occur even if you haven’t been exposed to a lot of sunlight.

The severity of a sunburn also depends on your skin tone. Those who are fair skinned with light eyes are more susceptible to a sunburn. However, anyone can experience a sunburn regardless of the amount of melatonin in their skin.

Symptoms of a sunburn include:

  • Red skin
  • Tiny blisters
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

This reaction can also be prevented by wearing sunscreen and light-colored clothing. Wearing hats or using umbrellas are also common ways to prevent sunburn.

Actinic Keratosis

Aside from dry skin and sunburn, there are more serious reactions to sun exposure that can occur.

Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that causes skin discoloration and tiny pimple looking bumps that do not go away on their own. The discoloration or bumps must be removed by freezing the cells or treated by chemicals.

This skin condition increases the risk of skin cancer. Nearly 10% of these cases turn into skin cancer.

Loss of Collagen

Collagen is the protein that keeps skin smooth and tight. When you are exposed to long periods of sun, you are slowly reducing the presence of collagen in your skin.

This can cause wrinkles and premature skin aging. You can also develop actinic purpura.

This condition is caused by damage to the skin’s collagen. This damages the skin’s blood vessels. You may experience extra redness and rupturing of the skin’s blood vessels.

Treatment Options

Now that you know the types of skin damage that can occur, you are better able to treat your specific case.

There are tons of products and procedures that can be done to lessen the impact of these skin conditions.

However, the best way to treat sun damaged skin is by prevention. We’ll talk more about that later.

First, let’s get to the best treatment options for your sun damaged skin.

Dry Skin

Experiencing dry skin due to sun exposure? This treatment requires more than simply applying moisturizer to your skin.

There are steps you will need to take to ensure that you are treating the skin properly.

First, apply a moisturizer that has glycerin, sorbitol, or lactic acid. Make sure that you avoid any moisturizers that contain alpha-hydroxy acids. These types of moisturizers will further dry out your skin.

Sunburned Skin

You need to take extra care of sunburned skin. Once your sun damaged skin tries to heal, you will experience peeling and added dryness.

Make sure that you are moisturizing with aloe vera or lotions with glycerin. These will add moisture to your skin to help heal and soothe.

Take care to avoid any hot or warm showers. The temperature of the water can dry out your skin even more. Try to use soaps that don’t have any scents. Scented soaps and body washes can irritate your already irritated skin!

One of the best, and most common ways, to treat your sunburn is using cool compresses. Try using cool, wet washcloths to apply to your skin.

Sometimes this method can help even more than applying aloe vera.

If you are experiencing swelling or inflammation with your sunburn, you can also take ibuprofen to take away some of the pain associated with the sunburn.

Experiencing severe pain or swelling? Your doctor may have to prescribe a stronger medication that will provide you some relief.

Actinic keratosis

This type of sun damaged skin requires a little more treatment than at home remedies.

Because of the severity of some of these cases, you may need a prescription topical cream.

Some of the more popular topical creams include:

  • Fluorouracil – This type of medication is known for its use as an anticancer prescription. But it can be applied topically to completely remove actinic keratosis.
  • Imiquimod – This topical ointment will cause your body to react against the actinic keratosis.

Cryotherapy is also a treatment used to attack the sun damaged skin. This is done by a doctor and requires them to use liquid nitrogen to freeze off the damaged skin.

Laser treatment is performed by your doctor to remove the top layer of your skin. This will reveal new skin that will no longer be affected by the keratosis.

Loss of Collagen

Once you have damaged the collagen in your skin, it is quite difficult to reverse the side effects.

However, there are treatment options available to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.

Your doctor may prescribe you a topical ointment that is rich in retinol (vitamin A) that will help replenish collagen into your skin.

You can also invest in chemical peels. This type of treatment will work to remove any discoloration or scarring as a result of sun damaged skin. They work by removing the top layer of the skin, leaving smooth, new skin in its place.

Another option that will result in fresher, smoother skin is dermabrasion. This is the process of using an electrical machine that will remove the top layers of your skin, revealing smoother, scar free skin. This type of procedure is also used for those suffering from acne.

Aside from these treatments, you may also take into consideration some surgical procedures that will reduce the appearance of skin aging.

Some of these treatments include cryotherapy or plastic surgery options such as Botox. Botox will fill in these fine lines that are caused by damage to the skin.


We have discussed how you can treat your sun damaged skin. But what if you could have prevented these issues altogether?

There are tons of ways that you can keep your skin safe when you are in the sun.

You could completely avoid sunlight, the beach, or hiking in winter, but what fun would that be?

Some ways you can prevent yourself from sun damaged skin:

  • Lessen your time in the sun – There are times you will be in the sun more often than others. If you are vacationing on the beach or working in your garden, you want to make sure that you are taking periods of breaks from the sun.
  • Reduce your exposure – When you know you are going to be in the sun for long periods of time, make sure that you use SPF sunscreen (even in the winter!) You should also dress for the sun. Make sure that you’re wearing light colored, flowing clothes that won’t attract the sun to your body. Hats and sunglasses also prevent the sun from reaching your skin as harshly.
  • Watch your medications – There are some medications that will increase your chances of burning if you are exposed to UV rays. Some topical acne medications will increase your chance of sunburn or peeling. Even some oral medications advise that you stay out of the sunlight.


We all love being outdoors on a summer day.

But the hot sun can also be damaging to our skin.

If you have already experienced sun damaged skin, you are probably wanting to know what you can do to treat these issues.

There are ointments and home remedies that you can use that will help reduce ailments such as dry skin or sunburn.

If you are experiencing more severe sun damaged skin, there are treatments that your doctor can perform that will reduce the appearance.

But in order to prevent these types of skin issues, you should take steps to reduce your exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.

Remember that exposing your skin to the sun too often or for long periods of time can greatly increase your risk of skin cancer.

If you have any questions about your skin and ways you can combat things such as sunburn and acne, ask us in the comments.