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Sun damage treatment before and afters

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We treat sun damaged skin in Surrey, B.C., near Vancouver. We also treat patients from around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, including Delta, Langley, White Rock, Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster, Abbotsford and beyond. With our slew of technologies and treatment modalities, we’re able to provide a comprehensive solution to almost any type of skin problem resulting from solar injuries. Plus, our on-staff doctor is able to prescribe medications, should your case require them.

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Sun damaged skin affects us all. If you have visible signs of aging, you have sun damage. Wrinkles, lines, brown spots, freckles and even redness can happen as a result of exposure to the sun. Some cases are much worse than others, however. 

Our treatments can help with prevention from sun damage, early signs of sun damage and moderately sun damaged skin (see more below).

That said, problematic sun damage can result in dangerous skin conditions that lead to cancer. While we do have a doctor working at our clinic, we would still advise that, before seeking cosmetic solutions to sun damaged skin, you see your family doctor or dermatologist about any abnormalities forming in your skin. 

We do not treat any cancerous growths from sun damage, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. We do remove benign moles, and can treat freckles, pigmentation and brown spots, however.

Our services for treating skin conditions are not covered by MSP in BC, nor most insurance providers. We encourage you to ask your private insurance carrier if they will cover the cost of treatments at our clinic. 

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What is dermal sun damage? How does the sun deteriorate our skin?

UV photography showing sun damage under visible skin with freckles

The sun produces three types of skin-damaging radiation. They are:

  • UVA rays
  • UVB rays
  • UVC rays

UVC rays get absorbed by the earth’s ozone layer. This happens long before they reach us on the ground, which is why you never hear about sunscreen to protect against it. That said, you can still get UVC radiation from other sources. We won’t get into that here.

In the past, the cosmetics industry was mostly obsessed with solar protection against UVB rays – the rays that give you a tan. These ultraviolet rays are most of what you absorb from the sun (even through clouds). 

However, recent research is showing that UVA rays can be equally as damaging to your body as UVB rays. They travel through glass, penetrate deeper into your skin, and don’t show signs of damage right away. So, we now have what are called, “broad spectrum” sunscreens. These advanced types of products are meant to protect the skin against both kinds of sun radiation: UVA and UVB.

UVA and UVB penetration into skin causing visible burns and signs of aging diagram explanation

If you are not protecting yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which are not visible wavelengths of light, you’ll have sun damage. Yes – this applies to everyone, even when it’s not sunny outside. If you sunbathe or use tanning beds, you will likely have more sun damage than most. Likewise, your dermis can show early signs of aging if you work or spend a lot of time outdoors, while not wearing adequate SPF.

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So then, what does sun damage look like?

Sun damage is not just a bad sunburn, though, sunburns do count as sun damage. But, they are just the start.

When we talk about dermal sun damage, we are talking about the long-term, slow-forming, visible signs of aging. Unless you do something about them, they will be here to stay. And, they can get worse over time.

Technically, sun damage can come in the form of sagging skin and wrinkles, which we’ll get anyway, as we age. 

In more serious cases, sun exposure can result in uneven pigmentation (like melasma, freckles and brown spots), scaly red spots, broken blood vessels showing through your skin and even cancer. We list the names of these skin conditions below.

The thing to know is that, one way or another, every time you go outside or stand near a window, your body is exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which damages skin cells. Since your skin is the organ protecting your insides, it takes the biggest ‘hit’ from the sun. But, that damage can easily spread downward, causing problems inside your body, too. 

So, sun damage is not just an anti-aging or cosmetic concern – it has massive implications for your immunity, DNA cell health and more. We won’t get into all that here, but we strongly encourage you to do your own research on this issue. And if you’re not already, start wearing sun protection!

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How does sun damage (photoaging) happen in our skin?

Sun damage is rooted in the creation of free radicals from UVA and UVB exposure. Free radicals are everywhere; we can also produce them in our bodies by taking in pollution (including from smoking) and unhealthy foods. These are called “toxins.” But a large majority of free radicals that cause our skin to age, specifically, are from the sun.

Let’s back up a little bit. What is a free radical?

We wrote an article on this topic, here. To understand sun damage more fully, you’ll want to have a quick read, then come back to this page!

Ok, back to the science of sun damage on the skin…

Why do we need to know about free radicals when wanting to treat sun damaged skin at our Surrey clinic?

Well, the sun’s UVA and UVB rays trigger the production of free radicals in the skin. That damages your important skin cells, like collagen. It also messes with the balanced ecosystem your skin has going on, such as producing the right amount of elastin when needed, or the right amount of melanin from melanocytes.

When this biology is interfered with by free radicals, your skin produces visible abnormalities, collectively known as sun damage. In fact, being tanned is a sign of injured skin trying to protect itself (the result of which can turn into early signs of aging).

So, the underlying issue of dermal sun damage is lack of sun protection. This must be your first line of defense. For that reason we will always recommend high-quality skincare products that contain UVA and UVB sun protection factor (SPF). This goes especially if you are fair skinned, or taking certain medications, since your sensitivity to the sun will be higher.

If you don’t work to prevent free radicals, you can’t stop progressive sun damage. But, you can treat existing sun damage, if you are first committed to sun protection.

In addition to all this scary talk about free radicals, it’s important to know that UV rays can also cause a breakdown of collagen fibers, which are the building-blocks of your skin.

That’s where our skincare clinic comes into the picture. Using multiple methods, our Surrey sun damage treatments can help rebuild your skin’s collagen. They also remove the damaged skin cells that are ‘as good as dead,’ if not dangerous to your health (some are precancerous).

If you think your skin is in need of healing from sun damage, we encourage you to book a consultation at our clinic. During this session, we can take a closer look, and make recommendations on what we think will work for you. Sometimes, more than one treatment will be needed, for best results.

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What types of sun damage can you treat?

We do not treat cancerous sun damage. If you believe you have a dangerous, abnormal and changing growth on your skin, please seek the advice of your family doctor or dermatologist.

That said, we do treat cosmetic, benign forms of sun damage and related skin pigmentation issues, which are not covered by most health insurance organizations. These include:

Solar elastosis
Neck wrinkles and aged sagging skin from solar elastosis and loss of collagen and elastin

Solar elastosis – this is essentially wrinkles and sagging skin, which comes with age, but can be sped up by sun exposure. The UV rays break down your collagen and elastin, which are needed for your skin to maintain its structure. Without those components, you end up with photoaging.


Freckles – you can be born with these light brown spots, which dot the face, especially around the nose and cheeks. However, they can get worse with sun exposure, and can be seen more visibly with a UV photograph.

Brown spots
Brown spots from excess melanin or age spots resulting from sun damage

Brown spots from excess melanin – these are flat and brown, as the name suggests. They are like freckles, but appear irregularly, and sort of randomly. They can be referred to as “age spots” too. But, they are from the sun, when it causes your skin to go into melanin overproduction. They can be more common in darker skin that already has more melanin in it than lighter skin.

Solar lentigines
Solar lentigines sun damage and photo aging on dark skin

Solar lentigines – these can be brown, black or gray, and are also called liver spots. They are flat, and much darker than freckles. They can occur on the face and back, and sometimes in large numbers. They aren’t something you’re born with, like freckles would be. They come with age and sun exposure.

Blotchiness (red or brown)
Blotchy skin pigmentation and discolouration cheek

Blotchiness (uneven pigmentation) that is red or brown – this results from uneven tanning, basically. The lingering results can be permanent, including stretched blood vessels, which is where the redness comes from.

Erythema red spots from broken capillaries resulting from sun damage

Erythema – this is the name for spotty redness from damaged blood vessels, noted above.

Poikiloderma freckled skin brown spots

Poikiloderma – these are patches of red or brown spots that look like many, many dots, sometimes interspersed with your lighter-colour skin. These patches are often seen on the neck and chest, especially on aged skin.

Melasma and hyperpigmentation
Melasma and brown patchy skin or freckles from sun damage

Melasma and other patchy hyperpigmentation (discolouration) – unlike spots or freckles, melasma forms in patches of darkness. It can be from sun exposure, but it can also be from hormones, or exacerbated by hormones (such as, if you are taking birth control or other medications). Sometimes, it’s called the “mask of pregnancy.”

Actinic keratosis (a.k.a. solar keratoses)
Actinic keratosis on the nose and a treated sun damage spot

Actinic keratosis (a.k.a. solar keratoses) – heightened, scaly red patches on the skin, especially on the face, ears and lower arms and legs. These are precursors to squamous cell carcinoma, and thus should be treated as soon as you notice them.

Lentigo maligna

Lentigo maligna – not to be mistaken for melasma, this type of sun damage on the skin starts as a brown spot, or something resembling a bruise. But it grows and spreads. It can be a precursor to melanoma. It should be checked as soon as possible.

Labial lentigo

Labial lentigo – these are dark spots just like solar lentigines, except they are on the lips.

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How treatment of all sun damage starts at our Surrey skin clinic:

We always start with a VISIA® skin analysis. This is a UV photography system that shows us the extent of sun damage under your skin, where the human eye can not see. It can be indicative of the pigments that will, one day, rise above the epidermis (i.e. the lower layer of skin).

When we know where your sun damage is, and the severity of it, we can better provide you with a treatment plan that is suitable for your case.

In other instances, your visible sun damage will be identifiable even without a UV photograph. These ‘surface level’ issues will likely be our most immediate ‘targets’ for treatment, if they are treatable to begin with.

To know more, we encourage you to book a consultation at our clinic. This consultation includes a copy of your VISIA® skin analysis. More importantly, we’ll do in-person, up-close analysis of your skin condition. Thereafter, we’ll be able to give you our recommended treatment options.

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What solutions do you use to treat sun damaged skin in Surrey?

Clear + Brilliant Permea laser facial treatment closeup view - available in Surrey BC

We use a combination of treatments for sun damaged skin. Since the effects of sun damage are wide and varied, so must be our approach. Every case we see will require a different course of action, or a combination of treatments. These can include:

Photofacials with cosmetic lasers

Depending on the need, we have multiple lasers for performing photofacials. When it comes to sun damage, examples include:

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Low-intensity energy treatments for milder cases

Sometimes, your skin needs to heal from a bad sunburn, before we can do deeper treatments on you. Other times, you may have had an intense laser treatment that needs a bit of help to speed up healing. Or, your case may be more about prevention, rather than needing to reverse major signs of photoaging. We’ll use different technologies for these cases.

For example, we may use LED photomodulation.

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Infini RF™ microneedling

This microneedling solution uses radio frequency to create heat. As a result, it enhances the effects of microneedling. Microneedling works by intentionally creating injury to the skin, using very, very fine needles (like acupuncture). When your body experiences a skin injury, it starts producing collagen to heal the wound. Since collagen production is needed to fight the signs of photodamage, heat-based microneedling can be used to speed up this process, without the downtime associated with more intense treatments. It can also tighten up large pores, which may have been affected by sun damage.

Heat-based microneedling can also be combined with plasma-rich platelets (PRP) therapy, for even better effects.

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Chemical peels

Chemical peels are like facials with liquid solutions that intentionally cause your skin to shed its topmost layers. This way, it can create new skin to replace old cells. Popular options include the Jessner Peel and Vivier Peel. We can also do spot treatments with stronger chemicals, like TCA. Chemical peels can not be done at home – they are a professional service, performed at our clinic.

Chemical peels can be stronger than some photofacials, like the Vegas Peel. Some skin types are better suited for this treatment than others.

That said, both chemical peels and photofacials (laser peels) can be done at different intensities. So, it always depends on which peel we’re talking about, to determine what is stronger or weaker, or where the benefits lie for a certain condition.

We’ll let you know which treatment we think is right for you, when we see you in person.

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Microdermabrasion lightly scrapes away dead skin cells and leaves behind newer skin. When performed regularly, the result is a reduction in fine lines, improvement in texture and healthier skin, overall. We recommend a microdermabrasion treatment once a month or every two months.

Microdermabrasion is not as intense as a chemical peel. It is better for maintenance and regular upkeep, than for dramatic results.

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Prescription medications

The main prescriptive medications used to tackle sun damage are Tretinoin and Hydroquinone. Both can be made as topical cream options. More about them is below:


Tretinoin is derived from Vitamin A (as a retinoid), in the form of all-trans-retinoic acid (ATRA). It is also be referred to by one of its popular brand-names, Retin-A. Sometimes it is prescribed for acne.

Tretinoin is similar to retinol but much more powerful, hence the need for a prescription. It helps to increase collagen production, so as to decrease fine lines and wrinkles. It also fades brown spots and improves overall skin texture.

This medication can cause severe dryness and irritation, so it must be monitored during initial usage. It is meant to be used routinely, per directions given by your doctor. You will need to use this as directed for months, before seeing significant changes to your skin.

Tretinoin can cause extra sun-sensitivity, and must be used with a high-grade SPF. Just to be safe, do not use this if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Prescription-strength hydroquinones

Hydroquinone is also used topically in concentrated formulas to treat pigmentation from sun damage. It is chemically known as benzene-1, 4-diol or quinol, and is a type of phenol. Its function as a medication is to remove over-pigmented cells, so as to clear skin tone and complexion.

More diluted forms of this ingredient are used in non-prescription cosmeceuticals, which may be enough for your case.

Other prescriptions for sun damage

There may be other types of prescriptions more suitable to your case. We we will discuss these with you during your initial consultation and treatments with us.

Please note: our doctor appointments to write prescriptions are not covered by MSP, nor most insurance carriers. We operate out of a cosmetic clinic, offering only elective procedures and consultations. We write prescription notes alongside our other aesthetic medicine treatments, since our doctor is available to do so. This is the main advantage of getting them from us. If you are looking for covered appointments, please see your doctor.

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Non-prescription, cosmeceutical skin care

When treating sun damage with cosmeceuticals, we look for bioactive ingredients that can lighten dark spots, calm redness and exfoliate the upper layers of skin cells, without aggravating your skin.

Many cosmeceutical skin care products are available with these properties. However, some are better suited to perform a certain job than others. These are not like over-the-counter skin care products. They are usually meant to treat something specific, while not being so strong as to need a prescription.

For sun damaged skin, we look for creams with higher concentrations of retinol and retinoids (vitamin A), copper or copper peptides, alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) like glycolic acid or lactic acid, antioxidants like vitamins C and E, niacinamide, arbutin for lightening and others.

We sell cosmeceuticals at our Surrey skin care clinic, for you to try. Sometimes, they are used to prepare or heal the skin before and after other treatments. Other times, they work well enough on their own to solve your sun damage issues.

Still, we recommend a good, high quality skin care regimen be performed every day at home, regardless of whether signs of aging are showing on you or not. Good skin care can go a long way when it comes to prevention.

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What other options can I use to solve sun damaged skin?

Hands holding generic skin care products for skin health

The number one thing you can do to solve your sun damaged skin, is to protect yourself from future sun exposure. Wear long sleeves, pants and wide-brimmed hats, sit in the shade and don’t go outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. if possible. Also, please stop using tanning beds (which can also cause skin cancer). If you want to look tan, use a tanning lotion.

And, always, always use a high-quality, broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher, and ‘religiously’ so. Every two hours, you should be applying sunscreen – even on cloudy days. The Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-on Shield SPF 50 is a great option for this; it’s a powder sunscreen that goes on over your makeup.

Note: when applying high-grade SPF, grades higher than 50 don’t necessarily mean better protection, or that you need less protection throughout the day. You should alway be reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours.

Remember that sand, snow and water are all reflectors of light. Take extra caution about your sun care when you’re near those elements.

The number two thing you can do to heal your sun damaged skin is follow the instructions a doctor gives you for applying skin care products at home. Skin care products with certain ingredients in them (noted above) have been used for years to treat sun damage on the skin.

Other than that, and the types of treatments offered at our clinic, there is not much else you can do to reverse sun damage.

You can help to prevent free radical damage by taking in large quantities, and a wide variety of antioxidants through your diet and supplements. These include Vitamin C and E, beta-carotene, selenium and many more. The body does not produce many of these on its own, so it must get them from external sources. Sometimes, antioxidants are also available in topical skincare products, such as the SkinMedica® line, and that helps, too.

We do strongly encourage you to regularly examine your skin for signs of sun damage, however. As we mentioned earlier, sun damage is not just a cosmetic issue – it can be a life-threatening one. So, look for moles, red spots, and so on, and show them to a doctor when you see them.

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What are the risks of treating sun damage with lasers and other solutions?

Aside from possible allergic reactions, there is little to worry about when treating sun damaged skin with lasers, radio frequency technologies, chemical peels, topical ointments or other solutions. In fact, leaving these issues on your skin can sometimes be more harmful than good. And, know that some people can experience allergies from the sun itself.

The damage done to your skin from sun exposure is, by far, more dangerous than the treatments we offer at our clinic to help treat this problem.

Any laser that is misused can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. However, this is more of an operational issue, rather than a danger from the laser itself. When safety protocols are in place, and when precautions are taken, side effects from lasers are rare.

The doctor overseeing a pigmentation treatment should be aware of how your skin tone and condition will likely to react to the energy and wavelengths from lasers. They can adjust settings to be suitable for you, and your condition, specifically.

This one reason we require a comprehensive consultation, before embarking on treatments with our clients. It’s also why you should always choose a very experienced provider when seeking any type of laser skin procedure.

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What is the cost of treating sun damage at your Surrey skin care clinic?

The cost of Surrey sun damage treatments at our clinic can vary depending on the treatment path that is chosen. The severity of your condition can also play a big part in determining how many sessions, or combination of treatments you’ll need. All of this factors into price.

On our website’s individual treatment pages, we list some ballpark figures you can expect for each type of solution.

However, the best way to know what your costs will be, is to come in for a consultation. This way, we can get to know more about your history, and see your sun damage close-up. It may just be that we’ll recommend a solution you never thought would suit your case, or that you didn’t know existed.

Since we have so many treatment options at our clinic, you can know we’ll be a lot less biased when it comes to your skin care options. We don’t just push the one or two solutions we have and can offer; we actively work to bring in the latest technologies, and a variety of them too, so we can combine treatments for better results.

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Important notes:
Prices on this website are to be used as a guide, and not a definite cost for your treatment. Prices can change at any time.

Procedure results are not guaranteed, and can vary from patient to patient.

Our doctor's training, association memberships and media appearances have included:

Our awards have included: