Laser Treatment May Reverse Sun-Damaged Skin

There was a time when sunscreen was not available, and before it became the mandatory beach and pool accessory that it is today. The result for many is skin damaged by the sun. With very few treatment options, dermatological testing has been ongoing, looking for the elusive treatment that will turn back time and revive sun-damaged skin. Now a new procedure has been developed—which uses a combination of topical solution (made by DUSA Pharmaceuticals Inc.) and laser treatment—that stimulates collagen production and can help rejuvenate skin that has been overexposed.

A team of U.S. researchers has confirmed that the value of a procedure that is already being performed by some physicians to improve the appearance of skin with wrinkles, sun spots, and fine lines, and helps explain how the treatment works. The researchers from the University of Michigan tested photodynamic therapy, which combines a clear solution called Levulan (dabbed onto the skin to increase its sensitivity to light) and pulsed dye laser treatment, which uses brief flashes of a single wavelength light.

In a group that consisted of 10 men and 15 women between the ages of 54 and 83 that had skin that was sun-damaged, the researchers found that the therapy did increase the production of collagen, a protein that helps provide skin its elasticity and texture, and promoted the thickening of the top layer of skin. The team performed this procedure on the sun-damaged skin of the forearm of the 25 volunteers and took samples of the tissue to examine the changes in the skin. The collagen production was twice as great with Levulan with the laser treatment compared to just the laser treatment alone.

Dr. Jeffrey Orringer, the director of the University of Michigan’s Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser center stated, “We do believe that the treatment would, in fact, improve the appearance of patients’ skin…. It lends molecular or scientific credibility to a procedure that’s being done out there, and it’s also the first step in understanding how to make this treatment more effective.” Orringer also said that there was no industry money used to fund this study, which was published in the Archives of Dermatology.

Many people today are eager to improve the appearance of their skin, damaged by years of sunbathing or other types of exposure to the sun. Photodynamic therapy is currently being performed, often to the face, and can cost hundreds of dollars per treatment session. The U.S. Food and Drug Administrations approved Levulan in 1999 to help with the treatment of precancerous skin lesions either on the face or scalp called actinic keratoses. It is also being used “off-label” in the photodynamic therapy to help make sun-damaged skin approve its appearance.


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