Jan. 31, 2013
Deborah Graham Warren

SUN DAMAGE RECOVERY: PART 1 Confessions of a Former Sun Addict

I wasn’t aspiring to be a California raisin. But I was unknowingly headed in that direction. I’ve wreaked havoc on my face over the decades—with sun damage of the all-encompassing kind: hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles galore. With a constellation of sun stars on my 50-something face, I’m like a poster child for sun damage. But all is not lost. (Thank you, Skin Center!)

Yes, there will be “afters” to go with these “befores.” But first, I must confess the insanity of my ways.


As a teen of the 70s, I joined the masses of sun worshippers. We donned our bikinis as soon as the spring temp’s broke 70°. We’d shiver with every swift breeze, yet stay true to our task at hand: creating invisible sun damage that would require an skin-tervention years later.

After vain attempts at erasing my freckles with lemon juice, I finally gave up and simply chalked up those persistent sun kisses to my half-Irish genetic code.

As the decades marched by, I sank deeper into my sun addiction. With the faith of a devout follower, I practiced these cardinal sun sins:

BABY OIL MADNESS: “Baste and bake.” If I was feeling cautious, I’d use lesser evil, Coppertone SPF 2 Oil.  (Yes, there was such a thing.) I amped up that oil with a reflective foil tanning blanket. Crazy, right?

TANNING BED REST: Soothed by the sounds of my Sony Walkman, I’d lay in that UV coffin prior to vacations with nothing but bikini (sans top) and goggles. I actually believed that I was protecting myself by gradually building color prior to hitting the beach. (If you believe this myth, please see my SUNSCREEN NEWS blog on for a UVA ray-ality check.)

SUNSCREEN ABSTINENCE: Nada. No sunscreen—whatsoever—during prime beach time (10am -2pm) except, perhaps, on my nose and eyelids to appease my less hard core companions.


Now, it’s time to do something about the self-inflicted damage. But instead of sacrificing myself to the sun gods, I am turning my faith to The Skin Center. Before working here, I hadn’t a clue that my sun damage could actually be corrected.

In reviewing my case with my provider and friend, Nellie Sicher, RN, we talked about the benefits of both Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Fraxel Laser Skin Resurfacing. Both treatments are fabulous for hyperpigmentation and textural irregularities. Fraxel, however, offers a big bonus. Not only does it reduce and remove hyperpigmentation, it also stimulates collagen which reduces fine lines and wrinkles. (Who wouldn’t want that?) IPL treatments are often done in conjunction with Chemical Peels which also improve texture, tone and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

So which treatment is better? IPL with Chemical Peels or Fraxel? Since both treatments help skin recover from years of sun abuse, I turned to Nellie and said, “Let’s do an experiment!” Knowing where I was going with this, Nellie’s eyes lit up. “Let’s show our patients a side-by-side comparison over time,” I suggested. Nellie loved the idea. She was thrilled at the prospect of watching the result of both treatments unfold simultaneously.

So…I will “sacrifice” my face (it’s a rough job, wink, wink) by treating the RIGHT half my face with IPL and Chemical Peels and the LEFT half of my face with Fraxel. Nellie will perform a series of 3 treatments of each type over the course of a few months. (Note: This may take longer than the typical treatment plan since we are working around patient schedules.)


Time will tell. Luckily, Nellie is also a photographer. We are so excited that she will chronicle the results of this experiment through weekly photos! So, you’ll see the results for yourself at the conclusion of our half-n-half experiment. We also hope to produce a time-lapse video to show you the progress of each treatment over time.

This is Part 1 of 4 in our SUN DAMAGE RECOVERY Series. See Part 2: Understanding Hyperpigmentation and How To Correct It

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