Keep Your Sunny Side Up with Products Designed to Repair Sun Damage

Published in: Skin Care

Sun repair after summer

Like the gift that keeps on givin’, the summertime sun’s effects can be felt long after the autumnal equinox. Knowing about some of the most common kinds of skin repair products can make it easier to choose the right ones for you.


Le sigh… It’s all but inevitable. Last summer, whether you limited your sun exposure to leisurely strolls along sun-dappled sidewalks or spent oodles of hours in direct sunlight by the pool, your skin probably received at least some UV damage (even if you wore SPF 24/7 every day).

Sun protection should be part of every gal’s daily beauty ritual (here’s an old but hopefully helpful MBB post on sunscreen), regardless of the time of year (snowboarding sunburns anyone?), but those sunny summer days and warm water usually lure more of us outside.

Of course, when it comes to the sun, an ounce of prevention is worth 100,000,000 pounds of cure, even in the middle of winter. Religiously applying and reapplying sunscreen and, better yet, reducing your time in the sun are always going to trump trying to repair sun damage after the fact, but if you are concerned about soothing an inflamed sunburn, or about reducing or preventing sun spots, wrinkles or fine lines, post-sun repair products can help.


Major kinds of post-sun repair products

  1. Soothing products for sunburn/damage relief — These products are supposed to be slathered on right after sun exposure to soothe inflamed and/or irritated skin. Best when they’re super moisturizing, they often contain botanicals like aloe and edelweiss and have anti-inflammatory properties. Many of them also provide a cooling sensation to take the flush out of the face and soothe dilated capillaries.
  2. (So-called) DNA repair products — As Like the soothing products (and sometimes mixed in with them in some formulas), DNA repair products aim to keep skin working well on a cellular level by helping the body to repair small mutations in DNA caused by UV exposure, before they become bigger problems in the weeks and years ahead.
  3. Products to reduce the chronic effects of UV exposure — Lastly are products designed to reduce and repair the longer term effects of sun damage, from fine lines and wrinkles, to brown spots, uneven skin tone, scarring and other changes in the texture of the skin.
  4. Source: “When Summer Fades, Skin Concerns Remain,” Abby Penning, GCI Magazine, September 2011

More and more of the sun repair products that are hitting the market nowadays combine multiple benefits, like antioxidants to fight free radicals, with soothing and moisturizing botanicals like aloe. Some of them also offer anti-aging benefits, like diffusing age spots or reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

With summer in our rear view mirrors now, fall is a great time to consider a little post-summertime sun exposure repair. Sure, there’s only so much that can be done about serious sun damage after the fact, but skincare specialist lines like Yves Rocher, Kiehl’s, Dermelect and Darphin do have products designed to help.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,


P.S. Howzit, brah? How was the rest of your Friday? Mine was busy earlier but slowed down. I’ve been watching a bunch of Tivo’d Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations episodes for the past few hours and drooling in my lap. The one in San Sebastian made me want to plan an emergency trip to Spain (I even checked airfares online…). Can you come with? What are you doing tomorrow?? 🙂


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So far, 9 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. sarahc says:

    I’ve started to notice brown spots on my cheek and one of my hands since a few years ago. They’re insidious! They come on very, very slowly. I’m worried what they’ll look like in five years.

    Time for a visit to the derm I think. I’m interested in Retin-A. Karen I know you like it for breakouts, and my coworker said it also reduces fine lines and age spots.

  2. Glosslizard says:

    I just reworked my prevention routine with new sunscreen (antioxidant-packed 3-Lab SPF 55) and started a repair product (Garnier vitamin C cream, “clinical” strength). I’m hoping to up the anti soon since I did get some spots going over the summer in spite of my vigilance. Darn all the best summer stuff for being outside anyway! 😛 I think a little research is in order and Sephora’s FF sale is probably a good time to sink the $$!

    I love No Reservations, although I’ve only managed to catch a few on Netflix so far. The one in Iceland had me laughing out loud!

    • Glosslizard says:

      Oops, I meant “up the ante”, not anti! Anti-sun-damage maybe? 😉

    • Karen says:

      I’ve officially changed my mind about him. My buddy tells me that he did a show where he looked back at old eps and he actually commented on the one that I happened to see first. He more or less said that he was a jerk on that ep and wished that he hadn’t been.

      As for skin care, I’ve been adding new stuff into the mix, too — vitamin C and anti-oxidants! How are you liking your Garnier cream?

  3. Leila says:

    This is a nice list, but the one about DNA repair bothers me. Any science graduate with a good background in genetics knows that it is impossible for us to repair DNA damage.

    If there really was some way to repair DNA damage from a cream or something similar, it would already be used to treat cancer, xenoderma pigmentosum and a vast number of other devastating diseases that are caused by a reduced ability to repair DNA damage.

    First of all, there are many types of DNA damage, not just one. Each type of damage requires a very specific enzyme to repair and there are backups as well; they are all very efficient and no cream or serum is going to replace or even supplement the many enzymes already available. Most of the time, the enzymes included in a product (if any at all!) are from plant sources, which would be quite different from what we need (although DNA is the basis of all life). If there is any benefit from the creams, it is not as a result of DNA damage repair, but rather, from other ingredients in the product.

    When it comes to DNA damage and it’s effects, you can treat the effects, but not the cause (DNA damage). As my professor said, the only way to fix damage in this case, is to prevent it happening in the first place.

    Repairing DNA damage is a huge research area that is still developing and it would be a huge breakthrough if we could do it. I know this is a bit of a heavy topic, but I wanted to inform people of the truth and tell them to think twice before buying a product that claims to repair DNA damage.

    • Karen says:

      Hi, Leila. Thanks for the helpful information. I know I could have done a better job on this post. I actually have a biology degree from UC Davis. The reason I didn’t link to any specific products in the section on DNA repair is because I didn’t want to validate or endorse the claims made by any companies in this brief article. The purpose of this post was just to inform people about the three major classes of sun damage repair products that are available. Which ones deliver (if any of them do) and how well they work is a subject I’d like to tackle someday in a much longer post.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  4. Katherine G says:

    Great post, and I agree with the above comment on DNA repair. I will also be a science graduate after this final semester (as a psych/bio major) and I work in healthcare. It is true that it is impossible for a product to repair DNA, and that it would have to be a major breakthrough in medicine to repair skin DNA in particular.

    As far as sunburns go, the docs will tell you to use aloe and moisturizers because a sunburn is essentially dehydration at its worst. Major burn victims are on many liters of IV fluid because they are so dehydrated, and the fluid does help to a certain degree with repairing and replenishing moisture to the skin. The best thing you can do for a sunburn is use aloe (some come with menthol and lidocaine but you cannot use those all the time), drink lots of water, and take Tylenol or ibuprofen for the inflammation. I would recommend Tylenol only because when people take ibuprofen too much (every day, several times a day) it tends to create problems with their GI system (tummy, intestines, etc). Thanks for writing about this important topic!

  5. Nina says:

    oh my what an apt post !!!

    i still have a couple of stubborn sun spots that just wouldnt go away! ive upped my sunblock usage, and ive also switched to products that have spf in it, just to prevent more sunspots from setting on my face!

    i am at a loss as to what product to use, short of dermatological intervention. 🙂

  6. Maria says:

    You would love San Sebastian Karen! I’ve been there last December and the food is truly amazing 🙂

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