Can I repair my damaged skin barrier? Part 1/2

Hi, I am interested in laser resurfacing for sun damage and acne scars. However, despite looking after my skin with moisturizer and SPF 50, my skin is very sensitive all the time. I am assuming that I have somehow permanently damaged my skin barrier. If that is the case, can people with a damaged skin barrier still have CO2 or Erbium laser resurfacing? I realize that a skin patch is taken beforehand so if that is okay does that mean that any risk is minuscule? Thank you for any advice.

Thank you for this question. I think that many struggle with sorting out what is causing sensitive skin and then what to do about it. I’m going to assume that by “sensitive skin” you mean your skin seems to be easily irritated by skincare products, flushing, scrubs, wind, cold, and other environmental exposures. If I’ve misunderstood you, please write me back to correct this.  🙂

Part 2 will go into how to repair and how to think about laser procedures and this issue.

Before going further, there are many causes of sensitive skin, and chronic (not an acute sunburn) sun damage is generally not top of the list. You may need a good board certified dermatologist to help you.

Consider The Following

  1. Could you have undiagnosed rosacea or lupus or another skin disease causing the sensitivity?
  2. Are you generally an allergic person i.e. hay fever, asthma tendency, allergic to trees, pollen etc.? These make you more likely to develop skin allergies to chemicals in skincare products.
  3. Have you had more than 2-3 bad reactions to skincare products? These can range from either low grade chronic irritation or even full-blown rash or hives. You may have become allergic to specific chemicals in skincare products. If so, I highly recommend seeing a dermatologist for “patch testing” which can help identify many of these chemicals so that you can avoid them.
  4. Are you using daily too many “exfoliators” like tretinoin, retinols, alpha & beta hydroxy acids, scrubs, loofahs, etc.? If you are over using these, please give your skin a full 2-4 weeks of skin rest with just CeraVe cleanser, cream and sunscreen with zinc oxide only in it.

The Importance of Starting with Skin Rest

First, sun damage and/or sensitive skin can almost always be treated but you’ll need to be a detective a bit and be patient. Nothing will be instant. Please note that lasers and radiofrequency devices have such small needles or laser beams that they don’t aggravate sun damage. Nor do they cause sensitive skin in general for more than 2-3 days during the healing process; for example, like after a deep CO2 laser. If you have a skin disease or problem, it is important to resolve that before any treatments.

The first thing to do, besides seeing a dermatologist if you need to, is 2-4 weeks of skin rest.

Here’s How to Do It

  • Stop every single skin care product you are using.
  • Find a bland cleanser and moisturizer you know you tolerate. Examples are CeraVe, Cetaphil, Aquaphor, etc.
  • Find a zinc oxide 10-20% sunscreen with no other chemical sunscreens in it and in a bland base. You may have to try several before you decide on one. Look on Amazon, your pharmacy, etc.
  • Use oral Vit C 500-1,000 mg a day, Vit D 1-2,000 iu a day, and make sure you’re getting at least 30-50 grams of protein daily, more if you’re very active.
  • Do this for 2-4 weeks morning and night with no cheating ! If you’re not sure at 2 weeks, then go the full 4 weeks.
  • If you have acne, keep up any acne meds but talk to your doctor about whether they could be irritating you.

I Hope this Helps,

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD
Founder of SkinTour
Follow my skin tips and travels on Instagram!

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