Actinic keratosis is a condition characterized by skin lesions that occur due to progressive sun-induced damage to the skin cells. There is no consensus on the characterization of this condition, with some dermatologists describing this condition as pre-malignant and others as superficial squamous cell carcinoma, but all of them agree that this benign condition can evolve into skin cancer. In order to prevent further lesions and reduce the severity of the existing ones, there are a few selected cosmetics that have proven their efficacy throughout the years.
How does actinic keratosis appear?
Actinic keratoses are skin lesions whose main perpetrator is chronic sun exposure. Both UVA and UVB radiations induce mutations on the skin cells DNA, but the skin itself contains a mechanism that is usually able to repair these damages. However, this system sometimes fails and throughout the years the DNA errors tend to accumulate, leading to defective cells that multiply and create a notoriously affected area. The biggest problem with these actinic lesions is that they may evolve to non-melanoma skin cancer, so they need to be checked regularly by a doctor to see if they have changed.
The prevalence of actinic keratosis is very high, being present in around 80% of white males aged 60-69 years and around 10% of white adults aged 20-29 years old. The risk factors for developing this condition are fair skin (grade I or II on the Fitzpatrick scale), a tendency to get sunburns, baldness, history of melanoma or previous AK lesions, old age and being male.
What can you do
First of all, you should check all actinic keratosis lesions at the doctor in order to evaluate and exclude the hypothesis of skin cancer. In the event that the doctor has diagnosed AK, there are a few products that you can use that can help prevent more lesions and to improve the existing ones. Sunscreens are a must-have when these lesions are detected, as UV radiation is what causes the lesions.
However, the research in the latest years points to a new ingredient that has been a game-changer regarding AK: photolyase. This ingredient is a combination of enzymes that are stimulated by sunlight in order to repair the cell damages, but please note that this is only true for those with AK, and not skin cancer. These enzymes, when in contact with a limited amount of sunlight, become active and start to repair the damages that the skin systems are no longer able to. Given this discovery, a few of the products formulated for AK have included photolyase on their formulas, in order to not only prevent more damage but also help to improve the existing ones.
Our suggestions for AK
There are three categories of products: products that you can use every day in order to prevent further damage, products that help to improve the existing lesions and have sunscreen ingredients in order to prevent further lesions, and products that help to improve the existing lesions.
Day to day products
Our suggestions of products with photoprotection to use on a daily basis and which ensure very high protection include two products from very well-known brands. La Roche-Posay Anthelios KA and Avène Sunsimed have their formulas optimized in order to be suitable for daily use if you suffer from AK or have had lesions in the past.
Products with sun protection and photolyase
ISDIN Eryfotona was the first one to include photolyase on a sun protection product, not only preventing further lesions from appearing but also improving the existing ones. However, now two more brands have launched their versions of this kind of product, with Heliocare 360 MD AK and SVR AK Secure DM offering the same benefits.
Products that contain photolyase
If you don’t get along with the products that include photolyase but still want the benefits of that ingredient, Sesderma has a range called Repaskin Mender which offers the benefits of a serum, mist or gel-cream with the sun-damage repairing system.
As you can see, even though you need to be extra careful and avoid the sun as much as you can when you suffer from actinic keratosis, there are ways to help you prevent further damages and to improve the ones you already have. Please, always remember to check any suspicious areas on the skin with your doctor, and to keep an eye on those you already have diagnosed as AK, as they can evolve and become skin cancer.