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Creams for Actinic Keratosis (AK)

Creams for Actinic Keratosis (AK)

Creams for Actinic Keratosis (AK)

Actinic keratosis is a condition characterized by skin lesions that occur due to progressive sun damage to the skin cells. There is no consensus on the characterization of this condition; some dermatologists describe this condition as pre-malignant, while others describe it as superficial squamous cell carcinoma. However, 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 creams for actinic keratosis 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 DNA of skin cells, 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 between 60 and 69 years old, and around 10% of white adults between 20 and 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 I do to manage actinic keratosis?

First of all, you should check all actinic keratosis lesions with your 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 you can use to help prevent more lesions and to improve the existing ones. Sunscreens are a must-have when these lesions are present, as UV radiation is what causes the lesions.

Photolyase, a key ingredient

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 damage. Please note, however, 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 damage that the skin systems are no longer able to repair on their own.

Given this discovery, a few of the products formulated for AK have included photolyase on their formulas. This allows them to not only prevent more damage, but also help to improve the existing lesions.

Chronic sun exposure causes actinic keratosis.

Creams for Actinic Keratosis: Our suggestions

We are going to recommend products in three different categories:

Specialized everyday sunscreens, to prevent further damage

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+ Cream 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, for prevention and repair

ISDIN Eryfotona Fluid was the first sun protection product to include photolyase in its formula, not only preventing further lesions from appearing but also improving the existing ones. This makes it one of the most interesting products from ISDIN.

Two more brands have since launched their versions of this kind of product. Heliocare offers Heliocare 360 MD AK, while SVR offers SVR AK Secure DM. They both offer similar benefits.


Products without photolyase, but with repairing properties

If you don’t get along with the products that include photolyase but still want the benefits of that ingredient, we have options. Indeed, Sesderma has a range called Repaskin Mender which offers the benefits of a sun-damage repairing system. It is available in the form of a serum, mist or gel-cream.


As you can see, you can do a lot with the right creams for actinic keratosis. Even though you need to be extra careful and avoid the sun as much as possible, these products can prevent further damage and improve the lesions you already have. Please, always remember to check any suspicious areas on the skin with your doctor. Finally, keep an eye on lesions you already have diagnosed as AK, as they can evolve and become skin cancer.


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