If you've ever sat out in the sun for a little too long and didn't reapply sunscreen, you may have developed sun damage, which can show up in the form of uneven pigmentation, dark freckles, and melasma. And, as you know, sun damage is super hard to get rid of.
Reddit user NeverMeant125 is breaking the Internet with a before-and-after photo of her sun damage treatment, and it's easy to see why: We all want to know how she's doing the impossible. Luckily, she shares the exact routine that totally transformed her damaged skin, giving her a drastically brighter, smoother complexion.
She begins her viral post with a side-by-side image of her skin: The photo on the left is her face at age 23 or 24, while the one on the right is what her skin currently looks like at almost 28 years old. "These two pictures are four years apart," she writes. "The only makeup I’m wearing in both photos in mascara."
In high school and college, NeverMeant125 says, she tanned regularly and never wore sunscreen or moisturizer. As a result, she developed sun damage. "The texture of my skin was awful because it was so dry," she shares.
Four years ago, she decided to address her melasma along with her skin texture and unevenness. "When I started my skincare routine about 4 years ago I never anticipated my freckles going away," NeverMeant125 says. If she could get back some of her freckles without the sun damage, she would in a heartbeat, she adds. "The ones that I still have are the ones that I had as a kid." She doesn't believe those were caused by sun damage, however the freckles in the photo on the left that she's treated were caused by too much sun exposure.
Ready for the hero products this Reddit user swears by to cure sun damage?
Her morning routine consists of washing her face with CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser ($11; amazon.com), followed by Silk Naturals Facelift Vitamin C, DMAE & Peptide serum ($18; silknaturals.com). Afterward, she applies First Aid Beauty 5 in 1 Face Cream with SPF 30 ($40; amazon.com), which contains zinc oxide to protect from UV rays.
At night, she cleanses again with CeraVe, then alternates between smoothing Silk Naturals AHA Toner ($9; silknaturals.com) and MUAC Retinol ($13; makeupartistschoice.com) over her face. Unlike many retinols, she likes this one because it's not over-drying, and she's careful to only use it every other evening. As a final step, she moisturizers with Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate ($49; sephora.com), which ensures she wakes up with moisturized, glowy skin.
On a budget? She also shared an affordable dupe she loves in place of the Kiehl's product: Argan oil. Our pick: Teddie Organics Pure Moroccan Argan Oil for Hair Face Skin ($10; amazon.com), an organic cold-pressed oil with a cult following on Amazon.
New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, approves of this skincare routine, deeming it "a very good one." She tells us that the CeraVe facial cleanser has ceramides, which help protect skin's barrier and lock in moisture. Vitamin C serum is loaded with beneficial ingredients to reduce signs of aging and improve skin's texture. Sunscreen delivers essential sun protection, and, as an added bonus, the glycerin in the cream locks in hydration. "Glycerin is a humectant and it works to moisturize the skin by drawing water from the air into the skin's outer layer," Dr. Jaliman explains.
As for her evening routine, Dr. Jaliman likes her retinol choice. "It has soybean oil, which is nourishing and moisturizing," she says. The Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate she uses as her last step has lavender oil, which is ideal for those with sensitive skin or redness due to rosacea, says Dr. Jaliman. Even better? The oil also contains squalane, an ingredient that absorbs quickly and is extremely moisturizing.
Looking for other ways to heal sun damage? Dr. Jaliman recommends adding an antioxidant serum to your routine, such as one that contains ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide, and vitamins A and E to protect skin from free radicals and help slow down the aging process. We like Sunday Riley Juno Antioxidant + Superfood Face Oil ($72; sephora.com).
In-office procedures such as lasers can also be used to target sun damage. "The Revlite laser stimulates collagen in the upper layers of skin to get rid of fine lines and sun damage," Dr. Jaliman tells us. This procedure is a safe and effective way to treat dark spots, melasma, and sun damage, she tells us.