Are you concerned with brown spots (AKA "sun spots")? If so, you're not alone. These spots are technically referred to as hyperpigmentation, and can be caused by: sun exposure, hormonal factors, prescription drugs, and wound healing after skin has been damaged. These dark spots are being associated with aging- just as much as wrinkles are! Let's explore hyperpigmentation, and more importantly, how you can safely help treat it.
WHY DO I HAVE BROWN SPOTS?
1. The Sun
The color of your skin depends on the amount of melanin present. Overall skin color is genetically determined, but factors such as the environment (SUN!) And hormones can cause areas of your skin to produce more color. Scientists believe that melanin's main function is to protect skin cells from the sun's harmful rays. It is our first defense against the sun because it absorbs sun rays before they can do serious damage. That means that when our skin tans, it is actually our bodies' way of fighting off sun damage! Therefore, people with lighter complexes tend to burn more easily (but all skin tones need to be protect from UV rays).
Wearing an SPF every day is critical in preventing sun damage! Did you know that most people have sun damage on the left side of their face? That's because when we drive, the sun's rays hit us on the left! This means that driving, walking in and out of the house, and other daily activities put us in danger of sun damage.
Even if you protect against the sun, you may still be affected by hormonal pigmentation. It is believed that hormone changes can cause melanin cells to work overtime. Birth control, pregnancy and different stages of menopause can cause darkening of the skin. If you fall into any of those categories, take extra precautions in wearing sunscreen any time you are outside.
Melasma (AKA "the mask of pregnancy") is defined by dark spots around the forehead, chin, upper lips, nose and cheeks. The combination of estrogen and UV light may be to blame. While it can be common during pregnancy, birth control pills may also cause the problem. Fortunately, it typically goes away after pregnancy (but it can come back)!
3. Wound Healing (AKA "Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation")
This relates to some type of injury to the skin. The injury may be from an insect bite, rash, cut, hair removal, improper laser treatments, acne, etc. When our bodies' suffer from such injuries, inflammation occurs. This can trigger melanin production, and is more common in darker skin.
Certain medications can make skin more susceptible to hyperpigmentation. Speak with your doctor if this is a concern, and never stop taking a medication unless you have a doctor's consent. Weaving an SPF 30 every day can help prevent problems!
WHAT ABOUT FREQULES AND "AGE SPOTS"?
Age spots (technically referred to as lentigines) are flat, brown discolorations that are the result of sun exposure of the years. They can range in size (2mm-30mm), and are harmless. More than anything, we do not like them because we feel they show our age!
Freckles tend to affect lighter skin tones, and are typically genetic. They are also harmless, and sometimes lighten in the winter. Please visit a doctor if you fear your sun spots may be related to skin cancer
HOW DO I TREAT HYPERPIGMENTATION SAFELY?
First, let's point out what not to use … hydroquinone! This ingredient has been banned in Europe, but is currently under review by the US FDA. It has good skin lightening properties, but is a possible carcinogenic and can be quite irritating for many people.
Next, you need to pick a product line that contains a large percentage of the ingredients we are about to talk about. Do your research, and select a line that has a proven track record of skin lightening. (I personally prefer Dermalogica's ChromaWhite TRx , but please do your research to make an informed decision). Now, on to ingredients …
Lactic Acid is known for its lightening properties, and ability to exfoliate off discolored skin cells. Vitamin C has been used for a long time to brighten dark spots. Zinc Glycinate, Phytic Acid, Niacinamide, Gluconic Acid and Ferula Foetida (Giant Fennel Root) help to suppress the activities that activate skin darkening. White Tea Extract (Camellia Sinesis) can help speed up brightening and can toughen your skin's defense against future discoloration! Oligopeptide-34 is fairly new to the scene, and has unsurpassed skin brightening effects.
WHAT SHOULD MY DAILY ROUTINE BE TO ACHIEVE IDEAL RESULTS?
Once you have picked your product line, it's time to really commit to the process. After cleaning, exfoliate (3-5 times weekly). Exfoliating helps lighten skin, and allows your following products to penetrate better. Apply any specialty products your line provides. Always, always, always wear a minimum SPF 15 every single day! You just can not see results if you are allowing the sun to further damage your skin (remember, even driving gives us sun damage).
Remember, you really have to commit yourself to a skin lightening routine. Those dark spots can go away, but it often takes time (especially if you've had them for years). This means you need to perform an entire routine (not just 1 step) … you can not rely on 1 "hero" product to do all of the work. You should expect at least 4 months before you begin to notice results, but in the meantime, take pride in knowing that you are taking steps in the right direction, and are well on your way to skin health!