The Dark Spot Dilemma

The Dark Spot Dilemma

22 March 2024

Whether you call them sunspots, age spots or liver spots, they will age you, and we want them gone.

Although Kate Winslet claims that she has no desire to turn back the clock, we’re not all character actresses. Here’s the thing, we don’t let our joints grow old gracefully – we use fitness, supplements, technology, and surgery – to slow down their demise. Why shouldn’t we preserve our facial tone too?

Studies have shown that skin color distribution and tone can add or subtract as much as twenty years to your age! No matter what your complexion concerns, there’s one common goal: bright, glowing skin. However, as luck would have it, achieving even skin tone is maddeningly difficult.

So, if you’re trying to knock out a few stubborn dark marks, read on.

Hyperpigmentation, or brown spots as they are commonly known, are mostly cause by the skin’s arch nemesis, aka the sun.

Sun-induced hyperpigmentation is actually a protective response. When your skin is exposed to the sun and isn’t protected by sunscreen, it produces extra melanin to shield the internal structure of the skin cells and their DNA. It’s as if your skin is opening a few brown umbrellas for protection, right?!

People with fair skin are more susceptible to visible sun-induced hyperpigmentation. Darker skins have slightly more natural sun-protection, but this doesn’t mean that they get a free pass. Just because you may not see as many spots on darker skin doesn’t mean that sun damage doesn’t happen.

Knowing the cause of the hyperpigmentation, whether it’s sun-induced, hormonal, medical, or post-inflammatory, will determine the best treatment option.

For hyperpigmentation due to sun damage, a daily sunscreen is non-negotiable. There are some key ingredients you can add to your skincare routine to reduce the appearance of dark marks. Vitamin A serums and retinoic acid can help to diminish the appearance of hyperpigmentation but be careful not to use this during the day as they will make the skin more sensitive to UV rays. A vitamin C serum will neutralize free radicals caused by sun exposure and will brighten the skin by inhibiting tyrosinase, the enzyme necessary for pigment production. To up the ante, lighter skin types can consider IPL, while micro needling should get the job done for darker skins.

Melasma on the other hand, which shows up in widespread patches on the cheeks, forehead, or upper lip, is often called “the mask of pregnancy.”  This type of hyperpigmentation is due to hormonal fluctuations (any kind, not just those associated with pregnancy). It could also be triggered by hormonal medications such as the contraceptive pill, or medical conditions that cause altered hormone levels. This is a tricky one to treat because the pigment can exist in both the superficial epidermal layer, as well as the dermal layer. For surface discoloration, in-office peels are advised, and if this doesn’t help, certain lasers could be beneficial.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation follows injury or inflammation of the skin, e.g., following a flare-up of acne or eczema. Laser treatment will give the best results here. The PicoSure laser is a safe bet for all skin types dealing with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Wearing sunscreen is the most effective way to prevent, or to stop hyperpigmentation from getting worse.

Speak to your dermatologist about the best treatment option for you.


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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