Jul 20, 2017

6 Ways to Reduce the Appearance of Dark Spots

Editorial Voice
6 Ways to Reduce the Appearance of Dark Spots - ZALEA Article Banner

Skin health has become a quintessential symbol of beauty. Part of this might have to do with the reality that so many problems and conditions plague our skin, and if we can find a way to combat it all – that truly is impressive.

One problem that women of all ages face is dark spots. This common form of hyperpigmentation is caused by overactive melanin-producing cells in our skin called melanocytes. Several different situations commonly cause these cells to be overactive.

"The most common cause of dark spots is post-inflammatory pigmentation, which is when any sort of inflammation occurs on the skin, like acne, an insect bite or a rash,"said Dr. S. Manjula Jegasothy to Fashionista. "This happens mostly to people with medium to dark skin tones, and these dark spots also last longer and can be more difficult to treat than the original inflammation — think of it as the ghost of the pimple's past."

Especially during pregnancy, changes in the amount of progesterone and estrogen hormones in the body can increase melanin production and cause abnormal brown spots on the skin as well. Other causes include the amount and type of sun exposure and the physical aging.

Of course there are things you can do to prevent dark spots. The number one precaution to start implementing is sun protection. Try and avoid long periods of sun exposure. But if you do spend time outside, wear sun protective clothing and sunscreen – and reapply every few hours.

If you are, however, already noticing hyperpigmentation, there are some ways to reduce the appearance and in some cases eliminate dark spots.

1. Topical Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an important part of skin health. When used as a topical solution, this antioxidant can specifically target problem with pigmentation and can prevent oxidative damage (which can lead to wrinkles and skin dullness).

“It also inhibits enzymatic processes that produce melanin in the skin, as such it can help to reduce dark coloration of the skin,” said Dr. Sumayah Jamal to SELF.

2. Laser treatment
Depending on the number and type of treatment, laser skin procedures can be costly ($150-$2500). But on average, the results of laser therapy are the most permanent and impactful when treating dark spots. This technology uses focused light radiation to affect specific cells in the skin causing the pigmentation problem.

Because of the way the technology works, laser treatment is most effective and safe for high-contrast. The ideal patient has light skin and dark hair.

If you’re interested in laser skin treatment, it’s important to work with your doctor to select the safest and most appropriate type of laser for your specific problem.

3. Microdermabrasion
When the top layer of skin is exfoliated, the youthful, healthier layers below are allowed to shine. Microdermabrasion is a type of treatment for dark spots based on exfoliating away the impurities of the top layer of skin. Because it is not based on cell-affecting chemicals, it is better to use this method for less severe cases.

4. Chemical peels
Chemical peels are another type of exfoliation that use special active ingredients to remove the impurities of upper layers – such as dark spots – and allow the lower layers to grow and thrive.

Though there are at-home chemical peels available, it is highly recommended for the best and safest results of this tool that you consult a qualified doctor before trying this to treat dark spots.

5. Hydroquinone
When applied to the skin, hydroquinone combats darks spots through disarming tyrosinase, a type of enzyme which helps in the production of melanin. This popular ingredient comes in a variety of concentrations, both prescription and over the counter, and its positive effects can be seen in anywhere from two to 12 weeks.

Depending on the severity of the hyperpigmentation and the patient’s individual skin type, there can be some side-effects to using hydroquinone.

“As with any product that is applied to the skin, hydroquinone can cause dryness, redness, and burning, which may signal an allergic reaction to the ingredient,” said dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Dr. Fran E. Cook-Bolden to SELF.

In some cases, the product can inadvertently cause healthy skin to lighten, so it should be carefully applied to only the target area.

6. Retin-A serum
While products such as hydroquinone are popular for lightening dark spots, certain patients might find Retin-A to be a better fit. It not only has chemical and exfoliating properties that reduce hyperpigmentation, but it also has a preventative use that inhibits the recurrence of dark spots.

Retin-A does however cause skin to become more light-sensitive. Because of this, it should be used at night, or not used when a patient plans to spend a lot of time outside.
Though dark spots are common, all patients and cases are different. If you are trying to decide the best treatment plan to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, make sure to consider your own health factors and desired outcome and consult your doctor about the best plan for you!

This article was produced exclusively for Zalea.com.

Editorial Voice
Lorrie J. Klein, M.D. for the Editorial Voice - ZALEA Lorrie J. Klein, M.D.

This article brings up some very important points regarding prevention and treatment of hyperpigmentation (dark spots) of the skin. I agree with all of the points made but would add a few more treatments that have recently become popular:

1. Micro-needling: This treatment uses tiny sterile micro-needles to create very small, controlled “injuries” to skin which stimulate collagen and elastin but also allow active ingredients, such as lightening agents, to be absorbed into the deeper skin layers.

2. Other lightening agents: Hydroquinone and Retin-A are no longer the only chemicals that can help reduce hyperpigmentation. Botanical and other ingredients that inhibit several different melanin (brown pigment) pathways are now often incorporated into various lightening products.  Some work, some probably don’t. Licorice root and certain peptides have been tested successfully. Retinols are products in the retinoid family are work similarly to Retin-A but are milder.  Again, some work and some don’t.

Also remember, hyperpigmentation wants to come back!  In many cases, one day at the beach can reverse months of lightening.  I recommend to my patients to continue using lightening agents indefinitely after they lighten up their spots, whether it’s with an in-office treatment or just product use at home.  It’s like getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist, you still need to continue brushing your teeth at home.

The bottom line: sun protection is paramount.  You can spend a lot of time and money lightening up brown spots but if you can prevent them in the first place and/or prevent them from recurring after you have treated them, you will save yourself a lot of aggravation (and money) plus have much healthier skin!

For more from Dr. Klein be sure to follower her on Facebook or find her online at OCDermatology.com.

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