Everyone loves the healthy glow that they get in the summer. However, along with the suntan, many people experience hyperpigmentation (dark spots) after a summer, or even a day of sun exposure. Sun exposure is just one cause of hyperpigmentation. It can also occur due to hormone changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy, or from injury or inflammation of the skin due to acne, eczema, or psoriasis. There are a range of options to help lessen, and in some cases completely eradicate, the dark pigmentation. Prevention is the ideal first step. However, there are products and procedures that can help get rid of those pesky dark spots!
Prevention: Harmful UV rays contribute/cause sun damage and dark spots. Therefore, you should avoid direct sun exposure on the face, especially during the most intense hours from 10am until 2pm. Board certified dermatologist Dr. Rebat Halder, MD, in an article for the American Academy of Dermatology, stresses that the mainstay treatment for hyperpigmentation is year-round sun protection. He also states that using a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher will maximize the benefit of any skin-lightening product.
Products: Dark spots that occur from early sun damage may only affect the top layer of the skin. You can purchase retinol products over the counter to treat the hyperpigmentation, however in the case that you do not see results, a prescribed strength may be recommended. Additionally, much research is being done on more natural topical treatments to assist in fading dark spots. Dr. Haler, MD, provides us with details on specific plant based ingredients that have proved effective for some. Soy and Niacinimide, a form of vitamin B3, are commonly used in moisturizers to help suppress production of additional pigment. Products rich in antioxidants derived from fruit help to inhibit melanin production.
Procedures: Medical treatment options for hyperpigmentation vary due to severity, skin type, skin care concerns (aging, rosacea, etc.), and your lifestyle. Chemical Peels and Laser Treatments are two of the most common ways to medically treat hyperpigmentation.
- Chemical Peels: Chemical peels can be used in conjunction with topical treatments. Glycolic peels are commonly used to help improve skin tone and texture and lighten pigment after a series of treatments.
- Laser Treatment: The gold standard for targeting pigment/brown spots in the skin. Two common laser treatments for discoloration are Photorejuvenation and Fractionated treatments. Photorejuvenation helps reverse the color (red and brown) associated with sun damage with minimal down time. This treatment uses IPL (intense pulse light) to target and reduce the signs of sun damage. Fractionated Laser resurfacing treatment effectively improves sun damaged skin to include tone and texture.
By combining prevention, products and procedures you can see dramatic improvement of sun damage and dark spots in your skin. However, if you are not achieving desired results, it is recommended to consult a dermatologist for further evaluation.
Denice Schwind, PA-C has specialized in medical and cosmetic dermatology since 2004 and is an industry leader in skin care and anti-aging. Feel free to submit questions directly to Denice at [email protected]