Seven Tips for Lightening Dark Spots
Uneven skin tone can add as much as 20 years to someone’s appearance, according to a recent study at the Ludwig-Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology in Austria.
Freckles can age your skin a lot, but luckily there are skin care products, home remedies and professional dermatologist treatments that can lighten those dark spots and brighten your overall skin tone, rejuvenating the skin and making you look years younger.
Identify the cause of the spots
There are various types of hyperpigmentation, so it’s important to understand the cause of your spot in order to treat it correctly. The main causes tend to be sun exposure, hormonal changes, scars and rashes. Freckles across the cheeks, nose, chest and hands are generally caused by sun exposure.
“UV rays trigger your cells to produce excess melanin and it shows up as dark spots,” Miami dermatologist Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D. told the Huffington Post.
Melasma, on the other hand, is a skin condition that causes clusters of spots on the forehead and sides of the cheeks.
“It’s the result of hormonal changes that trigger pigmentation in the cells,” New York City dermatologist Bruce Katz, M.D. told the Huffington Post. “Other times, hyperpigmentation can be caused by acne breakouts or even darkening from rashes.”
Use a brightening product
Simply add a brightening serum to your skin care regimen to treat any type of hyperpigmentation. Apply the product each day and night after cleansing and underneath your moisturizer. At 17 dollars, Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Dark Spot Corrector contains vitamin C, helps fade dark spots in four weeks and is gentle enough not to irritate the skin. Formulated by Woolery-Lloyd, Specific Beauty Dermatologist Strength Dark Spot Corrector Pads contain a blend of Kojic acid, Arbutin and bearberry extract for even skin tone and more intensive brightening. The pads cost about 60 dollars.
Don’t forget your hands
From gardening to driving, hands get just as much exposure to the sun as our faces if not more. Luckily, there are a few brightening hand creams on the market. At 8 dollars, Nuance Salma Hayek My Secret Super Brightening Hand Cream contains licorice root to minimize dark spots. Clinique Even Better Dark Spot Correcting Hand Cream offers more intensive hand brightening for about 30 dollars.
Try a home remedy
Since lightening dark spots is more difficult than cleansing or exfoliating your skin, basic kitchen ingredients won’t necessarily do the trick, but there are a number of natural albeit less common ingredients you can use to create a home remedy.
“Grapeseed extract has been proven in clinical studies to decrease pigmentation and also decrease your skin’s production of pigmentation when exposed to the sun,” Woolery-Lloyd told the Huffington Post.
Woolery-Lloyd recommends applying a few drops topically or using the extract as a base for an at-home scrub. Licorice, soy, bearberry and pomegranate also effectively brighten the skin and can be used to create 12 week home remedies. However, she warns to stay away from lemons and lemon juice.
“Lemon can cause hyperpigmentation,” Woolery-Lloyd explained to the Huffington Post. “It’s a condition called phytophotodermatitis. If you’ve been making lemonade outside and you have the lemon resin on your hands, it can cause burning and blisters that lead to dark spots.”
Get a prescription from your dermatologist
Consult your dermatologist if over the counter products and home remedies aren’t cutting it.
“Prescription-strength hydroquinone is the gold standard for lightening dark spots,” Katz told the Huffington Post. “But we don’t want patients to use it for too long – a few months at most.”
When overused, hydroquinone actually creates a rebound effect and leads to even darker pigmentation, so it’s important to follow your dermatologist’s instructions carefully if you choose to go the prescription route.
Use laser treatment for difficult dark spots
“For sun spots, we use the Q-switched ruby or alexandrite laser,” Katz told the Huffington Post. “There will be a little scab, but it goes away in a few days.”
With such treatments, results are fast and dermatologists can target spots on your face, neck, chest and hands. Just make sure you don’t have Melasma, because this condition can worsen with laser treatments. Laser procedures tend to cost at least 400 dollars, but it might be worth the splurge if you have especially difficult dark spots.
Shield your skin from the sun
The best way to prevent dark spots in the first place is to make sure you’re protecting your skin with plenty of SPF.
“Nothing is as effective as prevention,” Katz told the Huffington Post.
“Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen,” Woolery Lloyd agrees. “And I always recommend an SPF of at least 30 because no one puts on as much sunscreen as they should.”
Simply apply a teaspoon of sunscreen to your face and reapply every two hours. Make sure not to skimp on sun protection in the winter, since UVA rays are equally damaging all year round.
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