By: Jaime Fletcher
Where Did Those Dark Spots Come From & How Can You Get Rid of Them?
Dalmatians, cheetahs, ladybugs—there are a million places spots look fantastic, but when unwanted spots, otherwise known as hyperpigmentation, pop up on your face, it’s anything but cute.
There are many factors that can contribute to development of hyperpigmentation, so it’s important to understand exactly what it is and where it comes from.
But before we get started, if you have ANY mark on your skin that concerns you, contact your doctor immediately, particularly if you notice bleeding, itching, or changes in size or color.
Common Types of Hyperpigmentation
When skin becomes injured or inflamed, say, from a bad breakout, your body goes into hyper-drive to heal the damage, often overproducing melanin as a result. This condition occurs in all complexions, skin types, ages, and genders, making it one of the most common types of hyperpigmentation, with almost all people suffering at some point in their life.
The second most common type of skin discoloration is the dreaded age spot--flat, dark patches that typically make their first appearance on your face, chest, and the back of your hands. Age spots are caused by overactive pigment cells that clump up under the surface of your skin, and they are made worse with frequent sun exposure. Which brings us to the next most common type of hyperpigmentation…
Ultraviolet (UV) light speeds up production of melanin, a natural pigment that gives skin its color. On skin exposed to sun, especially without protection, melanin is produced in higher concentrations, potentially causing hyperpigmentation in people of all ages. Something else to keep in mind, nearly every type of hyperpigmentation is made worse with sun exposure.
Also known as the “mask of pregnancy,” melasma is a hormonally-induced type of hyperpigmentation that occurs almost exclusively in women who are pregnant, using hormonal birth control, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy during menopause, and, like so many types of facial discoloration, it can be made worse through sun exposure.
What Can I Do To Fade Hyperpigmentation?
If you made it this far down the page, you know sun is the most formidable enemy of a smooth, even complexion. Avoid prolonged sun exposure whenever possible and ALWAYS use sunscreen, even when driving. In case you still need proof, keep in mind that in the United States where we drive on the left-hand side of the car, the left arm and hand are one of the most common places for age and sun spots to first appear.
What Dermatologists Recommend
There are a number of products available over-the-counter that are known to improve the appearance of discoloration and hyperpigmentation, and many of them come with the backing of dermatologists who recommend them to patients who wish to avoid costly and potentially dangerous laser and chemical treatments.
That being said, the first weapon in your spot-fading arsenal is a good quality (gentle) acid that can enhance cellular turnover and improve the appearance of dark spots.
Some of the best are Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, and Glycolic Acid and they work by weakening the “glue” that holds old, dead skin cells together, revealing the fresh, bright skin beneath. Use care with Glycolic though, it is not recommended for frequent use.
Long touted as a virtual fountain of youth, another potent ally in your search for a more even skin tone is Vitamin C. This antioxidant is well-known for brightening skin tone and helping diminish the appearance of skin discoloration. In fact, many dermatologists recommend Vitamin C as a potentially preventive ingredient when it comes to an even skin tone.
Next, it’s easy to enhance the appearance of skin’s brightness with Niacinamide, one of the darling ingredients of modern skincare. This form of Vitamin B3 is known to impart that enviable “lit from within” glow seen on clear, healthy skin, possibly because it’ s been shown to visibly minimize pore size.
Bisabolol, another hero ingredient shown to be effective in minimizing hyperpigmentation, has similar effects. Bisabolol is known to have skin calming abilities that help improve the appearance of facial redness and inflammation.
Avoid Hydroquinone in Your Quest to Fade Discoloration
Hydroquinone is a controversial ingredient. In the past, it has been used as a skin-bleaching agent and it is actually banned in Canada, Europe, and other markets, though it is still available in the United States. It is a possible carcinogen, and has been linked to numerous severe skin issues. Bottom line, avoid it. There are alternative ingredients that work well to fade spots with no scary warning labels.
Almost any product that exfoliates or speeds the sloughing-off of dead skin cells carries the possibility of irritation. If you are trying to fade your unsightly facial hyperpigmentation with one of these generally helpful ingredients, try finding a formula that contains soothing ingredients as well, thereby increasing your chances of enjoying all of the benefits with none of the side effects.