Here in Nashville, we have about 1-2 months of weather left that isn’t necessarily inviting to spend outdoors, so what better time to work on reducing sun damage and brown spots?
So, what is the best way to get rid of brown spots (and keep them away)?
- Use sunscreen. I know, you have heard this a million times, but if you do not have a medical grade sunscreen, you will pour your money and time into lightening pigment and it will come right back. Quality of sunscreen matters. Many over the counter sunscreens claim to have an SPF of 45, some even 100. Unfortunately, they use a chemical block-meaning chemical ingredients block UVA and UVB rays, and does a poor job at that. Although you will not get a sunburn, chemical sunscreen will only block a portion of the UVA/UVB spectrum (letting those pesky brown spots creep back in little by little). A PHYSICAL sunblock contains the ingredients Zinc or Titanium. These ingredients create a physical barrier on the skin, effectively blocking UVA/UVB damage. These don’t have to break the bank-one of my favorite sunscreens is Elta MD UV Clear LINK.
- Diffuse pigment or melasma? Try a series of peels. Melasma should NEVER be treated with a laser-it can actually make the pigment worse. Instead, a series of physician grade peels can create a beautiful change in the pigment of the skin. The downtime may be a few days, but the results are worth it. Even if you have individual deep brown spots, a series of peels will help in multiple ways. First, it will lighten up the background pigment around the lesions, allowing laser to target the brown spot. Second, it will lighten the brown spots. If you have deep pigment (such as a freckle), a peel may never completely resolve the pigmentation, however it may lighten it to the point that a light tinted sunscreen can cover.
- Individual brown spots. As I mentioned above, peels may not be able o get rid of deep pigment, but laser can. A series of laser treatments can bring the pigment to the surface and eventually slough off. The goal with laser treatments is to lighten the brown spots, however the cells that produce pigment still remain. This is why sunscreen is SO important to protect the skin and reduce the chances the brown spots return. The next 2 recommendations will also help keep that pigment away...
- Lightening and brightening products. Hydroquinone is still the gold standard when treating pigment. Hydroquinone stops pigment from being deposited in the skin. The downside? It takes 4-6 weeks to see results. Our cell turnover slows down as we age, therefore the dead, pigmented skin cells on the surface will take several weeks to slough off and be replaced with new, brighter skin cells. Tip: to speed up results, add retinol to your routine. Retinol will speed up this cell turnover, allowing this lightened and brightened skin to begin sooner!
- Kojic Acid. For more sensitive skin (and while taking a break from hydroquinone), Kojic Acid is a great alternative. It works similarly to hydroquinone-inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase-but it is more gentle version. The BEST combination of products? Kojic Acid AND Hydroquinone at the same time! This may be more irritating to the skin, however unless you have very sensitive skin, most skin adapts and redness decreases.