Skin tone issues can arise at almost any age, but they become more common as we get older due to UV damage catching up with us and/or hormonal changes. These problems may include dark spots (age spots), melasma or other discolorations. How can we treat and prevent our skin tone issues?
AT HOME TREATMENTS
*Products. Skin care products can be very effective at improving the dark spots and discoloration of all skin tones. Over-the-counter (OTC) products are available, but are not as effective as prescription strength options. If your discoloration is not too severe, however, these can definitely help. For moderate or severe discoloration or pronounced dark spots, your dermatologist may prescribe a product with a higher concentration of active ingredients, such as Tri-Luma.
KEY INGREDIENTS: hydroquinone and kojic acid
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS: Bella Derma EvenTone pads, la Roche Posay PigmentClar Serum
*At-Home Chemical Peels. These peels are not professional/medical-grade, but for mild or moderate cases, these systems can improve skin tone by providing more advanced exfoliation that a standard cleanser. Exfoliation is key to improving skin tone because it clears away the dark upper layers of dead skin cells. The hyperpigmentation (darkness) can often go very deep in the skin, however, so exfoliation alone may not be enough to eliminate skin tone problems, but it is an important complement to products
IN OFFICE TREATMENTS
*Professional-Grade Chemical Peels. Physician offices can offer more intensive and deeper chemical peels than are available OTC in consumer stores. These peels contain higher concentrations of key ingredients that can be potentially irritating and harmful if not done under the watchful eye of a licensed esthetician or physician. The higher concentration allows for a deep peel in which visible layers of skin flake off over the next few days after the peel, greatly improving the appearance of discoloration and dark spots. At our office, we recommend the VI Peel, the Jessner Peel or the TCA peel for aging skin with severe discoloration, unless the patient has sensitive skin. Individuals with sensitive skin can still get chemical peels, but should go for a milder option. For more information on these peels, please visit: http://www.beverlyskin.com/services/chemical-peels
*Intense Pulse Light (IPL) Laser Treatment. IPL treatment is very effective on age spots. This relatively painless procedure uses a range of light wavelengths to deeply penetrate skin and target and eliminate the dark areas. IPL is commonly used on the face, chest, neck, hands and arms. For more information, please visit: http://www.beverlyskin.com/services/ipl-photofacial
*Be Sun Safe. Sun damage is the cause of most skin discoloration. Even when it’s not the cause, sun exposure will usually make the area(s) get darker and more pronounced. The best thing you can do to prevent skin discoloration is to protect your skin from UV rays. Sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, UPF-rated clothing, long sleeves, staying in the shade, etc. will all help. If you are treating your dark spots either at-home or with an in-office treatment, sun protection will help keep the newly lightened skin protected from further damage. If you ignore this important step, you will be working against the products and treatments you are using and will likely see little improvement!
*Avoid irritating products. Irritated skin can cause hyperpigmentation even in areas that are not commonly exposed to the sun because the irritant damages the skin’s protective barrier and can lead to injury of the skin. Think of a scar from a surgery or injury. Even if that area is always covered up by clothing, that area commonly changes in pigment (for some the skin becomes lighter, for others darker). That same principle applies to other skin injuries although it may not be as long-lasting as a surgical scar unless the area of skin experiences rather severe trauma (such as lots of scratching).