Many dermatologists will tell you that one of the most common complaints they get from patients is the appearance of brown spots on the face, neck, chest and hands. Freckles are cute on a pre-teen but when a woman looks in the mirror, discoloration or an uneven complexion is the last thing they want to see. So what causes this problem and more importantly what can we do about it?
Brown spots on your skin are caused by sun exposure, hormone changes, age and genetics. When skin is exposed to the sun the melanin content is increased because there is an increased production of melanocyte cells. Additionally, skin often becomes more UV sensitive during shifts in hormonal balance associated with pregnancy and the use of birth control pills. Areas that are exposed to the sun the most are likely to become spotty. This is why the face, chest, hands, and even shoulders are most likely the areas of concern for dark spots and discoloration.
These dark skin spots have many names but they are most commonly referred to as sun spots, age spots, brown spots, and dark spots (not very original but descriptive). For the most part they are harmless and are really a cosmetic issue. However, anything that grows quickly, is raised, or changes shape over time should be inspected by a dermatologist. Statistically most spots are just cosmetic you should have checked anyway as they could be pre-cancerous.
So assuming these spots are just an annoyance and not a medical issue what can you do about them? Experts agree that the sooner you deal with them the easier they are to get rid of. Ready to see the 7 best ways to get rid of dark spots fast? Here you go:
The 7 Best Methods to Reduce Brown Spots and Sun Damage!
1. Laser Treatments
There are several types of Laser Treatments use to diminish dark spots on the face and body but the two top treatments are Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) and Photodynamic Therapy. These laser treatments target dark pigmentation by penetrating the skin, heating up the darker melatonin under the surface, which destroys them and eventually causes them to flake off over the next two to three week. You should be aware that they will actually look must worse for a couple of weeks so don’t do this before any important events.
If you and your doctor chose this treatment, you should make sure to follow the recommendations of the professional performing the procedure both before and after, because you can cause more harm than good if you don’t. For example, you want to avoid anything that can make you photosensitive before the treatment for at least 2-4 weeks like Vitamin C Serum, Retinol, Retin A, or antibiotics. It will affect your outcome if you don’t.
Additionally, these treatment can be problematic for people with dark skin tones because they are at an increased risk of scarring and hypopigmentation. Regardless of your skin tone, make sure you see a highly trained professional like a certified dermatologist or Plastic Surgeon certified in these procedures. Because although they are incredibly effective, they can also cause skin damage if not done correctly.
Chemical peels are another procedure often used to reduce brown spots. They are not as effective as Lasers but they are less expensive and for many people with light to moderate spotting can be an effective way to keep spots to a minimum. Chemical peels containing glycolic acid and TCA act by injuring the skin superficially. This creates a wound healing effect that expels the dark pigment from the skin. These treatments can be extremely effective at getting rid of newly developed brown spots and are a favorite of many dermatologists because they do not require expensive equipment.
However, like lasers they can be harmful if not done correctly especially on darker skin tones. If you opt for this type of treatment make sure you u avoid the sun for at least two weeks after the procedure and use a high quality sun screen with at least a 45 spf.
Microdermabrasion is one of the most common skin resurfacing procedures used for reducing the occurrence of brown spots. The procedure has been around for many years so it has a long track record of positive results. This non-invasive treatment exfoliates the skin by polishing off the top layer of dead skin cells. This reveals new healthy skin so that the treated area looks fresh and smooth.
An additional bonus is moisturizers and other topical treatments become more effective because they can penetrate the skin more deeply with that top layer gone. It is less painful and irritating than either IPL or Chemical Peels and has less down time. In many cases you can leave the office without it being apparent that you had a procedure at all.
Face and Body Brushing
Face and body brushing has been a staple treatment for home use for many years. The first at home systems were cost prohibitive for most people but as technology has improved and new manufacturers have entered the market there are many more options now than there were even a few years ago.
The benefit of a face cleansing brush system is that you can exfoliate your skin on a regular basis. Exfoliation with a face brush can reduce the appearance of dark spots and other skin problems like acne, fine lines, and can soften the appearance of acne scars.
For dark spots, the accumulation of melanin in the skin can be diminished with the regular use of this type of device. One thing that many people forget, however, is that brown spots also occur on the chest, shoulders, and hands. Although the same brush you use on the face can be used on the body it is better to use a different brush than the one you use on your face.
This will protect your delicate facial skin from any impurities that might be on the body. Plus it is beneficial to use a brush with a larger surface area. If you decide to use a system like this try to find one with more than one brush, one that has different brush sizes, and perhaps even different textures because not everyone’s skin is the same.
Home Microdermabrasion System
Home microdermabrasion systems are a great way to exfoliate on a regular basis at home. These systems are often advertised as home spa treatments or exfoliating kits. Although they are not truly a microdermabrasion they act in a similar way by removing the top layer of dead skin cells and reveal fresh new skin underneath.
There are several different types ranging rotating brush systems to abrasive systems that act almost like sand paper for the skin. Prices also range from $30 all the way up to $500. Be careful with these systems – particularly the ones that use sanding technology as some can permanently scratch the top layer of new skin if not used correctly.
Over the counter Topical Treatments
Over the counter topical treatments can be very effective at brightening the complexion and reducing dark spots. However, it is important to understand the chemicals that are used in these treatments before applying them to your face. For example, hydroquinone was routinely prescribed by dermatologists for many years to lighten up hyperpigmentation. This ingredient has been banned in South Africa and many companies are choosing to stay away from it until more is known.
The research is still unclear so we are unable to make a recommendation on that either way. A more recent addition to the arsenal of combating brown spots is kojic acid. It acts to inhibit melanin production and is a clear winner when it comes to overall brightening of your complexion. When used with an exfoliating kit it can be a very effective way to reduce brown spots on the face, chest, shoulders, and hands.
7. Vitamin A
Retin A has been the go to compound for dermatologist for the last 20+ years. In beauty industry years that is the equivalent of a century. The fact is that Retin A remains an extremely effective way to combat all types of skin issues including brown spots. It can be extremely irritating to the skin and it definitely makes you look worse before you look better. In the long run many doctors still swear by the results.
If you and your doctor decide that Retin A is the best solution, make sure you start slowly with a low dose and work your way up over weeks (or even months). You will likely experience scaling, redness, itchiness, and sometimes even a burning sensation. These symptoms typically last for the first 2-4 weeks. It is necessary to stay out of the sun as much as possible when using Retin A and to use a high potency sun screen at all times when going outside.
Retinol is a less irritating derivative of Vitamin A. Like Retin A, it helps diminish dark spots, acne, acne scars, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol was a breakthrough for skin care professionals because it targets similar problems to Retin A without as many side effects. There is less scaling, redness, and irritation than its stronger cousin, but it has significant effect on most skin types.
The highest concentration available in over the counter Retinol products appears to be 2.5%. For something higher you will most likely need to get a prescription from a dermatologist. However, it is recommended that you start slow and work your way up starting at a .05% formula to see how your skin tolerates it
Also of note, Retinol is typically animal derived so if you are vegan or if you prefer not to use any animal based products in your skin care there are some newer vegan versions of retinol that are highly effective. One example of a plant based retinol replacement is Crithmum Maritimum Extract.
In the last few years many natural skin care companies have opted to use this plant based retinol substitute because it gives similar results with less irritation and meets the requirements of their vegan customers.
How to Choose the Best Solution for your Skin
This article is by no means an exhaustive list of the different ways to get rid of annoying dark spots but it should give you a good head start on figuring out the best treatment for your skin. At the very least you will know what to ask when you see your dermatologist.
Additionally it is important to note that these treatments are not mutually exclusive so using a combination of approaches can also be a very effective way to treat the problem of dark spots on your skin. For example, you might opt for getting an IPL or Chemical Peel but then choose to have a home routine because the results of those treatments are not permanent. To extend the life of the procedure and reduce the need for future sessions you could add a face and body brush or home microdermabrasion system to you daily routine.
There is no one treatment right for everyone so make sure get an expert opinion if you are going to try a more invasive approach like lasers, peels, or microdermabrasion. It is always best to start with the least harmful option and see how it works for you. Remember, you can always go to the next level up from there if you are not happy with the results.
No matter your choice, make sure you use an effective sun screen containing micronized zinc. It should have an spf of at least 45 (One of our favorites is Shield by Elta MD). The best habit you can have is to put it on after your moisturizer but before your make-up so you know you are covered even if you are not sure you are going outside. An ounce of prevention can go a long way to keeping age spots from forming on your face and body. Do what you can to protect your skin from aging before its time. You’ll be so happy you did.