Do you spend a lot of time in the sun? Or wear reflective Aviator sunglasses? Do you forget to apply sunscreen, especially on your left side when driving?
If you answered yes to any of those questions and are over the age of 25, you probably have at least one of those flat, dark spots on your face that we call sun spots, liver spots, age spots, melanin clusters and for the very technical, solar lentigines or solar keratosis.
For now, we’ll refer to them as sunspots simply because they appear on the parts of skin that have been overly exposed to UV rays. Your skin naturally produces melanin to protect itself against harmful rays, and this usually results in a beautiful, even tan, but with increased sun exposure, extra pigment can gather in one area and leave a blotchy, dark spot. If these spots remain untreated, they will eventually grow larger.
To reduce your chances of getting them in the first place, yes you already know what to do – apply broad-spectrum sunscreen every single day.
But since we all forget to do that and sometimes being in the sun is just unavoidable, here are the five treatment options for toning them down.
Retin-A – For mild sun spots detected early, a medical-grade Retin-A cream is a great exfoliator and will disperse the Melanin, making yours skin look more even. Retin-A also has photoprotective antioxidant that helps to prevent future dark spots.
Hydroquinone – When the spots are a little darker, you may want to add a skin-bleaching serum that contains hydroquinone to your nightly regimen. Put it directly onto the discolored areas to lighten them. You must always apply sunscreen when using hydroquinone and there is a risk of over-lightening the area.
Microneedling – Microneedling reduces sunspots by stimulating your body’s natural production of collagen and elastin which leaves your skin looking fresher, thicker and plumper. Usually, 3-6 treatments will be needed.
IPL – Intense Pulsed Light, or photodynamic therapy, uses multiple wavelengths to break-up hyperpigmented areas. Usually 2 – 6 treatments will be recommended and should be performed by board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.
Laser Treatments – Erbium and CO2 – The gold-standard and most aggressive treatment of sunspots is using ablative lasers to burn off pigmented areas. At For The Face, we use the erbium laser for small patches of hyperpigmentation and the CO2 laser when treating the whole face.
Our fabulous patient care coordinator, Jacki, had sunspots on the top of her cheeks, probably from wearing Aviator sunglasses at one too many daytime concerts. After one treatment of the erbium laser, you can see where the pigmented areas turned white and will soon peel off.
Stay tuned for Jacki’s “after” photos…In the meantime, let us know if you have any questions about sunspots by leaving a comment below or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org