Style & Beauty
Spotting the Signs of Sun Damage
7/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
Sun Damage

Age spots, freckles, liver spots – call them what you want, but when you spot them on your face, you call them "unsightly” and "unwanted,” among other things.  Then you dedicate a large portion of your life trying to get rid of these areas of hyperpigmentation.


"Contrary to what most people think, age spots aren't caused by getting older,” explains licensed aesthetician Jennifer Lemons, owner of Dermalogix. "You can blame them – and nearly every other form of unwanted pigmentation – on the sun. The sun’s rays basically attack the skin, and one way the skin defends itself is to make pigment. If you are skeptical, look at the skin that is never exposed to the sun. If the changes you are so unhappy with really came from aging, you'd have them all over."


Lemons does say that aging does play one big role in the appearance of age spots. "The older a person gets, the greater the amount of sun damage they've accumulated, so the spots are more numerous and more visible. That's why sunscreen and sun avoidance throughout your life are really key.”


Even though most spots are caused by the same source – the sun – they do take different forms. Here are the most common:


Freckles: 

These are small tan spots that are usually less than half a centimeter. They may come and go, fading in the winter and darkening in the summertime.


Lentigines:

Known as age or liver spots, these small-to-medium brown areas multiply as you get older, popping up most often on the face, hands, and chest — all places with maximum exposure to sun.


Uneven skin tone: 

Rather than a few specific spots, this involves larger areas of pigmentation that make your skin look darker in some areas, lighter in others.


Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation:

These are dark spots that develop after pimples, bug bites, or other flare-ups, and then stubbornly remain long after the initial inflammation has healed.


Melasma: 

More patchy than spotty, these brown outbreaks are hormone related, so they are likeliest to appear (on the cheeks, forehead, and around the lips) when a woman is pregnant or taking hormone replacement or birth control pills.

So how do you make these spots fade away?  Lemons cautions against over-the-counter brightening or lightening cleansers.  "They won't hurt you, but they also won't do anything more than wash your face. They're not on the skin long enough to make a difference, and the amount of active ingredients they contain isn’t enough to be effective.”


She says hydroquinone is by far the most effective treatment for hyperpigmented skin.   Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent available in higher grade cosmeceuticals or by prescription.  "This product works by interfering with an enzyme that helps your skin produce melanin, the brown pigment that shows up as spots. The best products will contain two to four percent.  Be careful to apply it only on the specific areas you want to lighten because hydroquinone is bleach. The product doesn’t distinguish the skin you want to bleach from the skin you don't.”  

If you are sensitive to hydroquinone, you can improve the appearance of spots somewhat with other treatments, explains Lemons, including kojic acid, licorice extract, mulberry, vitamin C, and soy. "These are excellent alternative or additional therapies for pigmentation.  They do not all directly inhibit the enzyme that produces melanin, but they can produce visible results.


Lemons says there are several in-office skin care treatment options that can help eliminate hyperpigmentation, including chemical peels, microdermabrasion, Oxygen RX treatments and Hydrafacials with brightening agents, just to name a few options. Home care is always recommended in conjunction with these treatments in order to achieve the results you want.


"And it just can’t be said enough: sunscreen is a must,” stresses Lemons. "Sun exposure can trigger production of the pigment you are trying to eliminate, and almost any treated dark spot can recur if exposed to UV light."  


For more information about treating sun damaged skin, call Dermalogix at (337) 477-1195 or visit Dermalogixspa.com.


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