If you’re anywhere around the 30+ mark, chances are you’ve noticed a darker patch or two on the side or sides of your face, often around the orbital bone of just below the temples.
Aaargghhh! You observed it on others but never thought it’d happen to you, right?
Fear not, these predestined skin pigmentations generally occur early on in life, and don’t show up till we’re of a certain age. The good news is, there are treatments to help reduce, and in some cases rid your skin of these pesky spots completely.
So what are they exactly? The technical term is solar lentigines, but usually they’re known as age spots, sun spots or simply pigmentation.
How are they caused? Damage from the sun, often occurring many years prior to the dark spot showing up. Basically, sun spots appear as a response to UV-induced trauma which then stimulates melanin production, resulting in brown spots.
It’s important to be aware that pigmentation caused by the pill, hormonal changes and pregnancy will not respond to treatment unless the root cause is dealt with first. So if, for example, your pigmentation is due to being on the contraceptive pill, treatment will only work when you cease taking it.
The treatment options
Most dermatologists will suggest laser, microdermabrasion, light therapy, prescription strength retinol or hydroquinone creams and chemical peels as effective treatments.
I usually combine the lightening product with either glycolic acid and/or the prescription retinoid tretinoin (Retin-A or Renova Creams). This combination helps the hydroquinone penetrate the skin better. Combined with sun protection, it’s the best skin care product combination for brown spots on the skin.
Dr Cynthia Bailey, Dermatologist
The Victorian Cosmetic Institute agree that hyperpigmentation can be treated with topical lightening creams or lasers. Lasers tend to achieve faster and more effective results where creams take longer and usually only fade the darkened area.
Managing Director and Dermal Clinician at Timeless & Ageless, Shantelle Quarrell, believes identifying the cause of pigmentation is essential to finding the correct treatment.
One of my favourite ingredients to use topically on pigmentation is vitamin C either chirally correct, L-ascorbic acid or ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. This works by blocking the UV action of the stimulating melanocytes (pigment cells of the skin)
Treating pigmentation doesn’t have to be all machines and prescription creams either. There are many products derived from nature that are promising just as much as their predecessors.
Top 3 natural treatment picks for pigmentation
$49.95 Gloriously silky, packed with VitC and Rosehip. Repairs while you sleep!
$69.00 VitC, Date Seed, Argan & Rosehip oils give this hydrating serum extra punch.
$59.00 Targets pigmentation in just five days! Prevents and defends with strong antioxidant power.
There’s a lot of different advice when it comes to DIY treatments at home. Here’s a few of the most common ones for treating pigmentation with what might possibly be stored in your fridge!
Although it may sound tempting to try these yourself, if not done correctly you can cause more damage than cure, so be sure to take extra care if you have sensitive skin and seek professional advice before starting any of these options.
Getting any dark spots checked regularly by a trained professional is always recommended.
Lemons – Natural yes, good for the skin? It’s debatable. Dr Surbhi, MD Skin, explains in her Q & A on dermatocare.com, how important it is to take care when adding lemon juice to your DIY treatments.
Never use lemon juice directly on the skin as it can cause severe rashes and cause phototoxicity (meaning your skin is a lot more sensitive to the sun). The citric acid found in lemons is not the same as what’s in your Vit C serum, which is mainly l-ascorbic acid. As the amount are measured and tested in over the counter serums, chances of you getting the correct measurements right at home with the lemon squeezer aren’t quite as assuring!
Always make sure you use a good quality sunscreen when using any product containing citric acid.
Raw Potato – contains catecholase, an enzyme that is believed to help lighten skin tone. Applying the juice from grated raw potato may give a desired lightening effect.
Apple Cider Vinegar – has excellent skin lightening as well as astringent properties that can help restore your skin’s natural colour if used sparingly, just on your dark spots in the evening. I wouldn’t recommend using this all over the skin as it can be both drying and irritating.
Keep an eye out for these natural skin lightening ingredients Soy, Niacinimide, Ellagic Acid, Lignin Peroxidase, Licorice
Dr Halder from American Academy of Dermatology, reports these ingredients not only achieve great results when it comes to lightening the skin, but pose little or no allergy risk.
The verdict seems to be unanimous when it comes to long lasting, effective results. Combining professional laser or light therapy, with an at home, high strength serum or cream, plus the use of daily sunscreen, is the best step towards restoring your complexion.