Dark spots are a common complaint, especially as we get older. Ever wonder what causes them, and what can be done about it?
Skin color is produced by cells called melanocytes. Everyone is born with the same amount of these, and genetics determine how much melanin (pigment) the cells make. This is our skin color.
Our skin increases melanin in response to injury, sun exposure (which results in a tan), hormonal fluctuation, and inflammation. This is referred to as hyperpigmentation. Hormonal hyperpigmentation is called melasma. The red ‘scars’ we see from acne are actually post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Darker skin tones are more susceptible to darkening, because they have more active melanin production to begin with. But people of all colors can see the effects of sun damage, injury and hormone changes to some degree.
So what can be done? As always, prevention is easier than correction. First and most importantly, avoid the situations that cause increased melanin. I recommend a high-spf sunblock containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and to re-apply every two hours. Get inflamed acne under control with proper treatment. Beware of hormonal birth control, since melasma is a common side effect. For olive and darker skin tones, steer clear of microdermabrasion, IPL, and laser.
If the damage is done, there are topical products that can help suppress melanin, and therefore even out skin color. Ingredients such as kojic acid, licorice, bearberry, alpha arbutin, and mandelic acid all act to inhibit the enzyme that stimulates melanin. These and others are formulated with superb delivery systems for professional treatments and homecare products.
In studio, we administer melanin-suppressing treatments with skin lightening ‘boosters’. Between visits, a good regimen must be used consistently to see the best results. Meanwhile, religious use of sun protection (yes, even on cloudy days) will help prevent darkening of current spots, as well as preventing future damage.
If dark spots bother you, a knowledgeable aesthetician will be able to guide you with proper care and prevention.
And…trust me on the sunblock.