Defining the Dark Spots On Your Skin

As many redheads and fair-skinned people, I grew up always being freckled.  I remember a friend’s dad saying to me, “Did you get your suntan through a screen door?” Ugh.

While I’m not the fairest of the fair and I actually tend to tan fairly well which is like being a redheaded unicorn, this has proven to be aesthetically pleasant (who doesn’t like a summer glow) and a recipe for disaster on how I treated my skin in my early days.  While picking up my acne medication my dermatologist mentioned to my mom, “She’s way too tan for a redhead.”  Chalk that up to a challenge I shouldn’t have taken.  My mother’s voice when I told her I was going to the tanning bed still rings in my head. #momknowsbest

Enter the years of “aging” and suddenly your face starts dotting itself with dark freckles you never had seemingly overnight and swaths of nickel-sized brown skin that makes you look like a pound puppy. Given we can’t rewind the clock and yank our sun-worshiping selves off the beach by the ear, let’s talk about what those dark spots are and how to treat them.

Common dark spots:

Freckles can be both genetic and caused by the sun.  Take a look at your face, chest shoulders and arms (which have the most sun exposure) and then take a look at a place that the sun doesn’t shine like….your butt.  It sounds weird to tell you to do that, but if you’ve got some freckling (not caused by tanning beds) that’s one thing.  But most of us have a fairly freckle-free rump.  That freckling on your face is likely sun damage and age spots that show up after years.  The reason we start seeing them in our 30s and 40s is because the damage we did before we knew better is starting to show.  Giddy up for this fun ride.

Melasma is the darkening of patches of skin that can range from the size an eraser of a pencil to covering large parts of the face.  Melasma is caused by sun damage, but can also be caused by hormones.  Women are much more susceptible to melasma than men due to birth control and pregnancy – melasma is also called “pregnancy mask.”

Moles are something we’re all pretty familiar with.  Moles are caused by changes in the skin.  Most are harmless, but should always be checked by dermatologists on a frequent basis.  I’m talking to you – fellow pale friends! Moles can also be triggered by age and sun damage and indicate melanoma/skin cancer.

How do you treat this?

  • Sun protection is the #1 anti-aging thing you can do for yourself.  I recommend nothing less than 30 SPF.  This also includes hats, sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes, and wearing protective shirts and cover-ups while being in the sun.
  • Increasing skin cell turnover with long-term treatment from retinols and peels.  For light resurfacing, look for 10-30% glycolic, lactic or mandelic peels.  For the biggest impact you need peels that get below the surface like TCA and Jessner Peels.  Always check with a professional before attempting peels…and don’t forget that SPF!
  • Lotions or serums with hydroquinone, vitamin C and antioxidants help protect the skin from the sun and reverse sun damage. The trick here is getting enough in a product to be effective and stability, especially in vitamin C.
  • Lasers are also an option, like Fraxel and IPL, that target skin damage.  These are your pricier options, but are effective.

Have you found something that gave you SkinLove after dark spots?  Drop us a line in the comments!

*Note that there is some controversy over the use of hydroquinone and retinol, and should not be used by those who are pregnant or want to become pregnant.

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