Clear skin means more than just being free of acne and blemishes. Dark spots can be just as annoying and bothersome, making your complexion look dull and patchy. An uneven skin tone can also be a source of embarrassment and low self-esteem, leading you to seek out solutions that can help you fade these age spots and prevent them from coming back.
There are plenty of solutions, however, and you can attempt a trial-and-error method of using these solutions to see what works best for you. Certain skin care ingredients are very powerful and can go a long way in fading away these unwanted dark spots to even out your skin tone and return the glow you had in your youth.
By following our suggestions you can rest assured that you will reduce the appearance of dark spots and prevent them from reappearing in the future as well.
Causes of Dark Spots
Dark spots have many causes. They can linger after a pimple has long healed, also simply known as acne scars. They can occur as a result of too much sun exposure accumulated over a lifetime, and these are usually referred to as age spots. Sometimes pregnancy can lead to melasma, a skin condition that is characterized by dark patches on the cheeks, forehead, upper lip and chin. The root cause of all dark spots or age spots, however, is excess melanin production. Melanin is a dark pigment that gives hair, skin and iris of the eye its color. It also accumulates in the skin after tanning, which is how we get to be a darker shade after sun exposure. People with naturally darker skin have more melanin than people with lighter skin, but dark spots can affect people of any skin tone.
Many of the skin care ingredients that can reduce the appearance of dark spots work by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme found in melanocytes (cells that produce melanin). Tyrosinase triggers the production of melanin in the skin when it is exposed to UV rays or greatly inflamed. For example, the greater the inflammation of a pimple, the greater the chance of dark acne scars forming on the skin, resulting in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Acne scars can be expected to fade away on their own, but sometimes they stay put and cause that unwanted unevenness of tone.
Dark Spots Treatment Options
There are several skin care ingredients that can help fade dark spots until they are either completely gone or far less noticeable. One thing to remember is that you need to be patient and use these products regularly to see results. These are not quick fixes, but several weeks or months of treatment will usually show you a noticeable difference. Here are some ingredients to look for in your dark spot treatments for best results:
- Retinol– Retinol is a powerful treatment option for dark spots. It works by sloughing off dead skin cells that accumulate on the skin through time. As we age, skin cells begin to shed at slower rates, and this can lead to their piling up on our skin and making our complexion look dull and aging. Retinol helps exfoliate away dark spots to reveal brighter, newer skin underneath.
- Hydroquinone– One of the most popular treatments for dark spots and age spots, hydroquinone fades away discoloration quite effectively. As it begins to work, your skin may turn bright red before the dark spot fully fades away. It’s best to begin treatment right away as a dark spot is easier to treat when it’s relatively new. If you notice a dark spot, begin applying hydroquinone as soon as you can and it may be completely gone within about two months.
- Vitamin C– Vitamin C is well known for its skin brightening ability. It works as a chemical exfoliant to slough off dead skin cells and it helps inhibit tyrosinase to prevent further melanin production. So basically you get a double-whammy effect against age spots by using vitamin C, and you’ll find it in a lot of skin care products that promise to lighten age spots.
- Glycolic acid– Alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid help fade away dark spots by exfoliating the dead skin cells sitting on the top of your skin. By boosting cell turnover, glycolic acid helps reveal the healthier, newer skin underneath all that debris. The newer skin will appear lighter and less pigmented as it emerges. You can use a glycolic acid treatment about twice or three times a week, depending on your skin’s sensitivity. If your skin is prone to irritation, limit use to once per week.
- Alpha arbutin– Alpha arbutin is an extract from the bearberry plant that is becoming a more popular skin-lightening ingredient. It works by interfering with tyrosinase activity to prevent melanin production, just like vitamin C. Find it in Formulyst’s Luminous Skin Serum, where it is combined with peptides and sodium hyaluronate to further boost skin luminosity and brightness.
- Linolenic acid– This ingredient is an omega-3 fatty acid that provides many benefits to skin. It helps lighten and brighten skin to minimize the appearance of dark spots. You can find it in Formulyst’s Dark Spot Solutions, which also boasts hyaluronic acid to give a boost of moisture.
Dark Spot Prevention
Even if you don’t have dark spots or age spots yet, there is a great chance that you will develop them in the future. The truth is that sun exposure and time do a number on our skin. Hence the great need for sun protection come rain or shine. Protecting yourself from UV rays will give you a greater chance of avoiding age spots in the future. Here are some tips for preventing age spots and acne scars:
- Don’t Pop That Pimple– This is absolutely crucial. It can be so satisfying to pop a pimple, especially a whitehead that is basically begging for your fingers to do the job. When you can’t resist and go ahead and pop that pimple, you are worsening inflammation and drawing outside debris deeper into your skin. The bigger or deeper the pimple, the worse the inflammation, and your picking at it will ensure that a scar develops in the end. Moreover, avoid harsh treatments like aggressive exfoliation or using cleansers that strip the skin of natural oils. This will only cause further irritation and inflammation.
- Treat Acne Immediately– If you tackle your acne problem as soon as it forms, you can reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter treatments like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are great at reducing inflammation and reducing a pimple’s healing time significantly. On the other hand, sometimes the best thing you can do for a pimple is to leave it completely alone and let it heal on its own. If you have painful cystic acne that recurs frequently, it may be best to talk to your doctor about certain retinoid treatments.
- Wear Sunscreen At All Times– Truly, you should wear sunscreen like your life depends on it – (and considering how prevalent skin cancer is, your life sort of does depend on it). Don’t skimp on sunblock just because it’s cloudy or overcast. Sunlight penetrates clouds and if you are outside on a cloudy day, you might not necessarily burn and turn red, but your skin will still be negatively impacted by UVA rays. As previously mentioned, UV rays increase melanin in the skin, and over time, they can lead to unsightly age spots that will often make you look older than your years and rob you of that youthful glow.
- Don’t Pick A Scab– Picking at scabs can also cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Scabs naturally help skin heal, but picking at them before they fall off on their own can ensure that the scar that it’s healing remains there in the long run. Leave it alone no matter how strong the urge to peel it off before its time.
References: Clinical Interventions in Aging, “Retinoids in the Treatment of Skin Aging”; Indian Dermatology Online Journal, “Vitamin C in Dermatology”; Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, “Glycolic Acid Peel Therapy”