Noticing dark spots and areas of hyperpigmentation can be one of the most confusing and frustrating skin conditions. They may seem to come out of nowhere and be impossible to erase. But that's not necessarily true.
Hyperpigmentation can be caused by a few different things. First of all, it's a common physical sign of aging as the skin thins and changes, often earning the name "liver spots." Dark spots can also result from spending too much time in the sun without proper protection from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Hormones can also lead to hyperpigmentation, known as melasma -- this condition can intensify in women who are pregnant due to the increase in hormones. Lastly, hyperpigmentation and dark spots can result from acne, which can leave marks behind once blemishes heal.
What can you do about it? These six methods can produce great results:
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an incredible antioxidant that keeps the skin's cells protected against free radical damage. It can also be a potent ingredient in topical serums and lotions to break up dark spots and hyperpigmentation for skin with a more even tone.
A form of vitamin A, retinol is a strong topical product that causes cell turnover while also combatting bacteria, which can cause acne. Using retinol can reduce hyperpigmentation as well as wrinkles. Retinol should be used only once a day and can be harsh on the skin -- start by using it every other evening before bed and be sure to moisturize after.
A toning lotion should be the second step in your skincare routine after washing. Toners remove excess dirt and soap residue and encourage the regular turnover of skin cells for a fresh, even-looking complexion. Use a toner twice a day for best results.
Using a scrub allows you to remove the top layers of the skin, which can help fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation. You can use a pre-made scrub or make your own with ingredients like raw honey, lemon juice and sugar. Scrubs should only be used once or twice a week to avoid damaging the skin. If you want a stronger treatment, seek a dermatologist about microdermabrasion.
A more intense form of exfoliation, chemical peels utilize acids like glycolic and salicylic acid to remove layers of the skin. Chemical peels can help treat dark spots as well as skin conditions like acne. At-home chemical peels are available or you can see a dermatologist for a stronger treatment. These are best to avoid in the summer, since they can make the skin more sensitive to the sun.
Intense pulsed light and photodynamic therapy are two types of laser treatment that penetrate the skin's layers and destroy hyperpigmented skin cells. The body sheds these cells after the treatment, resulting in a more even appearance. This treatment is available in dermatologists' offices and remains the priciest option, but it has proven results.
No matter which method you choose, make sure to always follow any treatment with a moisturizer. During the daytime, it's also crucial to wear sunscreen to protect the skin against the sun's rays which can lead to additional changes in skin tone.
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