How to Reverse This Type of Premature Skin Aging
You don’t have to live with sunspots forever.
Have you ever woken up on the last day of a blissful beach vacation and—SURPRISE—you find a mysterious dark spot has popped up seemingly overnight? Us, too! No matter how diligent we are with sunscreen (repeat after us: every. damn. day), it seems that by the end of summer we’ve collected a few more marks than just our natural freckles.
Unfortunately, once you hit your early 20s, those years of UV rays start to add up and materialize as hyperpigmentation. This type of discoloration can develop on your face, hands, chest, and anywhere else you’ve had prolonged sun exposure, and covering it up with tons of concealer is the last thing we want to do once temperatures creep past 80 degrees. In order to sufficiently care for our skin this season, we turned to renowned dermatologist Dr. Neil Sadick for tips on identifying this type of sun damage and, more important, how to get your complexion back to normal fast.
First, how do you know it’s a sunspot? “Both sunspots and freckles are small brown spots that form due to melanin overproduction,” says Sadick. “Freckles can develop due to genetics and environment, appear at a young age, and fade over time, but sunspots accumulate with age, especially after 40, and tend to get darker. Freckles usually are red or light brown, one to two millimeters wide with irregular borders, while sunspots are yellow to dark brown, bigger than two millimeters, with defined borders.”
Though the spots themselves are relatively harmless (unlike acne, they don’t cause deeper damage), their formation is a big neon sign that there has been overexposure to UV rays and possibly damage that could lead to something more serious, like skin cancers, so be sure to get an annual checkup with your dermatologist. The risk of developing pigmentation also increases with age thanks to years and years of UV exposure. “People with lighter skin and hair color and Caucasians over 40 years old are more susceptible.” All the more reason to make SPF 30 or higher a regular part of your skin-care routine ASAP!
Luckily there are some steps you can take both at home and in a doctor’s office to fade a sunspot, since most will not disappear on their own. “Over-the-counter products containing retinoids and/or hydroquinone are excellent choices for lightening and breaking down the pigment for more mild sunspots,” suggests Sadick. “Chemical peels containing alpha-hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, and/or phenol can also be done either at home or in the clinic. With both topicals and peels, a skin-patch test should always be completed prior to application to the whole face to prevent irritation and unwanted skin reactions.”
If you’re looking to remove a dark spot a little faster, there are several treatment options you can discuss with your dermatologist. Sadick recommends laser resurfacing, which not only removes the spots, but can also rejuvenate your entire face, neck, or chest. “Cutting-edge lasers like the Picosure from Cynosure or Picogenesis from Cutera can be safely used to remove sunspots in all skin types, with little to no downtime or side effects, and are more effective than at-home treatments alone.”