Freckles are cute as a teen.
But dark spots on your face when you’re 37, not so much.
With age comes wisdom and grace.
And sadly, age spots seem to multiply every year.
We have had a lot of success treating pigmentation in our clients.
So we put together this article, discussing everything you need to know about treating dark spots.
What they are, why they occur and more importantly, how to prevent them in the first place.
Why do we struggle with dark spots?
Whether caused by sun damage, inflammation or hormones, pigmentation is a problem many of us can relate to.
Did you know that hyperpigmentation can make us look older than we are? This is because your brain is programmed to register shade and light.
So when you first look at an object or a face before registering any other details, you perceive an even skin tone as more pleasing.
Infact studies have found that we consider an uneven skin tone prematurely aged, lined and wrinkled.
What Causes Them?
Dark spots on your face are complicated due to an overproduction of melanin — a protective pigment in your skin.
Essentially, it’s a sign that your skin is damaged.
Usually found on areas exposed to the sun — like your face, chest, hands, and arms—compared to those non-sun-exposed areas.
You may have them for several reasons; the main culprit is too much sun exposure.
Hormonal fluctuations, medications, ageing and liver disease are also mitigating factors.
Knowing what you’re dealing with is the key to successfully treating this discolouration.
After all, you don’t want to be trying to treat that dangerous melanoma on your skin with laser treatment!
So Why Are They Showing on my Skin?
Many of our clients and readers feel insecure about dark spots on face and worry about what people think trying to cover them.
And while you can try and cover them with makeup, they can look worse.
- Sun exposure and ageing
Remember how your mother constantly fretted over how you should be wearing sunscreen?
Well, she was right.
Not just about preventing that nasty sunburn and future wrinkles.
But because chronic, cumulative damage from the sun over the years stimulates melanin production, sun-worshippers, beware!
You may be wondering why dark spots become more apparent with age. Well, the reason is twofold:
- Ageing causes melanocyte cells to reduce but, in turn, increases the size and the production of hyper-pigmentation
- Your skin loses its protective ingredients with age; it becomes thinner and dryer, all of which emphasises dark spots on face.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and acne
Have you ever picked at your skin, only to find that the area became darker?
Or do you suffer from a skin condition like acne, eczema, perioral dermatitis or even an allergic reaction, which has caused discoloured patches?
Post-inflammatory pigmentation is your body’s natural response to injury and inflammation.
But when the integrity of your skin is undermined, as with inflammation, it naturally produces melanin to protect it, which can lead to dark spots.
- Hormonal changes
Menopause, hormonal replacement therapy, or a change in birth control can cause your body to undergo significant hormonal shifts, leading to an overproduction of melanin called melasma.
If you are pregnant, you may have developed dark patches on your nose, jawline, chin or forehead, creating a pattern known as “chloasma” or the “mask of pregnancy”.
If this sounds like something you are experiencing, don’t panic, this type of hyperpigmentation usually only lasts until the end of pregnancy and disappears when your hormone levels balance out.
Certain medications, including antibiotics and steroids, can cause your skin to become pigmented.
Some people are more prone to developing black spots based on their genetics. So it may be your family history which is why you are experiencing excess melanin production in your skin.
The 7 Steps to Preventing Them
Now that you have a better understanding of why your skin is uneven, let’s look at how to get rid of dark spots on your face:
1. Regularly Apply Your Sunscreen
The best way to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays is to wear sunscreen every day to prevent future discolouration preventing those pesky dark spots from appearing.
And be sure to apply your sunscreen when it’s cloudy.
That’s right. Even when it’s overcast, your skin can be affected by harmful UV rays.
We recommend a daily preventative routine that includes applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher.
The key to correctly using sunscreen is to apply it 30 minutes before going out and reapply it every two hours on any areas of your skin exposed to the sun.
If you are keen to learn more about sunscreen, our article, the five best sunscreen practices for healthy skin, will show you how.
2. Topically Apply Vitamin C
Vitamin C can aid your skin’s ability to heal itself; this is why we suggest it should be your go-to when looking to reduce those stubborn dark spots.
This study found that Vitamin C improves hyperpigmentation by dispersing and inhibiting melanin production.
The other great thing about Vitamin C is that it stabilises and creates collagen, making it one of the most reliable anti-ageing ingredients.
There are many different vitamin C ingredients available. Still, after years of experience working directly with the skin and hyper-pigmentation, we have found that ascorbic acid has the best results — it has the highest potency when applied topically and the fastest absorption.
Infact we love this ingredient so much for treating dark spots on the skin that we have put together a laundry list of its benefits.
It is important to note that you should use your vitamin C products during the day to harness the powerful antioxidant properties, and don’t forget to layer with your sunscreen.
3. Use a Well Formulated Product
There is a wealth of skincare to help treat mild to moderate pigmentation.
But as discussed below, look for products containing tyrosinase inhibitors. That will put the brakes on melanin production and prevent discolouration on your face.
Gentle acids. Won’t stop melanin production, but they will lessen hyperpigmentation, creating an even skin tone and refining your skin’s surface to make it more luminous.
A word of warning against one popular ingredient, hydroquinone, doesn’t remove pigmentation but only lightens it. With repeated use, you will find that your dark spots appear and will come back much more intensely after repeated use.
4. Use Topical Antioxidants to Prevent Oxidative Stress
If you are concerned about getting rid of your sunspots, please don’t overlook the power of photoprotective antioxidants.
To get sciencey about it, when applied topically, they donate electrons to neutralise free radicals created in your skin after oxidative stress—oxidative stress = sun damage = premature ageing.
Whilst antioxidants don’ protect your skin quite the same way as an SPF does, they help minimise the damage you can’t see.
Some antioxidants with photoprotective properties include vitamin E, ferulic acid, green tea, and liquorice.
5. Book in for a Power Peel
A medium-depth peel is a great way to target dark spots on face, uneven pigmentation, melasma, and the general texture of your skin.
Your peel works to lift away accumulated layers of skin discolouration, allowing new, healthy skin to form in its place, visibly reducing the appearance of dark spots.
It will be more even when new skin forms, leaving your skin lighter and brighter with more evenness and clarity.
We recommend a peel with mandelic acid to our clients; it has larger molecules making it ideal for brightening those darker skin types.
Glycolic acid, on the other hand, with its smaller molecular structure, speeds up skin healing of any post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation; because it is the smallest of the AHAs, it is the fastest type of ingredient for penetrating your skin.
We have put together a handy guide if you are keen to learn more about how peels for dark spots can help with removing your hyperpigmentation.
6. Try Laser Therapy
If you have severe pigmentation, professional treatment could help.
Laser treatment is an option for dark spots on face, where wave-lengths penetrate your skin to break down the pigmentation.
The number of treatments you need will depend on the type of laser your doctor uses.
If not performed correctly, this treatment can have adverse reactions. Be sure to book in with an experienced licensed skincare specialist who will give you a thorough consultation, assess your skin tone, and explain the pros and cons and what to expect during the procedure.
Also, light therapy offers a variety of devices that can also be used at home. This device will help you eliminate dark spots by stimulating blood circulation and removing toxins from your skin. You can read more at Heliotherapy Research Institute.
7. Wear Protective Clothes
One of the best ways to prevent these frustrating black spots is to follow safe sun practices.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap as much as possible, so your face doesn’t come in direct contact with harmful rays.
Wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes from damage and minimise squinting, which can lead to wrinkles.
In addition, avoid going outdoors when the UV index is high — usually between 11 am and noon. If you must be in the sun during these times, don’t forget your sunscreen.
Our Product Recommendations
Now that you have a better idea of tackling those dark spots on your skin, this article would not be complete without recommending a skincare routine to help you on your journey.
Here at the Naked Chemist, we work directly with the skin daily, and a big part of our work is treating dark spots and pigmentation.
We recommend looking for products that contain tyrosinase inhibitor ingredients; these inhibitors stop melanin production, preventing discolouration from happening.
Kojic acid, azelaic acid, vitamin C, A and B derivatives and liquorice root extract are all examples of tyrosinase inhibitors that we have included in our products below:
For this reason, we created several formulas that contain tyrosinase inhibiting ingredients that target pigment at different layers in your skin:
C+ vitamin complex is a hero product in our clinic. Formulated with cetyl ascorbic acid and antioxidants, it is a game-changer in your skincare routine, especially if you want to resurface and lighten stubborn areas of pigmentation.
Glo dark spot corrector contains several ingredients you’ll want to add to your arsenal for battling hyperpigmentation. The skin-brightening ingredients target surface spots, including melasma and sun-induced hyperpigmentation. Our clients see excellent results when used over three months with the C+ skin shot.
We talked earlier about the power of antioxidants in neutralising free radicals, which can cause dark spots and premature ageing. When used in a combination of N acetyl glutathione and niacinamide, two of the most potent antioxidants, it blocks the transfer of pigment onto your skin’s surface to limit darkening and prevent it from forming in the first place.
You will find them in our B+ niacinamide complex, a powerful balancing, anti-ageing serum that pulls pigment from deep within the dermis for a more youthful, glowing complexion.
Immortelle anti ageing cream is a unique formula containing skin-identical ingredients that helps with sunspot removal by layering over any of the above serums, helping to lift pigment deep from within the dermis.
Dark spots are a bugbear many can relate to, whether caused by sun damage, hormones or inflammation.
Hyperpigmentation is the discolouration of the skin in small dark patches created by excess melanin production that can affect skin tone and skin type.
Limiting exposure to damaging UV rays is essential and reducing inflammation — so stop harmful habits like picking pimples or any other habit that may cause injury to your skin.
The seven steps we discussed above will give you an excellent understanding of how you can focus on removing your facial dark spots.
Start by incorporating well-formulated products into your routine that target pigmentation at different layers of your skin.
If your dark spots are stubborn, you could opt for a medium-depth peel or a laser treatment, but ensure you use a seasoned professional; otherwise, you could do more harm than good.
Need more advice?
Then reach out to us in an email with a photo, and we will look at your skin on the Fitzpatrick scale and advise you accordingly to help you eliminate those stubborn dark spots on your face.