Sun spots, age spots, dark marks — hyperpigmentation from UV rays goes by many different names. No matter what you call it, the result is the same: brown spots and patches that gradually appear and grow darker as you get older. If that wasn’t bad enough, this type of pigmentation also has a very long memory. While you may be fastidious about your SPF now, all those years of sunscreen-free days in your youth will translate to brown spots later down the road. But, while dark spots may have crashed your party, you don’t need to let these discolored areas stay for drinks. Here’s how to give unwanted pigmentation the heave-ho.
What causes them?
Well, the sun, duh. Specifically, UV light stimulates melanin production in the skin, which can give you a light coating of freckles or larger, more odious dark patches. The pigmentary changes induced by UV exposure go much deeper in the skin than the excess pigmentation produced by a breakout, which makes sun spots much more difficult to get rid of.
But is the sun really all bad?
Sun exposure also increases collagen breakdown, which exacerbates wrinkling, and ups your chances of developing skin cancer. Speaking of which, there were 4.7 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in 2017, and that number is expected to top 5 million when data for 2018 is released. So, yeah, it’s really all that bad.
Is the sun the only cause?
Heat is also a culprit here. “It’s part of infrared radiation and can inflame the pigment cells, exacerbating brown spots,” says Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist in Montclair, NJ. It’s not just the warmth of the sun; it can be the heat from cooking over a hot stove or opening a hot car. (And it will have the same impact on post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.)
Who gets them?
Dark spots aren’t just the province of fair-skinned Irish lasses. “All types of skin are susceptible,” says Dr. Downie. “Those with darker skin tones to begin with often end up with patches, rather than spots, however.” Age also plays a role. “Patients will come in and say, ‘When I was 18, I used to tan so beautifully, but now my skin just gets uneven and irregular,’” Dr. Downie says. “That’s because as you get older, the texture and tone of your skin change, and it gets even splotchier.” Smoker? We’ve got some bad news for you: “Smoking oxidizes your skin, which makes it even more spotty and blotchy,” she says.
What ingredients get rid of them?
As with acne scars, sun spots can be reduced with diligent, regular application of vitamin C. They work the same way on UV-induced pigmentation that they do on discoloration left behind after a breakout. Namely, by tamping down the tyrosinase enzyme, thus slowing the cellular chain reaction that leads tyrosine to become melanin. This results in a gradual reduction of excess pigmentation.
We went all in on the brightening power of vitamin C for our new Pineapple-C Bright Serum. It contains three different forms of the uber-antioxidant, plus skin refining, natural alpha-hydroxy acids and bromelain enzymes from pure pineapple juice. AHAs help by encouraging cell turnover and bringing new, fresh skin to the surface. Pineapple-C targets pigmentation of all types to fade spots and even skin tone and texture.
Another great brightening vitamin is B3, more commonly known as niacinamide. It’s an anti-inflammatory that helps your skin recover and repair itself after UV damage, as well as diminishing uneven skin tone and enlarged pores. It’s a versatile vitamin that is even more impressive due to its compatibility with other active ingredients like vitamin C and AHA — it’s non-sensitizing and won’t irritate most skin types, including sensitive skin.
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