“How do I get rid of the brown spots on my face?” This is one of the most common skin questions I hear from clients and one of the most challenging problems to resolve. Skin cells have a memory and the longer you have them, the harder they are to fade and, even then, small amounts of UV light can reactivate them quickly. In addition to that, did you know that overheated skin can also make brown spots worse?
Pigmentation is so reactive and easily stimulated from heat, sun, aggressive rubbing , and certainly hormones and genetics are a factor too.
So what can you do to fade brown spots?
The goal is to suppress melanin activity as much as possible to get those pigmented cells to go to sleep, and therefore fade. This means not only being strict about staying out of the sun and protected when you’re in it, but also keeping the temperature of the skin low and avoiding extreme heat.
Keep the skin as cool as possible. To keep the skin cool, especially post-exercise, I suggest keeping a gel-based mask in the refrigerator, and applying (after cleansing the skin, of course) a thin coat, leaving on for 15 minutes, not only to cool the skin, but also to help deliver water to hot and thirsty skin. Don’t have a gel mask handy? A bag of frozen peas applied to the skin for 15 minutes can also help to cool overheated skin.
Use a skin lightener. I always advise my clients to go the non-prescription route first, since prescription bleaches like Hydroquinone have controversy associated with them that may be harmful for your health. My favorite over-the-counter skin-lightening ingredient is Magenisum Ascorbyl Phosphate, a form of vitamin C that is a proven melanin suppressor. There are also other fading ingredients like Licorice Extract, Kojic Acid and Soy Extract that can also help inhibit melanin production, but Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is what I have found to be most effective for my clients.
Exfoliate often, but gently. One of the keys to managing skin discoloration, particularly once it has appeared, is to use exfoliating products such as facial scrubs (using round beads, not harsh natural grains like apricot kernels that can be too irritating) and mild alcohol-free exfoliating acids such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid. These exfoliants, when used regularly, can help break pigmented cells apart, which will lessen their appearance. It’s important to not overdo it with exfoliating products, because during the summer when melanin cells are active, too much exfoliation may actually trigger more melanin. In addition, the use of exfoliating acids can increase sun sensitivity, which can make the skin vulnerable to the sun.
Use a product containing retinol. Retinol is an ingredient derived from vitamin A that is proven to lift brown spots and reduce the appearance of large pores, lines and wrinkles. It’s essential to use as part of an anti-aging strategy to ensure even-toned skin.
Wear sunscreen–applied generously and often. The number one cause of premature skin aging is wrinkles, and certainly exposing your skin to the sun can bring out sunspots. However, did you know that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to give the skin the protection it needs? The real truth to sunscreen is not about the SPF number (although an SPF 15 is the minimum you should ever wear), but instead how generously it is applied, and certainly how often it is reapplied when outdoors.
Especially for oily skin, it is key to find a sunscreen that won’t feel heavy and greasy on the skin, so you can apply it with a heavy hand without worrying about it causing clogged pores and breakouts. Even if you’re applying it generously, sunscreens do degrade with direct sunlight and with your skin’s natural oils produced during the day. This is why advise all of my clients to dust on a Mineral Powder throughout the day (even in winter) to block daylight rays from damaging the skin.
Browns spots are certainly a challenge to get rid of, but if you’re really diligent about following my skin care tips, this should make a big difference in getting your skin clear and even-toned.
-from Renee Rouleau