Dark Spots - Skin Lightening Solutions

Wendy Lewis

by Wendy Lewis | August 16, 2010 @ 03:00PM

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When you're young, they are called freckles. By your 40s, they begin to be referred to as 'age spots' or 'liver spots.' Hyperpigmentation, or solar lentigenes, can ruin your creamy complexion. And they don't discriminate. They can attack the cheeks, chin, forehead, chest, arms, legs, hands, lips, almost any part of the body that has been chronically exposed to the sun's harmful rays. They can also show up one at a time, or in clusters. Although we call these dark blotches 'age spots,' they can appear on twenty-somethings who have abused the sun's rays. These discolorations are more common in fair-skinned people, but darker-skin types are also prone to pigmentary changes. The more melanin you have in your skin, the darker your skin color. Melanin provides natural sun protection, which can prolong the appearance of visible signs of aging, so darker skin types develop fine lines and 'age spots' later, but they are at risk to develop discoloration earlier and the condition can become a chronic problem.

The downside to any spot lightening treatment is the potential for trading a dark spot for a white spot. Lasers have become the treatment of choice for many dermatologists and plastic surgeons, and now there are lasers on the market that are considered safe for almost any skin type. Luckily, there are also some options for the 'laser phobic.' Ronald Savin, M.D., a Dermatologist and Clinical Researcher from Yale University, treats patients with multiple brown spots on a 'depigmenting protocol,' he begins with a bleaching agent with prescription-strength 4% Hydroquinone, followed by a thin amount of topical cortisone, then a sunscreen with a minimum of 15 SPF. If you're serious about skin lightening, the 'gold standard' of bleaching agents is Hydroquinone (HQ), which is available in 2% over-the-counter and 3-4% by prescription only. Some people don't respond to anything less than 4%, and more sensitive skin types may experience irritation and redness from a prescription strength cream. The most popular bleaching agents on the scene are LUSTRA-AF by Medicis and GLYQUIN by ICN Pharmaceuticals.

Lustra-AF is an elegant mix of prescription strength hydroquinone combined with glycolic acids and anti-oxidants, with an SPF. Glyquin is a recently launched product with hydroquinone plus glycolic acid, but without a sunscreen formula yet. Both products are available by prescription only, and make sure you get the real thing, since many pharmacies are known to substitute a generic version if you and/or your doctor don't specify the brand. Some of the alternatives to Hydroquinone that also work to reduce the activity of the cells in your skin that produce pigment are Tretinoin (Retin-A®, Renova®), Kojic Acid (derived from a Japanese mushroom), Alpha Hydroxy Acids, and Azelaic acid.

These lightening agents may work more slowly than Hydroquinone on their own, but can work synergistically to boost the effectiveness and speed of skin lightening in various combinations. Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) can also help to reverse the darkening effects of photoaging. The lower the concentration of active lightening ingredient used, the slower you will see results. If you are using products from a drugstore or department store alone, the process of lightening pigment will be a slow and sluggish one. "The degree of damage dictates the aggressiveness of the protocol we recommend. The highest concentration that is easily tolerated is used on a regular basis," says Dr. Savin.

Any lightening product will also cause your skin to be more sensitive to sunlight, so if your bleaching agent does not contain a sunscreen, you will need to wear one with broad protection daily. According to Dr. Savin, "the differences over 15 are very small. People tend to undercoat. Sunscreens which have a heavier coating provide a better physical barrier." A Glycolic cream or lotion formulation, followed by a series of Glycolic acid peels or microdermabrasion treatments every two to three weeks can boost the therapy. According to Dr. Savin, "We see better results in the fall/winter season than spring/summer, when patients are outdoors less."

If you follow your bleaching regimen religiously, you can see real improvement in as early as 4 – 6 weeks, but don't stop there. To keep dark spots from coming back, practicing safe sun and continuing an active skin care regimen is essential.

Wendy Lewis is an independent cosmetic surgery consultant, www.wlbeauty.com

This article provided by www.healthnewsdigest.com 

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