Sun exposure without adequate protection is the cause of various skin problems and disorders. For instance, sun’s damaging UV rays can accelerate aging process by breaking down collagen production and elasticity which results in appearance of wrinkles. However, sun’s negative impact on our skin can occur in many other forms as well, for example sunburn skin discoloration. You’ve probably noticed that your, or someone else’s skin, develops darker and discolored patches. The primary aim of this article is to discuss these skin discolorations and how to deal with them.
Types of Irregular Pigmentation
Skin discoloration can develop on your skin form of tiny spots, bigger dark patches etc, but the general term for this occurrence is hyperpigmentation. The most common forms of hyperpigmentation are melasma which is also known as the mask of pregnancy and age spots. Age spots are also called liver spots (although they have nothing to do with liver) but the medical term for these dark spots is solar lentigines.
Age spots vary in size and usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders, and arms; which are the areas that are most exposed to the sun. These spots usually occur in adults over 50, but younger individuals are prone to appearance of age spots as well. They typically appear in people with a fair complexion, but individuals with darker skin can develop them as well. Age spots have these characteristics:
- They are flat and oval or round
- Age spots are usually tan, round or black
- They occur on parts of your body that were exposed to the skin the most
- They differ from freckles because age spots are usually larger in size.
Causes of Irregular Pigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is a result of excessive production of melanin which is a pigment that gives your skin its natural color. Sun exposure stimulates the production of melanin creating a tan that helps protect your skin from damaging UV rays. Due to excessive production, melanin clumps which leads to formation of dark patches or spots. Constant exposure to sun’s UV rays can also make existing dark patches and spots more visible. Although they are harmless, affected people feel subconscious about their dark patches and their self-esteem is affected.
Although everyone can develop dark patches and hyper pigmented areas on their skin, some people are more prone to this occurrence, for example:
- Asian, Mediterranean, African and Latin ethnicities
- People with light-colored and fair skin
- People who are constantly exposed to sun’s rays.
Although sun is primary culprit for discolorations that occur on your skin, other factors can contribute to their development as well. Here they are:
- Hormonal influences – this is the primary cause for formation of melasma. This skin condition usually occurs when hormones progesterone and estrogen stimulate the excessive production of melanin. Melasma is similar in appearance to age spots, they have same color but melasma is characterized by larger areas of darkened skin. It usually occurs during pregnancy (hence the name mask of pregnancy), but women who take birth control pills can also develop this type of hyperpigmentation. Additionally, men can develop it as well.
- Illness – various illnesses are also one of the factors that aggravate and contribute to formation of hyperpigmented dark patches on our skin. Some of these illnesses include metabolic disorders, Vitamin deficiencies, gastrointestinal and autoimmune diseases etc.
- Formation of dark spots and patches can also be contributed by some medications, treatments or therapies.
Can I Prevent Hyperpigmentation?
If we consider the fact that hyperpigmentation and appearance of dark patches is result of sun exposure, we can safely conclude that it’s possible to avoid this condition.
- First step towards healthy skin is through diet. If you’re one of the people who love junk food and sweets, you should switch them for healthier alternatives. Moreover, your diet should include a lot of fruits and vegetables. They are rich in Vitamins, minerals, and many other nutrients that supply your skin with healthy components it needs. Moreover, fresh fruits and veggies contain antioxidants which eliminate free radicals that destroy healthy cells in our body and skin as well. This can significantly decrease the sun’s ability to damage your skin.
- Hydrating throughout the day is extremely beneficial for your overall health and skin as well and make sure you drink plenty of water.
- Since dark spots are directly associated with sun; in order to prevent their appearance you have to protect your skin. Ideally, you should apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you’re going out, wear protective clothing, along with hats and sunglasses. Dermatologists recommend avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. but if you really need to go out at that period of the day, make sure you’re in shade.
- Other manners of prevention include regular skincare in order to ensure its optimal health and being cautious about medications you take.
Treating Irregular Discolorations
Fortunately, hyperpigmented patches and spots can be treated successfully. Treatments that tackle this issue include:
- Laser therapy
- Chemical peel
- Skin-brightening products.
Skin-brightening products are most commonly used, but Rebat M. Halder, MD, FAAD, professor and chair in the department of dermatology at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington advises patients affected by hyperpigmentation to consult their dermatologist regarding the skin-lightening products. Why? It’s because a great majority of products on the market contain ingredients that are ineffective in fight versus hyperpigmented patches. Moreover, Dr. Halder stresses the importance of patience when treating hyperpigmentation. The condition didn’t develop overnight and it’s irrational to expect it to be gone with just one application of the product. When using skin-brightening items, you should follow instructions closely and apply the product regularly in order to achieve best results.
Choosing a brand and product plays a pivotal role in treating irregular discolorations. Example of effective product in tackling this problem is Solvaderm’s Glowpeel repair serum which is a powerful and yet gentle exfoliating complex that was formulated to provide complete skin renewal. Major benefits of Glowpeel include:
- Removes worn-out cells from the outer layer of the skin for a youthful look
- Due to glow-boosting brightening ingredients Glowpeel makes age spots, dark patches, and other discolorations and imperfections less visible
- With the regular usage skin becomes smooth and nourished
- Suitable for all skin types
- Doesn’t irritate or dry out the skin.
The product is made of ingredients such as:
- Glycolic acid – powerful exfoliator; it removes dead skin cells and other impurities from your skin
- Lactic acid – promotes skin renewal, enhances synthesis of collagen, and improves skin’s firmness and tightness.
- Pyruvic acid – has skin-brightening properties and addresses multiple signs of aging
- Kojic acid – powerful skin brightener.
To get the best effects, you should use the product adequately. First, cleanse your skin, pat it dry, and spread a layer of Glowpeel on face and neck with your fingers. Leave it on between 1 to 3 minutes and rinse if off with cool water. You should use the product 3 – 5 times a week.
Age Spots or Skin Cancer?
As it was already mentioned, hyperpigmentation and dark patches are harmless and they don’t, actually, deteriorate your health. However, some other skin diseases can take the form of age spots on one’s skin. For example, some people develop age spots and think it’s skin cancer, while others have skin cancer that was at first unnoticed because it resembled to age spots. Although they have similar appearance, age spots and melanoma are quite different. John Wolf, MD, a dermatologist, professor and chairman of the Dermatology department of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas explained key differences between age spots and melanoma. Here they are:
- Asymmetry – age spots have a perfect shape. On the other hand, melanoma spots are bigger on one side than on the other.
- Border – age spots have regular and distinct borders, while melanoma spots have irregular borders.
- Color of the lesion – age spots usually have a color that is slightly darker than your natural skin color. However, in some cases, melanoma spots may develop more than one color on their surface. Moreover, the darker the lesion, the greater your concern should be.
- Evolution – age spots aren’t prone to changes, which means that if your spots become bigger, you notice bleeding and itching you should definitely schedule an appointment and see your dermatologist.
Although skin discolorations are caused by sun they are aggravated by numerous lifestyle factors as well. In order to treat the problem successfully, make some lifestyle changes and use skin-brightening product regularly. The best way to avoid dark spots and patches is to wear sunscreen and avoid sun exposure.