It’s about this time of the year that I get people asking how to prevent and get rid of brown spots on the skin that have popped up from their summer adventures. Brown pigmentation, otherwise known as brown spots, hyperpigmentation, liver spots, or solar lentigines, are sneaky little guys that show up out of nowhere and like to stay until you do something about it. In fact, I must admit that even I, being the preventative skincare fanatic that I am, have discovered a colony of brown spots this year on my face. I also must admit that I am extremely annoyed by them all and plan on incorporating these skincare tips I am giving you today into my daily regimen.
( I made this photo black and white so you can see all of the brown spots I am currently battling post-summer.)
If you are wondering how you even got your brown spots, let me fill you in. Remember when you were a kid, and your mom didn’t apply your sunscreen religiously like I do with my kids? Do you remember when you had a sun tanning membership and baked your skin like bacon several times a week? Do you also remember in high-school how you sprayed oil all over your face and body and laid out in the sun for hours?
Yup, those are the prolonged sun exposure moments (we are all regretting) that created extra melanin (a tan) to protect deeper layers of skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light. When you get too much of those moments along with regular daily UV ray exposure, the melanin in your top layer of skin forms little brown islands that we call brown pigmentation that is considered sun damage. While most of these brown spots are harmless (albeit, not so pretty), and can be reduced with proper skincare, you need to keep an eye on them and make sure none are melanoma spots. If you suspect one of your spots looks very irregular, you should see a dermatologist immediately.
If you already have brown spots, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to help get rid of them, and prevent new ones from being formed. Let’s talk sun damage prevention and skincare products and treatments that will help dramatically.
1) Sunscreen: Obviously the best way to prevent future brown pigmentation from appearing is to use an SPF. So many people apply their sunscreen incorrectly and, unfortunately, end up with sun damage. So, to prevent that from happening, check out my sunscreen tips and how to apply it. Honestly, to take care of your brown spots, you need to start with this tip because it is the best of them all. You can use the best skincare, but if you don’t prevent in the first place, your skin is ultimately screwed, and brown spots are just the beginning of your skin problems. Just being honest.
Products to try: MURAD Essential-C Day Moisturizer,
2) Hydroquinone: To reduce brown pigmentation through skincare, Hydroquinone is a really good option. In short, this ingredient works by blocking the damaged pigmented cells from reaching the surface of the skin. Using a prescription strength 4% hydroquinone is going to be your best option for reducing brown spots. With that said, there are some over-the-counter skincare products that have hydroquinone too, it’s just in smaller doses and may take longer to see results.
3)Kojac Acid: Some people are a little leery of using Hydroquinone because of it’s safety, so Kojac Acid is the next best option. Kojac Acid also helps to stop melanin from forming and is often times found in dark spot fading creams that are combined with either a smaller amount of hydroquinone or some form of a chemical exfoliant.
Products to try: La Roche-Posay Mela-D Pigment Control,
4) Retinoids: There are lots of skincare products that have retinoids in them, but finding one with a strong enough dose to help shed the brown pigmentation is important. Using a prescription strength is recommended for better results, but there are some over-the-counter retinol options as well. If you combine the use of Hydroquinone and Retinoids in your skincare regimen, they become a brown spot reducing power team. But you need to be careful because it’s aggressive, so wearing a full spectrum SPF is essential.
5) Laser Intense Pulse Light Therapy: Laser Intense Pulse Light Therapy is the fast track for reducing brown pigmentation. While it still takes several sessions that can take several months to accomplish, IPL works by destroying melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) without damaging the top layer of skin. One treatment for the face usually take 20-30 minutes and can feel uncomfortable unless you go to a laser technician that numbs the skin prior. After you are done with your treatment, your skin will most likely be red, and your dark spots will darken several shades and then flake off within ten days. There are some rare risks to having IPL, like getting a burn or hypo-pigmentation. These complications are usually due to recent sun exposure, so wear your SPF and be honest with your technician!
6) Chemical Peels: Having a chemical peel series (4-5) is a great way to reduce hyperpigmentation. It works by burning the outer layer of skin, causing it to peel over several days, and replacing it with new skin. There are tons of different peels out there that target brown pigmentation and some are stronger than others. If you get a stronger peel (like a Jessner), your results might come quicker although there is downtime associated.
In the end, there are tons of ways to prevent and get rid of brown pigmentation, it’s just finding what method works best for you. If you are serious about reducing brown spots, you need to be consistent with what you are doing. It’s takes a full 30 or more days for your skin cells to turn over, so patience is key. Also, doing these treatments in conjunction with one another may get you the fastest results, but always make sure to talk it over with a skincare professional that is familiar with treating this skin condition.
Have a great day!
NOTE* There are affiliate links within this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. See disclosure page for details.