As we age, our bodies’ natural ability to heal and renew itself diminishes.
Over time, our skin becomes less and less resistant to the damaging effects of the sun’s rays, leading to discoloration.
On top of our naturally occurring lines and wrinkles, this discoloration can make you look significantly older than you are.
Skin discoloration from sun exposure occurs due to the overstimulation of melanocytes. Melanocytes are specialized skin cells that produce melanin, which makes the skin darker in response to sunlight in order to protect you.
Over time, the mechanisms that control these melanocytes break down or become damaged, resulting in permanent melanin production—this is the source of dark spots and permanent skin discoloration as we age. These dark spots are called solar lentigines, and can also be referred to as age spots, sun spots, or liver spots (though they have nothing to do with the liver).
Above everything else, the absolute best way to avoid discoloration, uneven skin tone, and dark spots is to avoid the sun. There’s no getting around it: the sun’s UV rays damage and age our skin. Their cumulative effect over the years may not be noticeable now, but the end results are undeniable. With too much exposure, you could end up looking 10 years older than you are.
The only 100% way to keep your complexion looking young is to protect yourself from the sun. Avoiding prolonged exposure, wearing protective clothing, and using broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection are the best ways to do so.
Even if you don’t think you’re getting too much sun, you most likely are. Around 90% of fair-skinned individuals over 60 develop dark spots from cumulative sun exposure. Keep yourself safe and keep your skin healthy!
The good news is that you can fight back against the discoloration of your skin. There are different ways to fight the effects of dark spots, with the most common being the exfoliation of the outermost skin layers to remove the pigmentation. This is accomplished through various methods, including microdermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser resurfacing.
While these methods do improve the skin tone and possibly texture, there are topical treatments that can be used in conjunction with these methods to improve their results. These products may even reduce the discoloration enough on their own.
Hydroquinone, a chemical that disrupts the function of melanocytes, acts by directly reducing and reversing pigmentation. Hydroquinone can be found in over-the-counter products, but with a lower concentration than in prescription products. Remember, when you use any product that’s designed to lighten your skin, it’s imperative that you use sunscreen daily.
Dr. Zein Obagi has developed 3 products designed specifically to fight the effects of dark spots:
- Melamix™ Skin Lightener & Blending Crème: this cream contains 4% hydroquinone and works in a gradual fashion to reverse discoloration.
- Melamin™ Skin Bleaching & Correcting Crème: also containing 4% hydroquinone, this cream works similarly to fight hyperpigmentation.
- Brightenex™ Skin Brightener & Correcting Crème Non-Hydroquinone: for those that have reactions to hydroquinone, this product contains 1% retinol instead.