If you’re concerned with dark spots on your skin, you’re not alone – especially in summer. Every year, Google searches for ‘dark spots’, ‘sun spots’, and ‘hyperpigmentation’ rise without fail between the months of July and August, all over the world. And who’s leading this search for dark spot treatment every year? The netizens of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
Why this connection with the summer months? As you might have guessed from one of the names dark spots go by, sun spots are largely connected to sun exposure – even though that’s not their only cause. So, let’s take a look at what causes this type of pigmentation, how you can help prevent it, and how to treat dark spots on your skin.
What do dark spots look like?
Dark spots can develop on any part of the skin (though they’re normally found on areas of the skin which are more exposed to the sun, such as the face, backs of the hands, décolletage, and forearms). Dark spots aren’t always just the same shade of brown. They can range from light brown to black, depending on how much pigment has been produced, and the natural tone of your skin.
When the pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the skin start to overproduce melanin, this can lead to the formation of dark spots on the skin. When you go out in the sun unprotected, your skin produces more melanin to try to protect itself from the damaging rays, which is why you get a tan, or burn. This is why you may see more dark spots during summer, when the UV rays are at their strongest during the year, and we naturally spend a longer time outside in the sun – swimming at the beach or relaxing by the pool. While these dark spots are generally harmless, they can often significantly affect self-image.
Age, genetics, hormones (such as in pregnancy), free radical damage from pollution, and other factors such as underlying conditions or types of medication can also cause dark spots to form on the skin. Because there are different causes, and not all dark spots are the same, you should regularly visit your dermatologist and inform them of any changes in your skin, including size, color, and number of dark spots.
How do I get rid of dark spots on my skin?
A dark spot treatment skincare routine should provide protective and corrective benefits, both morning and night. It’s important to take care of your skin daily – even if dark spots might not bother you too much now, they tend to increase in number with age, so a targeted routine can help to lighten pigmented areas, and prevent further spots from forming,
Firstly, you’ll want to visit your dermatologist to discuss the type of pigmentation you’re experiencing. Depending on the type, they may suggest in-clinic treatments, which can include chemical peels, laser treatment, or microdermabrasion. The most suitable treatment will vary depending on the appearance of dark spots, and your skin type. However, while in-clinic treatments are an option, they may also offer other alternatives, as there are many ways that dark spots can be tackled at home, too!
Dark spot correction you can use at home includes:
- Anti-pollution cosmetics, to block free radical damage
- Broad spectrum sunscreen, to prevent further UV damage
- Exfoliants, removing the top layer of dead cells and rejuvenating the skin
- Products which provide the skin with antioxidant care
Topical antioxidants can help to block free radical damage, which can contribute to premature skin aging, including the formation of dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
Read more: what are free radicals?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant with the ability to neutralize free radicals – both from pollution and from UV radiation. What’s most interesting about vitamin C, though, in the treatment of dark spots, is that it has the ability to even skin tone and brighten the skin. What does this mean? Topical application of vitamin C can help repair existing skin damage, while also helping to decrease the appearance of new dark spots on the skin.
Our Melaclear serum is specifically designed to improve the appearance of dark spots and unify skin tone. The combination of vitamin C and phytic acid acts together to help prevent free radical damage, and brighten the skin while also being gentle and kind to it.
Always remember to wear sunscreen with products containing vitamin C, as it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Melaclear is gentle enough to use year-round, but you should be wearing sunscreen every single day, no matter what the weather – which brings us to our next point!
How to prevent dark spots from forming
Apart from helping to reduce the risk of skin cancer, a broad spectrum sunscreen is an essential player in helping reduce the appearance of dark spots on the skin. Even if your dark spots are connected to genetic or hormonal causes, or free radical pollution damage, they can get darker or worsen when exposed to UV radiation.
Sunscreen should be applied as part of your morning skincare routine, as the last step before makeup (if you wear it), 15 minutes before sun exposure. Re-apply for every two hours of exposure, and more frequently if you’re exercising, swimming, or have toweled off.
In addition to wearing sunscreen, you can limit your UV exposure and reduce the chances of sun damage by:
- Staying out of the sun when the rays are at their most intense (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat (so your neck is protected too)
- Making sure your sunglasses provide UV protection
- Covering up – while it might not be ideal when it’s hot outside, try wearing light long-sleeved cardigans or t-shirts to block out light
You can improve the appearance of existing dark spots, and reduce the chances of more developing by making these small changes to your daily routine. Through a combination of skincare products, sunscreen, and sun protection habits, you’ll be fighting against damage, and so won’t be joining the multitude of Google searches in the years to come!
Sources and references:
Pullar, JM., Carr, AC., Vissers, MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. In Nutrients (2017) Aug; 9(8): 866.