Freckles. Age spots. Liver spots. Dark patches. Pregnancy mask. Melasma. These are all different names for the same thing: hyperpigmentation. This is a very common skin disorder that occurs mostly in women. Older men are often seen with dark patches on their skin as well. It appears on the face, chest and hands most commonly, but can occur anywhere on the body. Two primary causes of hyperpigmentation are sun-damage and hormone disregulation. The loss of the hormone estrogen is what makes women more likely to have issues with it than men. Most of us have at least one mark, our birth mark, that makes us unique and identifies us. But are the rest preventable?
Freckles are hyperpigmentation marks that develop, usually but not only, on fair skinned people, upon sun exposure. They can be dark or light, large or small. There are two types of freckles: Ephelides are freckles that fade in the winter, while Lentigines develop darker and do not fade. The spots themselves are not important, but the long term effects of the sun are devastating to the skin. Slackening of skin tone and accumulated discoloration are only among the visible effects of sun damage. While the term "age spot" is a bit misleading, the fact that built up sun damage creates these spots and that they are prone to get worse as we get older is true. The spots have absolutely nothing to do with age alone. "Sun spots" is a more accurate term. Likewise, the term "liver spot" is a complete misnomer as the liver has nothing to do with skin pigment or discoloration.
Why do these spots occur? The sun stimulates "melanocytes" which are found deep in the epidermis and are responsible for our pigment, or melanin. The more sun we are exposed to, the more pigment our skin produces. When we begin to see dark spots on the skin that don't fade, we then have hyperpigmentation. If you have any spots that are irregular in shape or color you should see a doctor for a cancer screening. Skin cancer does not only occur on moles as is commonly thought. Any bluish or jagged edged spot should be checked.
To get rid of normal brown sun spots requires a protocol of a few very simple steps along with a healthy dose of patience. If you follow these easy steps you will be able to see a difference in time. Your spots will fade slowly over a period of several months. This can be difficult to see on a day to day basis since it is a slow process. So it is best to continue treatment without being obsessive about checking the mirror each day! You will be a lot happier if you just go about your skin routine and forget about it for a while. If you can, you may want to take a "before" photo. Then in a few months another photo in the same location and with the same lighting. Do this every few months for a year to see the changes in your skin.
1. Exfoliation -- Keep the skin exfoliated well in order to allow penetration of the active ingredients. Hyperpigmentation begins deep in the epidermis. This step is crucial to successful treatment.
2. Treatment - Application of a product made to inhibit melanin production
3. Protection - You MUST use a sunscreen daily no matter what the weather or you will defeat your entire treatment plan.
There are several courses of action to reduce or remove sun spots. The first method of course is prevention by means of sunscreens and vitamin C serums. We will discuss Vitamin C serums in another article. Many of us had too much sun exposure as children and young adults to be completely free of spotting. If you have ever sunbathed a lot, you will get spots. It is never too late to treat sun spots. But it is never too early to start taking care of your skin properly so you don't get them in the first place.
Perhaps the fastest method with the least effort to you is the laser. This often requires at least 6 to 8 treatments several weeks apart and has lead to permanent scarring in some cases. If you choose this method, make sure your clinic does a test patch somewhere discreet before using the laser on your face.
Another option is Cryotherapy. This is when liquid nitrogen is applied to the spot and freezes it off. I perform this in my office under my esthetics license with great success. There is little to no risk of scarring with this method and many times it can be treated with one or two visits. This is much more affordable than the laser but it is difficult to find skin centers that offer this technique, although with the advent of the "Cryoprobe," it is becoming easier to find. If this interests you, do a search for the term Cryotherapy or Cryoprobe in your area and see what results come up.
Topical products are the only other option if you are intent on getting rid of dark spots on your skin and should be used as spot treatments only, never applied all over the skin! If you smear a lightening gel all over your face, it will lighten all of your face, not just your dark patches! So your skin will still be uneven in tone and it will most likely look more blotchy than before you started using your lightening product.
The most popular and most effective ingredient in skin lighteners is Hydroquinone, which has been available for fifty years to reduce skin discoloration. There is controversy over its safety but there is no disputing that it works when used as directed. The side effects of hydroquinone occur rarely in users and are primarily that of skin thickening on areas of use, or the skin turning a bluish brown color in darker skinned people. Some studies have indicated it to be a carcinogen. To date, this has not been proven. The most common known side effect is a slight skin irritation. This is resolved by discontinuing use.
A formula of 20% Azelaic Acid is proven to be as effective as 2% Hydroquinone over a longer amount of time. Therefore products with Azelaic Acid may take a bit longer to be effective. Retinoids and Retinol (forms of Vitamin A) have been well researched and proven effective in not only creating collagen in the skin, but in lightening dark spots due to its exfoliant properties.
This is a most challenging skin condition! The problem that most clients run into is the amount of patience required for skin lighteners to be effective. When a person applies the product for a few weeks and then begins to forget to apply it, they will say that it does not work. And they would be right since it takes longer than a few weeks to see results. But with continued use you can reduce the amount of melanin that your skin produces in these areas, and thereby "lighten" or "bleach" the skin.
We have chosen a variety of products for our store that have a variety of ingredients from the more aggressive (hydroquinone) to the very natural, more preventative ingredients. You can find them under "Shop by Product Type" and then "Lightening Products."
Marie Black is a practicing Esthetician and President of Acorn Body Care, Inc. She has helped thousands of people with various skin conditions ranging from acne to hyperpigmentation. She has hand picked an assortment of what, in her experience, are the best anti-aging skin care products in the professional spa market. The products she offers on her website http://www.acornbodycare.com are all natural and organic and contain no artificial fragrance or color. Email help is available through the website if you have particular questions about the best treatment for your skin.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Marie_Black
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/1124661