May 13, 2022

Dark Spots? The Complete Skincare Guide for Permanently Eliminating Sun Damage

So you woke up one morning, walked into the bathroom, and saw something that no one wants to see…

A dark spot.

You pinch yourself (just to make sure this isn't just a bad dream) but to no avail…it's real.

If any of this sounds familiar, here’s the good news—there are seven quick and easy ways to get rid of dark spots (and prevent them from ever coming back!).

If that’s what you want, then you need to read every word of this blog post. We will show you exactly how to do it.

Ready? Set? Let's go.

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Technically, hyperpigmentation means “an excessive amount of pigment.”

Clinically, it’s a term used to describe spots or patches of skin that appear darker than the surrounding skin. Most of the time, the discoloration is brown. Still, hyperpigmentation can also be tan, grayish brown, bluish-gray, and even red.

Who Does Hyperpigmentation Affect?

Anyone can get hyperpigmentation. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is equally as susceptible. Let us explain.

If you’ve been combing the internet for help with hyperpigmentation and reading up on skincare, you’ve probably encountered the Fitzpatrick scale. It’s a way to categorize skin types by their color and reaction to sun exposure.

For example, pale or white skin burns easily and tans slowly, while darker skin doesn’t burn as easily and tans quicker.  

It’s important to know where you fall on the scale when talking about anything skin, but especially when discussing hyperpigmentation. Take a look at the chart below; what number are you?

Remember a few sentences ago when we teased that some people are more susceptible to hyperpigmentation than others? Well, the higher you are on the Fitzpatrick scale, the higher your chance of getting hyperpigmentation. (It isn’t fair, we know.) That’s because the higher numbers have more melanin in their skin (the darker your skin, the more melanin you have).

And as it turns out, melanin is the basic building block of hyperpigmentation. Dark spots on the skin, face, and body are a buildup of excess melanin.

Skincare Nerd Fun Fact: Did you know that a tan is essentially a protective reaction to the sun? When you expose your skin to the sun, your body sends melanin to the surface to protect it from burning. This is why skin lower on the Fitzpatrick scale burns—because it doesn’t have enough melanin to protect itself from UV rays.

Why Hyperpigmentation Occurs

Not all hyperpigmentation is created equal. There are various forms of hyperpigmentation, and they each develop for different reasons.

  • Hyperpigmentation when tanning: No shocker here—sunspots (also known as age spots or liver spots) develop from sun exposure. They show up as tan or dark brown spots anywhere on the body exposed to ultraviolet light. You’ll usually get more of them in the areas that get the most sun exposure, like the face, shoulders, chest, and the backs of the hands. They’re nicknamed “age spots” because they increase in number as we age.
  • Hyperpigmentation when pregnant: You might have heard of “the mask of pregnancy” and thought, “what is that?” It’s melasma, a form of hyperpigmentation. It’s been given that nickname because it usually develops on pregnant women, particularly on their face or abdomen. It also crops up in women taking birth control. Both pregnancy and birth control cause hormonal changes that trigger melanin to over-produce, which leads to hyperpigmentation. Melasma looks like blotchy patches on the skin, and it’s usually tan to dark brown in color.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: Remember when we told you that melanin rushes to the skin’s surface as a defensive mechanism? That really comes into play with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. We’ve all known the frustration of finally clearing up an acne breakout only to be left with dark spots to remind us of our pain. These dark spots are one form of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which develops after your skin experiences inflammation. You can get it after any sort of skin inflammation—irritation after treatment, a cut, or a burn. Your body sends melanin to protect against inflammation, and even after it’s cleared up, the melanin remains. These spots are typically red or bluish-gray in color.  

Do any of these sound like your own spots? If so, you’re probably wondering…

Can Hyperpigmentation Go Away On Its Own?

If we had a penny for every time we got this question, we’d pack up and move to the Riviera. This is a frequently asked question. And the answer is, technically, there is a chance that hyperpigmentation will go away on its own. But there’s no guarantee that it will. And it can take a long time to do so.

Personally, we don’t like waiting around, hoping for a clear face. We prefer to take action. And the good news is that there are many things we can do to say bye-bye to dark spots.

How to Treat Hyperpigmentation

We love skincare! And we really believe in it. There are some fantastic products out there to treat hyperpigmentation.

But there are a lot of skincare products out there, and not all ingredients work on this problem. So we’ve put together a list of the eight products you need to kick hyperpigmentation to the curb (and stop it from creeping back up).

Obagi NuDerm Transformation System

Okay, so this is kind of a cheat because it’s actually a whole lineup of products, but the entire Obagi NuDerm system is stellar at treating discoloration. It is a well-rounded skincare routine because it combines pigment-busting ingredients with hydrating products. But suppose you love your existing routine and just want to introduce a few new products to target hyperpigmentation. In that case, the Clear and Blender creams will do the trick. They both contain 4% Hydroquinone to brighten pigment and suppress future pigmentation.

Obagi Tretinoin Rx

Hydroquinone sits in first place for most transformational skincare ingredients. But it doesn’t sit there alone. It shares that spot with tretinoin, a prescription-strength retinoid product. Tretinoin increases cell turnover and suppresses pigment from rising to the top layer of skin, making it a must-have ingredient for treating uneven skin tone. It also reduces inflammation and treats acne, so it’s also an outstanding preventative ingredient. Consider using this alongside the NuDerm system.

Obagi Professional-C Serum 15%

Vitamin C is a great ingredient to bring into most skin care routines, especially when treating dark spots. It promotes an even skin tone and brightens skin (the magic words for anyone frustrated with discoloration). There are different strains of vitamin C, with L-ascorbic acid being the most potent. We carry Obagi’s highest dose of it so that you can get the most bang from your serum.

PCA Skin Vitamin B3 Brightening Serum

This serum brightens dark spots and evens skin tone by inhibiting melanin production. A blend of mulberry, green tea, and oligopeptide-51 decreases unwanted pigment production. It also has 6% niacinamide, an antioxidant that reduces redness in the skin and strengthens your skin barrier so you can stop irritation (remember, that’s a potential trigger for hyperpigmentation).

SkinBetter Alto Defense Serum

This serum is a cocktail of correcting ingredients that won the Allure Best of Beauty 2020 award. In addition to vitamin C, it’s packed with 17 powerhouse antioxidants. The Alto Defense focuses on three things. First, it protects and defends the skin from irritation. Secondly, it enhances vitality and radiance with ingredients like coffee and saffron. Lastly, it brightens with vitamin C, licorice root, and more. This is a sophisticated product just right for a stubborn problem like hyperpigmentation.

SkinBetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream

Retinol combined with an alpha hydroxy acid? Yes, please! We’ve already gone over how amazing retinol is, but alpha hydroxy acids are excellent exfoliators that renew skin. So combining the two makes for a skin-rejuvenation powerhouse. Traditionally, these ingredients can irritate many skin types, but this cream is packed with moisturizers (like ceramides, squalene, and niacinamide) to ensure little to no irritation.

We stock the shelves of our clinics with these products because they’re scientifically backed. And because results speak for themselves! We’ve seen patient after patient fall in love with clearer, more even skin thanks to these guys.

But we’re not done yet! You can’t forget to protect your investment with every dermatologist’s best friend:

Sunscreen

We’ve got a great range of sunscreens in our clinics because we know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to skincare.

  • Obagi Sun Shield Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 50, cool or warm: Obagi’s Sun Shield has a sheer finish, so it looks natural on the skin and feels weightless. Also, it’s non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog your pores! But what attracts most people to this everyday sunscreen is its tint. No more looking like a ghost after application! Depending on your skin, choose from the warm or cool tone.
  • Obagi Sun Shield Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 50: Not everyone loves the dewy finish sunscreen leaves after being applied. If that’s you, you’ll love the Obagi Matte Sun Shield. It’s got the same great protection as their other sunscreens, but it dries with a sheer matte finish suitable for all skin types.
  • Colorescience Unforgettable Total Protection Brush-on Shield: Colorescience’s brush-on sunscreen is a cult favorite awarded Allure’s Best of Beauty. It’s got such a rabid fan base because they know there’s nothing worse than trying to reapply sunscreen when you’ve got makeup on. This mineral powder sunscreen comes as a brush-on applicator, so all you have to do is pull it out and brush it over your makeup.

There you have it. Now you should have all the info you need to build your all-star lineup for dealing with hyperpigmentation.

But having all the right information and having a customized treatment plan are two different things. Some patients just need one thing, others need a mixture of treatments to get their desired outcome.

If you’re still not 100% sure which option is right for you, a quick phone call or text message is all it takes to take the next step on your journey to living completely confident in your appearance. We would be honored to be a part of your journey.

If you have any questions or would like to see our availability, give us a call or text at: (916) 472-2736

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